Asif Iqbal Tanha (born January 13 1996) is an Indian student activist, a former student of Jamia Millia Islamia and a member of the Students Islamic Organisation of India. He was allegedly involved in the Delhi Riots conspiracy case and is accused under the UAPA Act. He is also associated with United Against Hate (UAH), a campaign that was started in July 2017 in response to the series of lynchings and hate crimes in India.
Life and Activism
Asif Iqbal Tanha was born in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. His primary education was received at his birthplace, and he graduated from Jamia Misbahul Uloom, an Islamic seminary in Uttar Pradesh, in the traditional Dars-e-Nizami ceremony. He graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi with a B.A. in Persian language on the advice of his father. Asif Iqbal Tanha’s life spans from his early years as a small boy growing up in rural Jharkhand to his development as an activist and public speaker promoting social justice. His friends refer to him as the kindest and most considerate person and as someone who discovered his politics in Jamia.
Circumstances of Arrest
He was falsely accused and was arrested for being part of a “premeditated conspiracy” in inciting communal violence in North East Delhi in February 2020. He was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He was arrested on May 19, 2020, and later lodged in Tihar jail. On August 18, 2020, Zee News claimed that they got his confession. In Zee News’s Special Show DNA, Sudheer Chowdhary claimed that Tanha has accepted his role in Jamia and Delhi Violence. Tanha’s counsel filed a legal case against Zee News, OpIndia and the other 2 parties, where he stated before the Delhi High Court that Zee News and OpIndia violated Programme Code by making public the alleged confessional statement. Delhi High Court on October 15, 2020, issued notice to Zee News channel to file an affidavit to disclose the source from where the alleged confessional statement was received.
Charges & Allegations
He was initially booked under FIR 298/2019 of December 19, 2019, for participating in a rally protesting against CAA for which he was given bail. He was then booked in FIR 50/2020 alongside several anti-CAA protesters under sections 147, 148, 149 and 120 B, 109, 114, 302, 307 IPC relating to rioting, unlawful assembly, criminal conspiracy, abetment and attempt to murder. Months later, on May 17, 2021, he was arrested under UAPA, designed to curb voices of dissent.
On May 28, 2020, Tanha was granted bail in the Jamia Millia Islamia University protest case (FIR 48/2020). However, he was forced to remain in prison under FIR 59/2020. On June 26, 2020, several UN experts called for the release of Tanha and other protestors, saying that their arrests seem “clearly designed to send a chilling message that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.”
On June 15, 2021, a Delhi High Court granted him bail in the Delhi Riots Conspiracy case. On June 17, 2021, Tanha was released from prison. In a press meet after his release, Tanha said he will continue the struggle against the CAA. He is vocal about the toll that prison took on his mental health and the human rights violations of prison inmates.