Delhi Police on 12 September denied media reports that it had named CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor, and activist Apoorvanand and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy as co-conspirators in a supplementary charge sheet filed in the north-east Delhi riots case, even as a political row erupted over the issue.
Yechury had slammed, going by the misleading media reports, Delhi Police, saying that its “illegitimate, illegal actions” were a “direct outcome” of the politics done by the BJP’s top leadership. Referring to a PTI tweet on the subject, a Delhi Police spokesperson said, “In a case related to Jafrabad riots… it has been mentioned in one of the online news agency reports that the names are part of the disclosure statement of one of the accused in connection with organising and addressing the anti-CAA protests.”
“The disclosure statement has been truthfully recorded as narrated by the accused person,” added the statement. “However, a person is not arraigned as an accused only on the basis of a disclosure statement. It is only on the existence of sufficient corroborative evidence that further legal action is taken. The matter is currently sub judice.”
Yadav was quick to call the report “factually incorrect”. He clarified that his name, and that of Yechury, were mentioned only in passing. “(The) Supplementary charge sheet does NOT mention me as (a) 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,” he tweeted.
However, Yadav later alleged in another tweet that Delhi Police was indeed trying “very hard” to drag all anti-CAA protesters into the circle of conspirators. “My only clarification is that as yet Delhi Police has not formally named me or Yechury as conspirators or accused,” he tweeted.
The police record disclosure statements or confessions under Section 161 of CrPC during an investigation. However, they are not admissible as evidence in a court of law. Naming a person in a charge sheet as an accused is different from his name figuring in an accused’s confession.
The police arrested such persons whose disclosure statements had been quoted a few months ago. The cops had recorded their statements at the time. However, as yet, the police did not question Yechury, Yadav or Ghosh. The police had questioned Professor Apoorvanand but not on the basis of a disclosure statement. They had claimed to have done so after getting electronic evidence, including chats and other technical evidence against him.
How PTI misled people into believing Yechury, Yadav, Ghosh, Apoorvanand were co-conspirators
The PTI report referred to the alleged confessions of three students — Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and Gulfisha Fathima of Jamia Milia Islamia — in the Jafrabad violence case. All three are facing charges under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the report said.
The report said that Delhi Police has claimed that Kalita and Narwal admitted to not just their complicity in the riots but also named Ghosh, Apoorvanand and Roy as their mentors, who allegedly asked them to carry out the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and go to “any extreme”.
They also told the police, according to the agency report, that the three coordinated with the Islamist group Popular Front of India (PFI) and Jamia Coordination Committee to mentor the Pinjra Tod members for carrying forward their campaign against CAA.
Usual suspects howled in protest
The PTI report had said the police had used Jamia student Fathima’s statement to corroborate the ensuing events. In her statement, Fathima said that she was told to organise the protest to “malign the image of the Government of India”, the police claimed.
In her statement, Fathima said that “big leaders and lawyers started coming in to provoke and mobilize this crowd, including Umar Khalid, Chandrashekhar Ravan, Yogendar Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, and lawyer Mahmood Pracha, etc”.
While Yadav was circumspect in dealing with the allegation, Yechury alleged the BJP was “scared” of legitimate and peaceful protests by mainstream political parties and was, as a result, “misusing state power” to target the opposition. “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 and political affiliations is not only our right but our duty. We will exercise it,” he said.
“The BJP govt is scared of questions, in Parliament, in media & RTI. PM can’t hold a press conference or answer RTIs about his private fund or show his degree. They think they can silence political opposition by blatant misuse of state power. We fought Emergency, we’ll defeat this too,” he tweeted.
Referring to the development as an assault on democracy and reflective of BJP’s true “chaal, charitra, chehra”, Yechury said that hate speech videos by those who instigated violence and which left 56 people dead in Delhi are on record. “The person who led violent mobs in JNU is also on video. The BJP govt and Delhi Police under it can’t see those because it (sic) is hell-bent upon destroying our democracy,” he tweeted.
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said the Delhi Police action “proved” the “mala fide nature (sic) of Delhi police investigations” into the riots. “Nothing could be more absurd than to accuse Sitaram Yechury, Yogendra Yadav, Jayati Ghosh and Prof Apoorvanand of instigating riots. Their speeches are available on video. This while Kapil Mishra & Co are let off,” he tweeted.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “Stunned to see this. While those who actually incited & perpetrated violence are allowed to go scot free? What is happening to our country?”
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha MP and former president of the Delhi BJP, Manoj Tiwari, said that several opposition leaders had made divisive remarks during the Delhi riots, which created suspicion about their role in inciting violence. “If the police have named any particular leader, it must have been done after a thorough and impartial probe,” he said, adding that the law will take its course. He said there are several instances of a few leaders making remarks which had the potential to cause communal strife. “Let the police do its work.”