Amaan Bali: From Nodeep Kaur To Disha Ravi, India Has Always Abused Its Female Activists

As we celebrate Disha Ravi and now Nodeep Kaur being granted bail there are many activists, often of Dalit and minority backgrounds, still languishing in India’s broken justice system

Amaan Bali
February 26, 2021 | 3 min. read

The space for dissent in Narendra Modi’s India is narrowing every single day, but the history of India tells us that irrespective of who is in power in Delhi, the nation has never been kind to its female activists. 

As we celebrate Disha Ravi and now, after much delay, Nodeep Kaur being granted bail for trumped-up and laughable charges of sedition and conspiracy there are many activists, often of Dalit and minority backgrounds, still languishing in India’s jails and broken justice system.

The courts may eventually provide justice for some of them, but only after they have been abused and spend considerable periods of their lives in the system or in jail. The purpose of intimidating entire minority communities and chilling free speech has been served, everyone knew that most of these cases never had any grounds.

Let us use this opportunity to take a look at how some of India’s female activists have been recently treated so that we may continue to raise our collective voices for their freedom. 

Safoora Zargar is an activist from Jammu and Kashmir and a vocal advocate against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Being a Muslim woman and activist brings with it considerable risks in Modi’s India. She led the protest at Shaheen Bagh and was arrested during her pregnancy, and jailed during the height of the COVID pandemic.

She was constantly vilified by the media and a narrative was built around her that she instigated violence in the nation’s capital. Delhi Courts gave her bail after human rights organizations began protesting the inhumanity of her detention. Safoora continues to raise her voice for the oppressed.

Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita are both post-graduate students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and were arrested on multiple occasions, including under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), for taking part in the anti-CAA protests of 2020. 

Soni Sori is an Adivasi activist and fights corporations engaging in tribal land grabbing. She was arrested by Delhi Police in 2011, after being accused of supporting Maoists. She was also tortured and sexually assaulted by Chhattisgarh state police. She would eventually be acquitted on multiple charges due to the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing. 

Inderjit Kaur, an activist that supported orphans in Punjab, spent 45 months of her life in a Jodhpur jail after she was arrested from Darbar Sahib post-Operation Bluestar. She was visiting Darbar Sahib when the Indian military began its invasion and sustained life-threatening injuries from the cross-fire. During her 45-month detention, she met her son only twice, “I was not sure whether I would see my children ever again” she would later recall. Inderjit Kaur was harassed and abused in detention.

Gulfisha Fatima, an MBA student, was arrested by the police on April 9, 2020, for addressing the anti-CAA protestors at Seelampur. She has not been given regular access to family or lawyers during this period. She is currently at Tihar Jail facing a UAPA case.  

Sudha Bharadwaj is a trade-unionist, civil rights activist, and lawyer from Chhattisgarh. She has fought for exploited contract workers in the factories of Chhattisgarh, and has founded multiple organizations such as Janhit (a lawyers collective), and the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA).

Sudha was arrested under the UAPA on August 28, 2018, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Police claim that documents recovered from a co-accused’s electronic device indicate she was an active member of a banned Maoist organization, CPI. However, it has now come to light that the evidence was actually planted.

Gauri Lankesh was a fearless journalist and was a staunch critic of Hindutva. She founded her own Kannada fortnightly, ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’, which made her a target for far-right violence. She would be shot and killed by Parashuram Waghmore. He claimed he was saving his religion. 

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Amaan Bali is born and raised in Kashmir. He is an entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, “Growing up on the right side of Kashmir History”. You can find him on Twitter at @amaanbali.


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