UAPA in the Delhi Riots cases

Aug 31, 2023
By Natasha Narwal

In February 2020, Delhi witnessed targeted violence against Muslims, in which  53 lives were lost and several mosques, shops and homes belonging to Muslims were burnt and looted. Videos capturing the violence and testimonies of witnesses clearly indicate that an organised pogrom was led and executed by Hindutva organisations, while the police allowed for destruction of property and violence against Muslims. 


Despite instances of recorded hate speech and threatening messages from BJP leaders on social media, no action has been taken against them. Instead, activists, students and peaceful protestors who opposed the CAA, have been falsely charged under the draconian UAPA and have been jailed since 2020. 


FIR 59 of 2020 invoked the UAPA and other sections of the IPC, falsely accusing 18 people of conspiring to foment communal violence in Delhi and destabilising the state. This fabricated case has been built on flimsy and vague evidence, and has targeted people solely for leading, organising and participating in peaceful protests against the CAA. Any evidence which showed their work of coordinating, organising or attending peaceful protests against the CAA, has been manipulated and presented as conspiracies, terrorist activities and anti-national activities. 


The use of the UAPA has allowed the state to incarcerate them under false charges for almost three years. As the list below indicates, most of the accused are young activists and leaders, who have been involved in campaigns and programmes for justice and peace. This abuse of power by the Delhi police and the state has deprived them of their fundamental rights, and impaired crucial work in the fight for human rights. This case has also had a visibly chilling effect on people’s right to protest in Delhi. 


This FIR (59/2020) as well as hundreds of other FIRs also have another alarming quality in common. 16 out of the 18 accused in FIR 59 are Muslims, two of whom had no connection to activism or the protests against the CAA. What should be deeply worrying for a constitutional democracy is that the preponderance of Muslims indicates a religious bias in the actions of the police.  


After almost three long years, bail hearings of the accused who are still incarcerated  have been concluded in the High Court . A consolidated order on all the bail applications is now expected as the matter is posted for orders. 


Below are some details of the individuals arrested, and the latest updates in each of their bail applications and proceedings: 

  • Umar Khalid (Age 36) is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and is a former leader of the Democratic Students’ Union in JNU. He worked actively with various groups on issues of justice for victims of mob lynchings and hate crimes, and was an important voice in the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act. He was arrested on September 13, 2020, and has spent the last 3 years in jail. His bail proceedings are ongoing in the Supreme Court, although with delays, multiple adjournments and recusal of judges. It is scheduled to be listed in the first week of September. 
  • Khalid Saifi (Age 42) is an activist working with the United Against Hate, a campaign which began in 2017 to intervene in and document cases of lynchings, hate crimes and caste-based harassment. While he was discharged by a Delhi Court in a stone pelting case, he continues to remain in jail because of the UAPA charges. He was arrested on March 21, 2020, soon after which he endured brutal custodial torture, which had severely injured him. 
  • Ishrat Jahan (Age 38) is a practising advocate and former Congress councillor, who was the first to be arrested for allegedly provoking crowds in northeastern Delhi. She got bail on March 21, 2020 but was rearrested the same day in FIR 59 under UAPA. She was granted bail by a sessions court on March 14, 2022. 
  • Meeran Haider (Age 32) is a student activist from Jamia Millia Islamia, who was an active member of the youth wing of the Aam Aadmi Party and was later elected as the President of the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Youth Wing in Delhi. He was arrested on April 1, 2020. His bail application was filed in the Delhi High Court, and is still pending for orders. 
  • Tahir Hussain (Age 42) is a former Aam Aadmi Party councillor, who has been granted bail in five other cases related to the Delhi pogrom. He was arrested on April 6, 2020 and continues to remain in prison under UAPA charges. 
  • Gulfisha Fatima (Age 31) is a student activist, who was actively involved in the women led protest in Seelampur in Northeast Delhi, against the CAA. She is well known for her efforts to raise awareness among local women about the Citizenship Amendment Act and constitutional principles of secularism and justice. She was arrested on April 9, 2020 and her bail application has been pending in the High Court for orders. 
  • Safoora Zargar (Age 30) is a student activist leader from Jamia Millia Islamia, who was pursuing her M.Phil in Sociology. She was arrested on April 13, 2020 and was granted bail on June 23, 2020 on humanitarian grounds, as she was six-months pregnant by then. Throughout her arrest and after her release, Safoora faced continuous online vilification with misogynist and Islamophobic comments based on lies and fake news. 
  • Shifa Ur-Rehman (Age 46) is the President of Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia University and was an activist involved in the protests against the CAA. He was arrested on April 26, 2023 and his bail application is still pending in the High Court. 
  • Asif Iqbal Tanha (Age 28) is an Indian student activist, a former student of Jamia Millia Islamia and a member of Students Islamic Organisation of India. He was arrested on May 19, 2020 and was granted bail on June 15, 2021 by the Delhi High Court. 
  • Shadab Ahmed (Age 29) is a graduate in Bachelors in Computer Applications, and worked in a managerial role in a factory in Delhi. He has been falsely accused of being one of the main ‘conspirators’ of the Delhi riots of 2020. The only role Shadab had played in reality, was that he attended and participated in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. He was arrested on May 20, 2020 and his bail application is still pending in the Supreme Court for orders. 
  • Natasha Narwal (Age 33) is a research scholar from JNU, and a gender rights activist who co-founded the Pinjra Tod movement. She was arrested on May 30, 2020 and was granted bail by the Delhi High Court on June 15, 2021. 
  • Devangana Kalita (Age 34) was an M.Phil student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a student activist. She was arrested on June 3, 2020 and was granted bail on June 15, 2021 by the Delhi High Court.
  • Tasleem Ahmad (Age 36), like Shadab Ahmed, had no history in public activism, and worked as an education consultant. He merely participated in a protest against the CAA, and was arrested on June 24, 2020, accused of instigating violence in the Delhi pogrom. His bail application is still pending for orders, while he completes more than three years of incarceration based on false charges. 
  • Saleem Khan (Age 50) was neither a protestor, nor an activist. He was a businessman who ran a garment export unit, who was at his office in the same locality where the pogrom had begun. He has been framed under several charges including criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide and under UAPA and sections of the Arms Act too. He was arrested on March 13, 2020 and his bail application is still pending in the High Court. 
  • Saleem Mallik is an activist, who is also accused of criminal conspiracy and instigating violence in the Delhi pogrom. He was arrested on June 25, 2020 and was denied bail in October 2022 by Karkardooma Court, Delhi, on the basis that he attended ‘conspiratorial meetings’ to plan the violence that took place in Northeast Delhi. 
  • Athar Khan (Age 27) worked in a telecom company in Delhi, and was active in participating in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. He was drawn to the movement against the CAA, especially after the violent incidents in Jamia Millia Islamia, and helped coordinate police permissions and documentation in the protest sites. He was arrested on July 2, 2020 and his bail application is pending in the High Court. 
  • Faizan Khan was a mobile salesman, who was falsely accused of selling a SIM card accepting a fake ID, and joined the conspiracy to instigate violence in the Delhi Pogrom. He was neither a protestor, nor an activist. Yet, he was arrested on June 29, 2020, charged with UAPA and spent three months in jail before he was granted bail on October 23, 2020. 
  • Sharjeel Imam (Age 35) is a student activist from Bihar, and was actively involved in the anti-CAA protests in Delhi. He was detained on January 28, 2020, after being accused of inciting violence through speeches. On August 25, 2020, he was charged with new offences and added to FIR59, and continues to remain in prison, with his bail application pending for orders in the High Court. 

Featured Image Credit – The Quint