On 5 March, research scholar, Natasha Narwal from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi turned 32. Narwal spent the day behind bars in the capital city of Delhi.
Natasha Narwal is a gender activist and one of the founding members of the women students and alumnae collective, Pinjra Tod (break the cage) from colleges across Delhi.
Narwal who was born and raised in Haryana, moved to Delhi in 2006 to pursue her higher education at the University of Delhi, having grown up aware of the socio-political environment, seeing the students’ protests made her join the Students Federation of India, SFI-the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She participated in Student Union Elections as an SFI candidate, Narwal’s father Mahavir Narwal told Maktoob.
She continued to pursue her Master’s Degree in History from Delhi University and further got into the MPhil program at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi.
Narwal’s father is a retired scientist from Haryana. When asked about Narwal’s inclination towards the students’ movement, and women’s resistance, in particular, Mahavir Narwal talked about her growing affinity towards the students’ movement during her Delhi University days. He went on to talk about the importance of “agitation in an unjust, and oppressive regime.”
For him, it was his responsibility as a father to let Narwal grow her own wings and find her true calling in standing up and raising her voice for the women.
He is not only proud of her collective Pinjra Tod but also enjoys learning new things about the women’s movement from Narwal.
“Aurtein uthi nahi to zulm badhta jaega.” (If women don’t rise, the injustice will keep increasing)- Safdar Hashmi’s slogan quoted by Mahavir Narwal.
Aware of the government’s witch-hunt and suppression of dissent by imprisoning these young intellectuals and scholars, Mahavir Narwal also expressed his concern about the Democracy and autonomy of the Judiciary being threatened in India.
Natasha Narwal participated in several Anti-CAA protests after the peaceful sit-in protest led by the Muslim-women at Shaheen Bagh. Narwal’s recent hearing in the High Court was scheduled for 10 March 2021, as told to Maktoob by Narwal.
32-year-old Narwal was arrested and slapped with the draconian UAPA last year in the Northeast Delhi riot conspiracy case along with more than 20 people including student leaders, politicians, activists, and local residents of pogrom-hit Northeast Delhi. International human rights watchdogs including Amnesty International and opposition leaders, civil society groups, teachers associations, student organizations, and filmmakers across India had issued different statements calling for the release of anti-CAA activists who were ‘targetted by Hindu nationalist government for protesting anti-Muslim laws’ and ‘arrested under false accusations by Delhi Police.’
Revolutionary or not, for a father, a child never really grows up. Yet, with his daughter being wrongly incarcerated, Narwal’s words continue to be enlivening and full of pride.
“Yahan bhi jeena hai, jail mein bhi jee rahe hain, jeene ka naam hi toh zindagi hai”.
Natasha along with a group of people in the New Delhi Jail wrote and performed a play on the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March. The event organized by these women was nothing short of a festival filled with poetry and art of resistance.
From the Anti-CAA demonstrations to the protests against the Farm-laws, Safoora Zargar, Gulshifa Fatima, Ishrat Jahan, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Nodeep Kaur and Disha Ravi, all have committed a common offence of dissent in the largest democracy in the world.
Sania Javed is a student of Economics and a freelance writer based in New Delhi