Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association President Shifa-Ur-Rehman on Tuesday asked in a Delhi court why no first information report was registered against Union Minister Anurag Thakur and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra for allegedly instigating the February 2020 riots in the national Capital, reported PTI.
Rehman, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the Delhi riots and is seeking bail, said that he had filed a complaint with the police against Thakur, Mishra, another BJP leader Parvesh Sharma and the man who shot at anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors near Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University last year.
The Jamia shooter was reportedly 17 years old at that the time of the incident so his identity has been withheld.
“Did the prosecution even bother to call them as witnesses or accused or issue a notice that we want to know something?” Rehman’s lawyer Abhishek Singh asked. “Because they said ‘shoot xyz’ so they [the police] know who those people are. They will at least have some evidence.”
Singh was referring to Thakur’s inflammatory slogans at a rally in Delhi in January last year before the riots broke out. Thakur was heard shouting “desh ke gaddaron ko” and the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko”. The slogan meant “shoot the traitors”, with an expletive used for “traitors” – a reference to those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and February 26, 2020, in North East Delhi that claimed 53 lives and injured hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.
Rehman is one of the accused along with activists Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and Faizan Khan in a case relating to a larger conspiracy in the Delhi violence. He is accused of collecting money to fund the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens.
The Delhi Police claim the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was planned by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Amendment Act.
They also claim that the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the facade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Rehman’s lawyer agreed that his client made “some financial arrangements” but asked whether paying some protestors attracts the charges of UAPA.
Singh told the court that being a member of the alumni association or even a protestor is not an offence. “A person is entitled to his opinion,” Rehman’s lawyer said, according to Live Law.
He argued that the sanction given by the central and the Delhi government was not made out to attract the provisions of the UAPA. Singh said a sanction can be given only after an independent verification of evidence collected during the investigation is done under Section 45 of the act.
“The question will be, can such independent review be carried out if the investigation is halfway through or not completed?” Singh asked. “If exercise is not completed and sanction is granted, will that sanction or charge sheet be valid?”
He added: “It’s not a case of invalidity of sanction. It’s a case of nullity of sanction. If that precondition is not satisfied, the sanction will be a nullity. It cannot be argued against me that sanction is something which will be looked against me in the later stages of trial.”
Singh also said that there was no instigation of violence in the Jamia Coordination Committee WhatsApp group.
The lawyer pointed out that the prosecution has failed to produce his speeches before the court. He claimed that the prosecution did not do so as Rehman, when giving speeches, advocated that the protest should be held in a peaceful manner.
“Why have I been roped in?” Singh asked. “I fail to understand. There is a fundamental right to protest. If a certain section of society is aggrieved by certain legislation and protest against it, that is not a crime. They can protest.”
The court will hear the matter on September 8.