Mahavir Narwal, 71, the father of jailed Indian political activist Natasha Narwal, died from coronavirus on Sunday. He passed away after talking about never being able to see his daughter again in an interview, a fear that seemingly came true.
Natasha has been in jail in New Delhi for the last year for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy in the deadly 2020 Delhi riots that rocked the city in February, killing about 50 people, but was not allowed to leave prison to see her ailing father one last time.
The 31-year-old was only granted interim bail on Monday, a day after his death, to cremate her father.
Speaking to The Independent over the phone from Mahavir’s house, Jagmati Sangwan an activist and close friend of his, said it was “unfair” and “heartless” for the judge to schedule the urgent bail plea for Monday.
“It is unfair that the bail was not scheduled on urgency. Her aged father was in a serious condition and her brother was also down with Covid, there was literally no one to look after the two as her mother passed away when she was young. The judge snatched away the opportunity for the two to meet one last time,” said Ms Sangwan.
Natasha took part in protests against India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a contentious law approved in 2019 to grant citizenship to illegal migrants from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, and Jain faiths, but excluded Muslims.
A source close to the family told PTI news agency that “Mahavir was not able to speak to his daughter who is in jail”.
Devika Shekhawat, a close friend of Natasha, told The Independent that the “urgent plea to see her ailing father was not listed by the courts on Friday”.
“She should have been allowed to visit her ailing father and be by his side during these difficult times and be able to support the family,” Ms Shekhawat said. “He was pillar of strength and support not just for Natasha but for all of us who felt unsure and broken.”
Activist Kavita Krishnan and a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) described it as “cruel and torture” to keep political prisoners jailed during covid.
"This is so bloody cruel & sadistic: it’s a form of torture to keep political prisoners jailed during a pandemic, forced to suffer not only prison, but the pain of being away from loved ones who are dying. Natasha’s brother also has Covid-19," she said on Twitter.
Activist Harsh Mander also offered his condolences remembering Mahavir, describing him as a “hero” for supporting Natasha.
An interview of Mahavir, a senior member of the Communist Party of India, is going viral in social media in which he showed Natasha’s room and the library he was making for the time when she would return from prison.
“I hope she’s not in jail so long she doesn’t see my face,” he said.
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