In targeted attacks on activists, Indian authorities have been trying to strategically erase any space for dissent, primarily through the oppressive colonial-era sedition law and the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act). This is happening even though the right to protest is a fundamental right in India; the police and government have a constitutional responsibility to facilitate protests.

A staggering number of women are being framed in trumped up charges and even being jailed. Dalit and Muslim women are being targeted even more for voicing their dissent, and endure heightened discrimination in custody. In many of these cases, women languish in custody with no sign of trial beginning.

"The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments," said the Additional Sessions Judge, Dharmender Rana in Disha Ravi's bail order.

People's protests against this kind of intimidation continue to put pressure on the government. In an effort to remain vigilant, we are collating a list of present and past women detainees. It is not an exhaustive list and we hope we will not have to keep adding more names here. But as Meena Harris rightly said, "Please stay loud — this fight is far from over."

Disha Ravi, 22 years, Climate Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on February 13, 2021 by the Delhi Police Special Cell on charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy, spreading disaffection against the Indian state, and promoting enmity for editing and sharing a social media toolkit intended to help the farmers' protest.      

Remanded to five days police custody reportedly without the presence of a legal counsel; arrested from her home without the knowledge of her family; her private WhatsApp chats were reportedly leaked to the media by the police in violation of the Cable Televisions Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act), the Programme Code and the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines.

Status: Granted bail on February 23, 2021

Nikita Jacob, 30 years, Lawyer, Climate Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Issued a non-bailable warrant by a Delhi court in connection with the farmers' protest toolkit case and booked under IPC Sections 124 (A) (sedition), 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy).

Status: Granted three weeks’ transit anticipatory bail on February 17, 2021.

Nodeep Kaur, 23 years, Dalit Labour Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Sonipat Police on January 12, 2021 on charges of attempt to murder, extortion, theft, rioting, unlawful assembly, extortion and criminal intimidation.rioting, and assault to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), among others.

Status: Granted bail on February 26, 2021; reportedly faced sexual and physical assault in custody; was taken to the police station in absence of women police officers; her medical examination was not conducted in violation of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Natasha Narwal, 31 years, Student And Women's Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Delhi police on May 23, 2020 in connection with the Jafrabad road-block case (FIR 48/2020) and booked under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). Granted bail in this case on May 24, 2020. Re-arrested (FIR 50/2020) and charged with murder, and attempt to murder in connection with the Jafrabad violence in February, 2020. Granted bail in this case on September 17, 2020. Booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (FIR 59/2020) for allegedly being a co-conspirator in the Delhi riots in February 2020.

Status: Detained

Devangana Kalita, 31 years, Student And Women's Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Delhi police on May 23, 2020 in connection with the Jafrabad road-block case (FIR 48/2020) and booked under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). Granted bail in this case on May 24, 2020. Re-arrested (FIR 50/2020) and charged with murder, and attempt to murder in connection with the Jafrabad violence in February, 2020. Granted bail in this case on September 1, 2020. Re-arrested (FIR 250/2019) in connection with the Darya Ganj violence in December 2019. Granted bail in this case on June 2, 2020. Booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (FIR 59/2020) for allegedly being a co-conspirator in the Delhi riots in February 2020.

Status: Detained

Gulfisha Fatima, 28 years, Student Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Delhi police on April 9, 2020 in connection with the Jafrabad road-block case (FIR 48/2020). Granted bail in this case on November 21, 2020. Later booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (FIR 59/2020) for allegedly being a co-conspirator in the Delhi riots in February 2020.

Status: Detained, subjected to communal slurs and mental harassment in custody

Safoora Zargar, 27 years, Student Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Delhi police on April 10, 2020 in connection with the Jafrabad road-block case (FIR 48/2020). Granted bail in this case on April 13, 2020. Later booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (FIR 59/2020) for allegedly being a co-conspirator in the Delhi riots in February 2020.

Status: Granted bail on humanitarian grounds on June 23, 2020 as she was expecting a child.

Ishrat Jahan (not to be confused with the Ishrat Jahan of the encounter killing), Lawyer, Former Municipal Councillor from Congress

Circumstances of arrest: First arrested on February 26, 2020 for refusing to move from an Anti-CAA protest site in Khureji Khas. Granted bail in this case on March 21, 2020. Later booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (FIR 59/2020).

Status: Detained, reportedly verbally and physically assaulted multiple times in jail

Sadaf Jafar, 44 years, Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on December 19, 2019 by the UP Police on charges of rioting, attempted murder and assault on public servants in connection with the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Status: Granted bail on January 4 2020, reportedly suffered abuse and torture in police custody

Amulya Leona, 19 years, Student Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on February 20, 2020 for shouting “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans as part of the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Booked for sedition and sections 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups) and (B) of the IPC.

Status: Granted bail ‘by default’ on June 10, 2020 as Bengaluru police failed to file charge sheet within the mandated period of 90 days.


Sudha Bharadwaj, 59 years, Civil Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on August 28, 2018 and booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and 10 sections of the IPC including 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (1) (intent to cause harm to the public/army), 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

Status: Detained, facing health challenges

Shoma Sen, 63 years, Professor And Women's Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on June 6, 2018 by the Pune police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly inciting violence and delivering hate speeches in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of January 2018 and for alleged Maoist links.

Status: Detained, facing health challenges

Jyoti Jagtap, 33 years, Member Of Kabir Kala Manch

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on September 8, 2020 by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case and booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Status: Detained


Soni Sori, 45 years, Tribal Rights Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on October 4, 2011 for allegedly being a Maoist agent and booked under various sections including extortion, criminal conspiracy and unlawful activities. Acquitted in 6 out of 8 cases in April 2013 due to lack of evidence. Released in 2014.

Arrested again on October 5, 2019 under Sections 151, 107 and 116 of the Criminal Procedure Code for allegedly not seeking permission ahead of a meeting regarding the release of innocent Adivasis from jails.

Status: Granted bail later that day. Subjected to torture and sexual harassment during her imprisonment in 2011.

Kuni Sikaka, 24 years, Adivasi Climate Activist

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested on May 1, 2017 for her association with the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) which has been at the forefront of opposing bauxite mining activities by the Vedanta Group in Niyamgiri. Was dragged out of her house at midnight, despite the fact that police had no warrant.

Status: Illegally detained by the police and released two days later on May 3, 2017 after having to forcefully “surrender” as a Maoist to the police despite no evidence to support the statement.

Manisha Dhinde, 20 years, Adivasi Student Climate Activist, member of the Aarey Conservation Group

Circumstances of arrest: Detained under Section 144 twice for protesting against Aarey Metro shed project in Mumbai.

Status: Released, harassed multiple times by police

Patricia Mukhim, 67 years, Journalist

Circumstances: A police complaint was filed against her by a Meghalaya village council on July 6, 2020 for a social media post. She was later charged under Sections 153 (A), 500 and 505 (c) of the Indian Penal Code. Her plea to quash the FIR was dismissed by Meghalaya High Court in November 2020.

Status: Judgement challenging the Meghalaya High Court's order reserved by the Supreme Court on February 16, 2021.

Masrat Zahra, 26 years, Kashmiri Photojournalist

Circumstances: Booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in April 2020 by the Jammu and Kashmir Cyber Police for uploading “anti-national photos on social media with criminal intent."

Status: Police harassment and intimidation

Hidme Markam, 28 years, Adivasi Activist, leader of the Nandraj Pahad movement that opposed mining projects

Circumstances of arrest: Arrested by the Dantewada Police on March 9, 2021 in 4 cases on charges of murder, rioting, arms, explosive acts, and other sections of the IPC including charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for alleged involvement in Maoist activities. Arrested from an event marking International Working Women’s Day to commemorate two Adivasi women who committed suicide after being physically and sexually assaulted by the police and the paramilitary in custody. Was reportedly dragged into the police vehicle without the police providing any warrant/reason for her arrest.

Status: Sent to 10 days judicial custody till March 19, 2021.

PS: The order of the list is unpremeditated. Elements were collated as/when info was found from multiple sources. We acknowledge that women from minority/marginalized communities are targeted in disproportionately large numbers, more frequently, and face graver systemic injustice.

Sources: Frontline Defenders, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Wire, Scroll.in, Survival International, SheThePeople and various others.

Picture Courtesy: Twitter/Meena Harris