The Delhi Police has named CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh and Delhi University professor Apoorvanand in a supplementary charge sheet in the February riots cases, accusing them of “provoking and mobilising” anti-CAA protesters.
Some of those named have also been charged with -- based on the statements of three students already arrested in the case -- asking the protesters to go to ¨any extreme¨, spreading “discontent” in the community by calling CAA/NRC anti-Muslim, and organising demonstrations to “malign the image of the Government of India”. The three students are women’s collective Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and Gulfisha Fathima of Jamia Milia Islamia and the case has to do with the Jafrabad violence, from where the riots spread to other parts of North-East Delhi.
A report by The Wire pointed out that the statements supposedly made by Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal are identical with even spelling mistakes being replicated. Quoting lawyers, the report says that this indicates the statements may have been drafted by the police itself. On the margins of some of the pages of the statements, the women seem to have written “refuse to sign/I refuse to sign.” These have been crossed out and the refusal of the activists has not stopped the Delhi police from making these charges.
According to the chargesheet, the activists have allegedly told the police that Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy coordinated with the Islamist group Popular Front of India (PFI) and the Jamia Coordination Committee to mentor the Pinjra Tod members to carry forward their campaign against the CAA.
Riots in North East District between February 23 and 26 had claimed 53 lives and left 581 injured, 97 of them having gunshot wounds.
Reacting to the charge sheet, Yechury hit out at the government through a series of tweets.
“The Delhi Police is under the Centre and the Home Ministry. Its illegitimate, illegal actions are a direct outcome of the politics of BJP’s top leadership. They are scared of legitimate peaceful protests by mainstream political parties & are misusing state power to target the Opposition,” he said.
In another tweet, Yechury questioned as to why the “hate speeches” made during the riots were not investigated.
¨There is a video of poisonous speeches, why are they not being processed? Because the government has ordered that the opposition be wrapped up, either way. This is the real face, character, tricks and thinking of Modi and BJP. There will be opposition,” he said.
Yogendra Yadav said: ¨I notice that the passing reference to me does not even contain one sentence from my speech. I find it surprising that the Delhi Police has made no effort to see the recording of my speeches all of which are in the public domain."
The three women are facing charges under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Their similarly-worded disclosure statements – mentioned in the charge sheet – claimed that the two JNU students said they organised the Daryaganj protest in December and the Jafrabad chakka jam (road block) against the CAA on February 22, 2020 at the behest of Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy.
Delhi Police Additional PRO Anil Mittal said, "The names are part of the disclosure statement of one of the accused in connection with organizing and addressing the Anti-CAA protests. The disclosure statement has been truthfully recorded as narrated by the accused person. A person is not arraigned as an accused only on the basis of disclosure statement."
“However, it is only on the existence of sufficient corroborative evidence does further legal action is taken. The matter is currently sub judice,” he said.
The chargesheet attempts to portray that these people aided the "conspirators". In her statement, Fathima said that she was told to organise the protest to “malign the image of the Government of India”, The police claimed that in her statement, she stated that ¨big leaders and lawyers started coming in to provoke and mobilize this crowd, including Omar Khalid, Chandrashekhar Ravan, Yogendar Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, and lawyer Mahmood Pracha, etc”. “Pracha said that the sit-in demonstration is your democratic right."
Meanwhile forum for Constitutional Rights and Democratic Freedoms had written an open statement on 'flawed' investigation in Delhi riots. They had written:
We write to express our full support, in principle, for the statement ‘We will not be silenced’ made by Harsh Mander on September 4, 2020. We agree with him that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy as alleged by the Delhi Police. On the contrary, they have been caused by hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.
“We declare here – and hope those holding highest office in the country hear us loud and clear – that the government will never succeed in silencing us, and will never succeed in taking away from us the dream we inherited from our freedom struggle, the dream of together building a country which is just, and equal, and kind.”
Various questions have been raised in the past few months on the investigation into the Delhi riots. Several eminent citizens from across the country had written to the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, on August 25 endorsing the demand for an independent probe into the Delhi violence.
The letter, endorsed by Wajahat Habeebullah, Brinda Karat, Harsh Mander, Irfan Habib, Ashok Dhawale, Admiral Ramdas, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, P. Sainath, and Anand Patwardhan, among others, cited reports of the ongoing investigation by the Delhi police and the Special Crime cell as being “unfair, one sided and manufactured”.
They therefore demanded that the government should order an independent investigation by a retired judge of suitable stature with a time-bound mandate. They have also requested that the terms of reference for the investigation should include various aspects of the violence that had rocked North East Delhi, following communal tensions post the Delhi Assembly elections 2020.
The Delhi Police investigations of the communal riots in Northeast Delhi have been widely criticised for hounding the organisers of the anti-CAA and NPR/NRC protests. What was for months a peaceful protest, carried out under the slogan of defending the Constitution, became, in the eye of the police, a “conspiracy” to malign the government and instigate riots. The threats of violence made in the hate speeches made by BJP leaders—Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma— before the riots erupted, are not even being investigated. The police aided by the courts refused to even file an FIR.
On hate speeches, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has said,
Hate speech videos by those who instigated violence which led to death of 56 persons in Delhi are on record. The person who led violent mobs in JNU is also on video. The BJP govt& Delhi Police under it, can’t see those because it is hell bent upon destroying our democracy...
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) September 12, 2020
Yechury also added,
BJP govt is scared of questions, in Parliament, in media & RTI. PM can't hold a press conference or answer RTIs about his private fund or show his degree. They think they can silence political opposition by blatant misuse of state power. We fought Emergency, we’ll defeat this too
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) September 12, 2020