Dear Com. Narwal,

I know I never had the good fortune to meet you or your daughter Natasha Narwal in person. Like thousands of my fellow citizens of this country, I came across your name for the first time in 2020, when your daughter and her friends were illegally incarcerated for their brave resistance against the state in the form anti CAA-NRC protests  and offering relief works during Delhi riots. I heard then that Natasha was an active member of Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage), a students’- feminist collective working to make regulations for hostel and paying guest (PG) accommodation less restrictive for women students and cementing the narrative that women need no protection. Media, both ‘godi’ and independent, was continuously streaming visuals of her and other student activists extending solidarity to the women of Shaheen Bagh. Their words were fiery and emanated a conviction so unwavering, resembling the foundation of a Delhi that withstood many a pompous rulers and their tyranny.

Ever since May 2020, when Natasha and her friend Devangana Kalita were arrested for their alleged involvement in the North East Delhi riots, and charged falsely under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), I read in numerous reports that you stood by your daughter without lamenting her acts and omissions even once. You tried being present at her every court hearing, you reiterated your absolute faith in her innocence and the cause she championed for, and you remained optimist till the last moment about Natasha’s freedom. Com. Narwal, when the father of your daughter’s friend despised her involvement in activism which resulted in the subsequent legal conundrums, you became a role model for all the daughters and their fathers in this country by stating that, you believe and standby your daughter’s fight for humanity. You assured her that, jail is nothing and she shall be fine. You showed your fellow citizens, how a father can be the best Comrade a daughter can ever have. Your trust and love was the solidarity that was extended not just to Natasha but to hundreds of her ilk.

Yesterday, on 9th May 2021, you left this world battling this raging Covid pandemic, while your daughter was still in jail. Yes, you were a man who believed that dissent was decent and resistance against tyranny a duty. Yet Comrade, you would have craved one last sight of your daughter before bidding farewell. Unfortunately, neither the civil society’s appeal to the ruling, nor this country’s justice system could provide her an interim bail. Today, as someone privileged enough to breathe and stay alive while millions are fighting for oxygen in this country, as someone who, sitting at the comfort of home and is free enough to write this letter to you, my head bows in shame. There is this fuming rage and guilt of being part of a society not being able to get you and your daughter justice, or at least force the system to bow for a while before you breathed your last.

I heard that as a senior scientist, you were an excellent plant breeder. But trust me when I say this, that it’s not just plants, but with your life, words and deeds you’ve bred a towering tree in the form of Natasha, whose roots run deeper enough to withstand the storms of fascism. So Comrade Narwal, I and many a thousand of likeminded fellow citizens assure you that, your daughter won’t be left alone to fight the vagaries of this inhuman regime. Resistance shall remain our endeavor and humanity shall remain our guiding light. May you rest in peace forever!

Lekshmi Sujatha is an independent writer


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