Delhi Riots: Cops Name Eminent Academics and Activists in Chargesheet, But Say They’re Not Accused
After naming eminent public intellectuals, activists and political leaders in a supplementary chargesheet filed in a case related to communal violence in Northeast Delhi as those who “encouraged” protesters to stage an “illegal” agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the city police is now claiming that “a person is not arraigned as an accused only on the basis of the disclosure statement”.
Delhi Police spokesperson Anil Mittal said in an official statement, “It is worth mentioning that 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 the disclosure statement. However, it is only on the existence of sufficient corroborative evidence that further legal action is taken. The matter is currently sub judice.”
Based on “disclosure” statements of three accused — Delhi University (DU) student Gulfisha Fatima alias Gul and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) research scholars Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal — the Delhi Police has named Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Amanatullah Khan, former Congress legislator Mateen Ahmed, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, DU professor and activist Apporvanand, renowned economist Jayati Ghosh and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy in the supplementary chargesheet filed in FIR No. 50/2020 registered at Jafrabad police station on February 26, 2020 under severe Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections such as attempt to murder, murder, criminal conspiracy, among others.
Interestingly, according to the chargesheet, two of the tree accused—Kalita and Narwal, who are also affiliated to a women’s collective Pinjra Tod—have refused to sign their “disclosure” statements recorded under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which is not admissible in a court of law.
Curiously, the “disclosure” statement of Kalita and Narwal are identical, including even the typos and grammatical errors. The two statements have several grammatical and spelling errors such as “massage” (instead of message) and Jaidi Ghosh (instead of Jayati Ghosh).
The investigators in the chargesheet claimed that Kalita and Narwal not only admitted to their roles in the communal violence but also explained how Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy mentored them to organise anti-CAA protests as part of a “conspiracy”. The chargesheet also accused former JNU student Umar Khalid for providing “tips” for doing protest against CAA/NRC and instigating the agitators.
“Accused Devangana Kalita has disclosed that ‘In the month of December after passing CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) Jaidi Ghosh, Professor Apurva Nand, Rahul Roy had explained that we have to protest against CAA/NRC for which we can go any extreme due to which we can through the Govt and Umar Khalid had also given some tips for doing protest against CAA/NRC (sic),” the chargesheet quotes the duo as telling the police.
It further quoted Kalita as saying, “On the directions of these persons Umar Khalid’s United Against Hate Group and JCC (Jamia Coordination Committee & members of our Pinjda Tod together started protest in different parts of Delhi. On 20.12.2019 I along with other members of Pinjda Tod Group participated in the protest called by Chander shekhar “Rawan” in the area of Darya Ganj. When police tried to stop to move towards Jantar Mantar we instigated the protestors to be violent due to which protestors became violent and several persons were got injuries.(sic)”
Narwal, as per the chargesheet, too narrated verbatim the same story.
Regrding Apoorvanand’s role, according to the chargesheet, the two founding members of the Pinjra Tod, said, “Professor Apurva Nand told them that JCC (Jamia Coordination Comittee) is going to start protest at 20-25 places in Delhi. As per directions of Umar Khalid and others we chosen the local girl of North-East Delhi namely Gulfisha @ Gul and she along with Taslim and others had taken responsibility that they will gather the crowd for the protest against CAA/NRC (sic).”
Gulfisha, according to the police, came in contact with the Pinjra Tod activists during anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, Jantar Mantar and ITO.
“As per directions of Umar Khalid and others, we chose the local girl of Northeast Delhi, namely Gulfisha alias Gul, and she along with Taslim and others had taken responsibility that they will gather the crowd for the protest against CAA/NRC. We also told them they will call women and children for blocking the road. Due to these protest, we will able to malign the image of Govt that the Govt is against the Muslim community. (sic)”
The police also claimed in the chargesheet that Kalita and Narwal told investigators that Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy coordinated with Popular Front of India (PFI) and the JCC to help the Pinjra Tod members to take forward their protest against the CAA.
“We used our educational qualification to misguide the common Muslim people that we have knowledge about the CAA/NRC and it is against the Muslim,” their statements said.
Yechury and Yadav, the police said, were named in Gulfisha’s “disclosure” statement, stating that they took part in anti-CAA demonstrations to “provoke and mobilise” crowds. The police said she also mentioned the names of Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, Advocate Mahmood Pracha, Umar Khalid and leaders from the Muslim community like MLA Amanatullah Khan, former MLA Mateen Ahmed, Anas and Sadaf a co-conspirators of the violence.
The police claimed in the chargesheet that Fatima was provoked by Pinjra Tod activists and the JCC and organised the Seelampur protest from January 15 onwards. She was told, the police said, to organise the protest to “malign the image of the Government of India”.
The investigators have quoted Fatima as saying, “The crowd had started growing and according to the plan, big leaders and lawyers started coming in to provoke and mobilize this crowd, including Omar Khalid, Chander Sekhar Ravan, Yogendar Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, and lawyer Mahmood Pracha, Chaudhary Matin, etc., the lawyer, Mahmood Pracha, said that the sitting in demonstration is your democratic right and the rest of the leaders filled the feeling of discontent in the community by calling CAA/NRC anti-Muslim. (sic)”
The entirely identical “disclosure” statements have prompted law experts to comment that the confessions made by Kalita and Narwal appear to have been drafted by the police themselves.
Importantly, the police’s version of the anti-CAA protests as mentioned in the chargesheet appears to be in line with the allegation leveled against it by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For instance, several BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have stated at several occasions that innocent Muslims “misguided” by anti-CAA protesters “hate speeches to poison the mindset of common people”. In the chargesheet, the police have used the words “anti-national”, “rioters” to describe Pinjra Tod and JCC activists and other agitators who were opposing the controversial legislation. Like the BJP leaders, cops in the chargesheet too have alleged that the protesters “misinterpreted” the provisions of CAA and NRC to claim that Muslims will be thrown out of India if they are implemented.
As earlier chargesheets, the police in this final report too have conveniently ignored provocative speeches made by BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who openly threatened violence if the anti-CAA protestors didn’t withdraw their protests, and entirely held anti-CAA protesters responsible for the riots.
In fact, it was the Jafrabad protest site from where the first incident of communal violence was reported after Mishra, in presence of a deputy commissioner of police, provoked people on February 23 afternoon. The BJP leader in his speech near Maujpur red light, some hundred metres from the Jafrabad protest site, had said if the police fail to remove the demonstrators from the Jafrabad protest site, he and his supporters would take the matter in their own hands and have them removed forcibly.
Soon after his speech, violence erupted and later spread to other parts of north-east Delhi. Yet, no FIR was registered by the Delhi Police against him.
The investigation into the Delhi riots is turning out to be similar to that of the probe being conducted into the Bhima Koregaon incident. Academics, public intellectuals and rights activists are being called for questioning and sent behind bars one after another. After activist Harsh Mander and Prof Apoorvanand, now Yechury and Ghosh have been dragged into the riots “conspiracy”.
Ghosh, who teaches economics at the JNU, is an acclaimed academician and has authored several books. She was recently quoted by New York Times on the steep fall of India’s GDP in the last quarter. She is the current Chairperson of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at the JNU and her core areas of study include international economics, employment patterns in developing countries, macroeconomic policy and issues related to gender and development.
She is a consultant for international organisations such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation. She has advised various state and national governments in India from time to time and held positions, including Chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh Commission on Farmers’ Welfare in 2004 and member of the National Knowledge Commission of India (2005-09) reporting to the then prime minister.
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