Actor-activist Deep Sidhu, accused of instigating violence at the Red Fort during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day, told a court on Thursday that he happened to be at the “wrong place, at the wrong time”, Bar and Bench reported.
“Mere presence does not make me part of unlawful assembly,” Sidhu told Additional Sessions Judge Nilofer Abeeda Parveen through his lawyer. “There has to be common object to commit violence or instigate.”
The judge was hearing Sidhu’s bail petition. The matter was adjourned for hearing to April 12. Sidhu was arrested by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell on February 9. They alleged that the 36-year-old actor entered the Red Fort with swords, sticks and flags on January 26 and gave speeches to incite violence.
Lawyer Abhishek Gupta argued that Sidhu was only a peaceful protestor, and his implication in the case was a “classic example” of media trial.
Gupta claimed that there was nothing on record to show that Sidhu participated in violence or instigated others to do so. “There are two videos that I shared with the investigating agency,” Gupta told the court on Sidhu’s behalf. “I am pacifying the people. I’m helping police...Media people are interviewing me.”
Sidhu admitted before the court he made a mistake by hosting a Facebook live video, but denied urging protestors to hoist flags at the Red Fort, The Indian Express reported. “Hoisting the flag does not amount to a crime and this issue is a debate I do not want to get into,” the actor added.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor who was representing the Delhi Police, accused Sidhu of being the mastermind of the Red Fort violence, according to The Indian Express. “He [Sidhu] reached the Red Fort, he instigated co-accused Jugraj, who is absconding, to raise the Nishan Sahib flag,” the prosecutor said.
At least one protestor was killed and over 300 police officers were injured after thousands of farmers on tractors, horses and on foot took to the streets of Delhi on Republic Day to call for the repeal of the contentious new agriculture laws. Protestors broke through barricades and poured into the city, clashing with a police force that tried to push them back with tear gas and a baton charge.
One group of protestors forced their way into the Red Fort. A few protestors also climbed a flagstaff and hoisted the Nishan Sahib, a religious flag that flies atop gurudwaras.
The Delhi Police registered a criminal case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and invoked sedition charges in connection with the violence at Red Fort.
After the violence, the police also clamped down on the farmers’ agitation. Heavy barricades were erected at protest sites and internet services were suspended. Police complaints were filed against farmer leaders and journalists, and hundreds of protestors were arrested.
Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the Centre repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies.
They have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met. In January, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the farm laws until further orders.