Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Salman Khurshid, CPM leader Brinda Karat, and Udit Raj were among politicians who gave provocative speeches during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), according to the Delhi police’s charge sheet filed in connection with the riots in Delhi in February.
CPI-ML Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, student activist Kawalpreet Kaur, scientist Gauhar Raza, and advocate Prashant Bhushan were among the others who were named in the charge sheet.
Police have referred to former Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan and a protected witness in a case related to the north east Delhi riots and said they spoke about the speeches in their disclosure statements given to the police.
The charge sheet said that the protected witness have stated in the statement recorded, under Section 161 (examination by police) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that several big names like politician Udit Raj, Khurshid, Karat had come to the Khureji protest site and given “provocative speeches”.
“Several big names used to come to the Khureji site to give speeches against CAA/NPR (National Population Register)/NRC (National Register for Citizens), like Udit Raj, Salman, Khurshid, Brinda Karat, Umar Khalid (former JNU student leader)…” the witness alleged.
The charge sheet further said that Jahan, in her disclosure statement, alleged that in order to sustain the anti-CAA protests, several known persons like Khurshid, filmmaker Rahul Roy, and Bhim Army member Himanshu were called by her and activist Khalid Saifi on the instructions of Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC).
“In order to sustain the protest for a long time, several known persons were called by me and Khalid Saifi on the instructions of JCC, like Salman Khurshid, (filmmaker) Rahul Roy, Bhim Army member Himanshu, Chandan Kumar… gave provocative speeches because of which all the people sitting in the protest used to get instigated against the government,” Jahan said according to her disclosure statement.
The disclosure statement of Saifi stated that during the anti-CAA protests held in January 2020 “Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogender Yadav, (senior advocate) Prashant Bhushan, Salman Khurshid… also used to come to these speeches.”
The supplementary disclosure statement of Saifi, which was a part of the charge sheet, stated that in order to sustain the protest for a longer time, several known persons like Khurshid, JNU student Sharjeel Imam, and JCC member Meeran Haider were called to the Khureji protest site.
“In order to sustain the protest for a longer time several known persons like Khurshid, Sharjeel Imam, Meeran Haider etc were called to the Khureji protest site by me and Ishrat Jahan,” he said in his disclosure statement.
Scientist Raza’s name too came up for allegedly “instigating Muslims” through his speech at Khureji. The protected witness’ statement claims that Raza, along with others, “spoke wrong and objectionable things against CAA, NRC and the current government, and instigated Muslims”, according to The Indian Express.
When questioned about these allegations, Raza told The Indian Express, “I stand by my statement and anger against CAA. Even today, I oppose it and I’ll keep on opposing it because I consider it to be an attack on the Constitution of India… I have always been against any kind of violence anywhere. So there is no question of instigating anybody against anyone else.”
Meanwhile, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who recently made the headlines for being booked under contempt of court over “derogatory tweets” about the Chief Justice of India and other judges, said, “This is a part of Delhi Police’s strategy to gradually implicate any prominent person who was speaking in support of the protest against CAA. I did go to a few places and speak quite strongly against the CAA and in support of the protest. I never make any speech which is provocative in the sense that it provokes violence. I did speak strongly against the government and if they get provoked, then I can’t really help it.”
Salman Khurshid too spoke on similar lines and said provocation was not a criminal offence in India. He told The Indian Express, “If you pick up all the garbage there is, you will end up with over 17,000 sheets of a chargesheet. A chargesheet is supposed to be distilled, authentic, effective and useful evidence of a cognizable offence. If someone says that 12 people came and made provocative speeches, it can’t be that 12 people made the same kind of provocative speech and each one had the same level of provocation. Provocation and mobilisation is not a criminal offence in this country.”
Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.
(With inputs from agencies)