Ishrat Jahan

Former Municipal Councillor, lawyer and activist arrested in the Delhi Riots conspiracy case


Ishrat Jahan is a practising advocate and former Indian National Congress municipal councillor from Khureji Khas in northeast Delhi. She led the Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Khureji khas where women were sitting on a 24/7 protest demanding repeal of the act. Her father was a prominent social activist of the area and respected by Muslims and Hindus alike. She took her father’s legacy forward and was able to win the local municipal body elections in her area.

Circumstances of Arrest

Ishrat Jehan was imprisoned for protesting religious freedom conditions.
On February 26, 2020, the third day of the riots in northeast Delhi, Ishrat was arrested at the anti-CAA protest site in Khureji. In videos of the incident, she is seen being dragged by a dozen police officers and shoved into a waiting police vehicle. Lawyers from the Indian Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Law Network who went to the police station to seek her release were allegedly beaten by police. She was also physically tortured in police custody. At the time, police reportedly charged her under the first information report (FIR) 44/2020 with attempted murder and rioting. In March 2020, she was booked in the larger conspiracy FIR- 59/2020 just when she had got bail in the previous FIR. She was rearrested before her release. The police claimed that she instigated the people to do violence. It is pertinent to note that no incidents of violence were reported in the Khureji Khas area during the riots.

Time In Jail

The trial court granted Ishrat bail in the larger Delhi riots conspiracy case in March 2022. Ishrat, who got married on June 12, 2020, when she was briefly released on interim bail for 10 days, said in an interview: “My Mehendi (henna) was still etched on my hands when I returned after my interim bail was over. Most couples go on vacations together but I spent my time back in prison, in isolation. I have not even seen my in-laws’ house properly and I am glad I get to do that now. My husband’s family has fully supported me through this ordeal. I still find it unbelievable that I have been released. My faith in the judiciary is strong.”

She used to kill time reading newspapers, which she said were “heavily censored” by jail staff, and was unable to sleep due to frequent commotions in her barracks. She had applied to teach the children of inmates, who spend their lives with their mothers in incarceration. However, when that was rejected, as were other options like working at the prison library, she instead taught yoga to elderly prison inmates. In interviews she has expressed her desire to work for the welfare of women inmates, and help them with better access to legal counsel, revamping the mulaqat system as “many inmates haven’t seen their family members for over 4 years”, and pushing for prison authorities to set up a food factory inside the jail.

Charges & Allegations

On March 21, 2020, She was granted bail. However, police arrested her immediately after her release. She was charged under FIR 59/2020 with new offences under the IPC, 1967 Arms Act, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) after authorities accused her of inciting communal violence during the 2020 Delhi riots. 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).

Latest update

In mid-June 2020, She was granted interim bail to marry her fiancé. She returned to prison on June 19, 2020. In December 2020, she told a court that she had been assaulted by fellow prisoners on multiple occasions. She was lodged at Mandoli jail till March 2022 where she complained of being beaten by the inmates in at least two incidents in November and December 2020 and being harassed regularly. A district court judge noted that Jahan was in a state of “utter fear” and directed jail authorities to provide security to her. On March 15, 2022, the Karkardooma Sessions Court in Delhi granted her bail and while granting bail, the court had noted that she was not the one who gave the idea of a chakka jam, nor was she physically present in Northeast Delhi during the riots or part of any group or organisation.

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