Natasha Narwal

Last week the academic community in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and other states was greatly distress by the news of the death of Dr. Mahavir Narwal. Many of his former students, particularly those in Hissar ,  were reduced to tears. He was remembered by teachers as well as students not only for his learning and teaching but also for the important role he had played in the movements and organizations of teachers. Similarly widespread distress was noticed among people associated with a host of social concerns as Dr. Mahavir was widely known for his deep commitment to and long-term association with several important social concerns including the spread of scientific temperament and the reduction of narrow casteism and sectarianism. He is remembered as a learned man who practiced what he  preached and lived by his values.

He lived a great life , but one great regret which many felt deeply is that he could not meet his dearest daughter Natasha Narwal, a widely respected feminist social activist, in his last days as she was in prison, due to reasons relating to, as some eminent persons have stated, her equally deep social concerns and commitments.

Here our gratitude should be expressed , however, to the judges and senior police officials who acted on the basis of humanitarian considerations upon hearing of the death of Dr. Mahavir Narwal and  provided three week interim bail to Natasha Narwal for performing the last rites of her dearest father and for attending to related activities. Her only brother has also been reported to be ill and in isolation.

Now the government should carry this kind gesture to its logical conclusion and withdraw all cases against  Natasha. There is a strong case for this as several eminent persons have already campaigned for her release. As these eminent persons very familiar with her work have been stating, she was never involved in any violent activity and was merely working in accordance with her strong social commitments which is the right of any citizen in a democracy. There appears to clearly have been some serious misunderstanding on the part of the authorities regarding their apprehensions about the nature of the work taken up by her and her close colleagues. However interests of justice demand strongly that the authorities should be willing to take back earlier actions once there is realization that there was misunderstanding about an activist and her actions.

Democracy is all about citizens working in peaceful ways regarding their convictions. The country is passing through exceptionally difficult times. The difficulties should not be increased by implicating sincere and honest activists in allegations which do not at all appear to be in conformity with the past background of the activists , or the statements made by several eminent persons very widely known for their devotion to peace regarding the work of the activist. So there has always been a strong case for the release of  Natasha Narwal. However on humanitarian grounds there are now even more urgent circumstances for taking back the cases against her. Her father could not  meet her in his  last days. Now there can be no better homage that can be paid to him than to release Natasha Narwal immediately. This is a step which will be praised very widely and will get a lot of appreciation for all those who contribute to this, including the government.

Bharat Dogra is a veteran  journalist and author who has received several prestigious awards for his writings. His recent books include When the Two streams Met ( freedom movement), Man Over Machine ( Gandhian ideas for our times) and Protecting Earth for Children.


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