Hope in difficult times: solidarity with political prisoners in India

Feminist Fightback joined South Asian diaspora activists and allies in Trafalgar Square in London on Sunday 6 June to mark one year since the arrests of Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita from the Indian feminist collective Pinjra Tod.

Devangana and Natasha were arrested in Delhi in May 2020 following their participation in protests against new citizenship laws which explicitly target Muslims with insecure status. Detained on various false charges, including under draconian anti-terror laws, they remain in jail without bail. They are among a growing number of activists, writers and trade unionists incarcerated as part of the Modi government’s silencing of dissident voices.

Inspired by the activism of Pinjra Tod, we held a jan sunwai – a public hearing – where testimonies, personal recollections, poems, songs, and messages of solidarity were shared.

Contributions helped build our collective understanding of the issues raised by these arrests, which resonate well beyond India’s borders. What are the effects of the criminal justice system on women, families, and communities? How do colonial legacies influence laws used to criminalise dissent? How can we build resistance when our rights to protest are under attack?

The gathering had moments of sadness and of rage, but was marked by solidarity and togetherness. Sharing stories of our incarcerated comrades in India, we were moved by their sense of hope and ongoing care in difficult times.