“BJP’s illegal intimidation won’t stop people from opposing discriminatory laws like CAA,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said while Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav responded by saying, “Delhi Police is trying very hard to drag all any CAA protesters in the circle of conspirators.”

New Delhi: In trying to buttress its claim about the Delhi riots being a “deep-rooted conspiracy” by anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters, the Delhi police have dragged in Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, renowned economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor and public intellectual Apoorvanand, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy, among other prominent personalities, as persons who had,  encouraged the protesters as part of a ‘plan’.

The names of these eminent personalities have emerged in the supplementary chargesheet filed by the Delhi police for FIR 50/20 in connection with the alleged role of three students, two from the women’s collective Pinjra Tod – Devangana Kalita and  Natasha Narwal of Jawaharlal Nehru University – and Gulfisha Fathima of Jamia Milia Islamia – in the Jafrabad violence, from where the Delhi riots spread to other parts of north-east Delhi. The two founding members of Pinjra Tod, Kalita and Narwal, were arrested in the last week of May, while Fathima was taken into custody in late July. All three are now facing charges under various sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Curiously, the chargesheet annexed two entirely identical ‘disclosure statements’, in which the Delhi police claimed that Kalita and Narwal admitted to not just their complicity in the Delhi riots but also named Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy as their mentors to carry on the anti-CAA protests, even if it leads to violence at some stage. The disclosure statements – supposedly made independently of each other but with identical language, right down to misspellings like ‘massage’ for ‘message’ –  have quoted Kalita and Narwal as saying that they organised the Daryaganj protest in December and the Jafrafad chakka jam (road block) against the CAA on February 22, 2020 at the behest of Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy.

Screenshot of so-called disclosure statements by Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita. Narwal has written ‘Refuse to sign’ and where Kalita has written ‘I refuse to sign’, it has been crossed out.

In some pages of these ‘disclosure statements’, which are included in the charge sheet, one can see that Kalita and Narwal have written ‘I refuse to sign’. Nevertheless, the Delhi police, which reports to Union home minister Amit Shah, says in its chargesheet:

“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 ” 

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).”

Regarding Apoorvanand’s role, the police quote the Pinjra Tod founding members thus:

Professor Apurva Nand told them that JCC (Jamia Coordination Commitee) 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).”

The police also claimed that the activists informed officials that Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy coordinated with the the Islamist group Popular Front of India (PFI) and the JCC to mentor the Pinjra Tod members to carry forward their militant campaign against the CAA.

To corroborate this alleged versions of events, the police produced Fathima’s statement which alleges that CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, layer Mahmood Pracha, United Against Hate activist Umar Khalid and leaders from the Muslim community like “ex-MLA Mateen Ahmed, Anas, Sadaf, and MLA Amannatullah Khan also aided the conspirators of the violence”.

Goaded by the Pinjra Tod activists and JCC, the police claimed, Fathima, a strong opponent of CAA, organised the Seelampur protest from January 15 onwards. While quoting Fathima, the police said that she was told to organise the protest to “malign the image of the Government of India”.

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]”

Both the Pinjra Tod activists, the police claimed, used their “educational qualification to misguide the common Muslim people that we have knowledge about the CAA/NRC and it is against the Muslim”.

Lawyers say the fact that the disclosure statements of both Kalita and Narwal are entirely identical, including even the typos and grammatical errors are evidence of the fact that these have been drafted by the police themselves.

Also, the police version of the anti-CAA protest, as mentioned in the chargesheet, is eerily similar to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s criticism of it. The police have used terms like “anti-national elements” and “rioters” to describe the Pinjra Tod members, JCC and anti-CAA protestors who delivered “hate speeches to poison the mindset of  common people”. The police’s politically partisan understanding of the contentious law also came out when it said that the accused persons “started misinterpreting the provisions of CAA and NRC” to claim that Muslims will be thrown out of India if they are implemented.

Ever since the investigations began into the anti-Muslim riots that claimed 53 lives, mostly Muslims, and injured hundreds, and damaged properties worth crores in north-east region of the national capital, the Delhi police have sought to link the largely peaceful anti-CAA protests with the violence that unfolded between February 23 and February 26. Around 751 FIRs have been registered in different police stations.

The Delhi police’s probe initially began as a regular exercise with people charged with rioting, possessing weapons, assembling unlawfully and criminal conspiracy. However, it gradually morphed into what is being seen as a roving witch-hunt against students, activists and academics who have been critical of many of the Narendra Modi government’s policies, and especially the contentious citizenship law and proposed National Register of Citizens in the months preceding the Delhi riots.

Police in its disclosure of chargesheet in the February Delhi riots case. Apart from the CPI(M) general secretary and Swaraj Abhiyan leader, the Delhi Police has also named economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor and activist Apoorvanand, and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy.

The Delhi Police has mentioned that these individuals allegedly asked anti-CAA protestors to go to any extreme. In addition, the police also claim that these individuals spread discontent in the community by calling “CAA/NRC anti-Muslim” and organised demonstrations to “malign the image of the Government of India”.

The names appeared on page 17 in a supplementary chargesheet filed by the police in the riots case.

Violent clashes in Delhi’s northeast district between February 23 and 26 claimed 53 lives and left 581 injured, 97 of them with gunshot wounds. A copy of the supplementary chargesheet is with India Today.

Delhi Police names Yechury, Yogendra Yadav in #DelhiRiots case. #ITVideo #DelhiPolice pic.twitter.com/IKNCZ8zIDH— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) September 12, 2020

According to the Delhi Police, Yechuri, Yadav, Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy have been accused on the basis of confessions of Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Gulfisha Fathima. While Kalita and Narwal are JNU students and members of women’s collective Pinjra Tod, Fathima is a student of Jamia Milia Islamia. All of the three students were arrested and questioned in connection with the violence in Jaffrabad.

… This is the real chehra, charitra, chaal and chintan of Modi and his BJP.— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) September 12, 2020

When asked about the supplementary chargesheet, Delhi Police Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Praveen Ranjan said, “Their names have come up only in disclosure of chargesheet.”

Sitaram Yechury, in a post on Twitter said, “Delhi Police is under the Centre and 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.”

Yes, I went around all over the country, requesting people to oppose #CAA in a peaceful way: @_YogendraYadav#ITVideo #DelhiPolice #DelhiRiots pic.twitter.com/aqEvC2RO8l— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) September 12, 2020

He added, “BJP’s illegal intimidation won’t stop people from opposing discriminatory laws like CAA. To assert that all Indians are equal irrespective of their religion, caste, colour, creed, region, gender & political affiliations is not only our Right but our Duty. We will exercise it.”

This is factually incorrect report, hope @PTI_News withdraws it.
Supplementary chargesheet does NOT mention me as co-conspirator, or even as accused. One passing reference to me and Yechury, in an unauthenticated police statement (not admissible in court) by one accused. https://t.co/QurXmQdOr2— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) September 12, 2020

“Harassed till proven innocent is right. Delhi Police is trying very hard to drag all any CAA protesters in the circle of conspirators. My only clarification is that as yet Delhi Police has not formally named me or Yechuri as conspirators or accused,” Yogendra Yadav said in a tweet on Saturday.

Yogendra Yadav told India Today TV that the disclosure of chargesheet based on some statements do not hold any value in the eyes of the law. “I am sure they (Kalita, Narwal and Fathima) wouldn’t have signed these confessions,” Yadav added