Asif Iqbal Tanha

Student activist Asif Iqbal Tanha was arrested in May 2020 in connection to the 2020 Delhi riots and was charged under the UAPA.


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party led by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been strategically targeting Indian activists and journalists, specifically those critical of the Indian government, since it took power in 2014. The state uses laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to detain people, many of whom are student activists, without a formal charge or trial.

Activists and human rights advocates have expressed grave concerns over the immense crackdown on free speech in India, according to Wired. Specifically, the UAPA is a tool to silence and remove voices of dissent — especially Kashmiri, Muslim, Dalit, and Adivasi voices of dissent — without the need for evidence. In May 2022, some UN experts spoke out about how many aspects of the UAPA oppose international human rights law and standards. Student leaders and activists were booked under the UAPA following the 2020 Delhi riots, when Hindu mobs brutally injured and killed Muslims and attacked mosques, Muslim businesses, and property. The rioting resulted in 53 deaths, 38 of whom were Muslim, according to Scroll. Thousands were arrested during the riots with over 750 first information reports filed.

Life and Activism

Asif Iqbal Tanha was arrested in May 2020 for allegedly conspiring with others to plan the riots that erupted in Delhi in February 2020, according to Outlook India. The riots were in connection to the highly problematic and discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which specifically marginalizes Indian Muslims and left many Indian Muslims stateless. Asif Iqbal Tanha is one of many student activists who was persecuted for leading peaceful protests in response to the discriminatory CAA. Asif Iqbal Tanha has spoken out about the human rights violations he and others have faced while imprisoned. He spoke about the mental and emotional torture incarcerated people are forced to endure and the lack of care given to the overall health of prisoners, considering that he was in jail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charges and Allegations

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the charges include but are not limited to rioting (Sec. 147 IPC), rioting with a deadly weapon (Sec. 148 IPC), murder (Sec. 302 IPC), attempted murder (Sec. 307 IPC), sedition (Sec. 124A IPC), “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” (Sec. 153A IPC), unlawful activities (Sec. 13 UAPA), terrorist acts (Sec. 16 UAPA), raising funds for terrorist acts (Sec. 17 UAPA), and conspiracy (Sec. 18 UAPA).

Current Status

Granted bail 

Last Update

Asif Iqbal Tanha was granted bail in the Jamia Millia Islamia University protest case on May 28, 2020 but he was forced to stay in prison under other charges. He was released from prison on June 17, 2021.

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