Ishrat Jahan

Ishrat Jahan, a former Congress councilor, was arrested on February 26, 2020 and was initially charged with attempted murder and rioting. Upon receiving bail on March 21, 2020, she was charged again and booked under various acts, one being 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

Ishrat Jahan was initially arrested on February 26, 2020 for her role at a protest organized against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and was charged for allegedly provoking crowds, according to Scroll. She received bail on March 21, 2020, but was immediately rearrested on the same day and was named in FIR 59. This FIR accused 21 people of conspiring to encourage communal violence in Delhi and thus threaten the state.

When speaking on FIR 59 to Scroll, Jahan said, “It was so odd because we were told we are co-accused, co-conspirators, but we were introducing ourselves to each other in court.” While in person, Ishrat Jahan took notes of her thoughts and her experiences in diaries and hopes to one day turn her prison diaries into a book.

Charges and Allegations

Ishrat Jahan was charged under the India Penal Code, 1967 Arms Act, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). 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

Ishrat Jahan was granted bail on March 15, 2022 and was released from jail the following day, over two years after her initial arrest.

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