A day after students and journalists were attacked at Patiala House Courts complex, the Delhi Police registered two FIRs against “unknown persons”, while Police Commissioner B S Bassi said a probe had been ordered into alleged police negligence.
While police said they were trying to identify those who led the attack, The Indian Express caught up with four men involved in Monday’s assault. All four identified themselves as practising lawyers and admitted that they were at the court when the attack took place.
One of them, Vikram Singh Chauhan, does not have a chamber in Patiala House. He said that around 1 pm on Monday, courtroom number six was packed with people. “We went for the hearing and found the courtroom full of JNU students and teachers. We asked them to leave because some lawyers wanted to attend the hearing. Instead, they asked us for ID cards. We were angry because we had valid identity cards. They were here just to create nuisance,” he said.
“A few media people were possibly caught in between as we were beating people who recorded videos. But when we realised they were from the media, we asked them to leave,” he said.
On Tuesday, as photos of him with BJP leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, started doing the rounds on social media, he said, “I have a picture with singer Atif Aslam. Does that mean I am a Pakistani? I am in a picture with a JD(U) leader too.”
Yashpal Singh, who was also seen assaulting students, said he has been a lawyer for 15 years, and was once an additional secretary of the Delhi Bar Association. Singh said JNU students and teachers were reluctant to leave the courtroom. “They said Kashmir or Kerala were never part of India and that it shouldn’t matter to you. The intent of the JNU people was clear, they were here to create a ruckus. We called up the Tilak Marg SHO and narrated the incident,” he said.
He said police told them that since there were many women inside the courtroom, it would be impossible to clear them out. Women police officers arrived later, he said. “They started arguing with us and said, ‘We are 60 people in the room, we can beat you up’. One of them pushed us,” he said.
Lawyer Om Sharma, who has a chamber each at Patiala House and Saket Court complexes, was also seen assaulting students. “After they (the students) pushed us, the situation went out of control. They were also raising slogans and we were angry,” he said, adding that a fight ensued between lawyers and JNU students.
Sharma denied that lawyers had attacked the media. “There were a few JNU students who had dressed up in black robes. I suspect they were the ones doing it,” he said, adding that they were only targeting those who looked like JNU students.
Delhi BJP vice-president Abhay Verma, who was with BJP MLA O P Sharma when he assaulted CPI leader Ameeque Jamei, called the whole incident “spontaneous”.
An advocate by profession, Verma contested the Delhi assembly elections in 2013 and lost. “I do not know how I will react again if I listen to anti-national slogans. On Monday, when I heard what this man said, rashtrabhakti ubhar aayi (patriotism swelled within me),” said Verma.
Verma said he was in the Patiala House Courts with the BJP MLA to support Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who appeared in court in connection with a defamation case against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “There was an altercation with the man in question. Sharma was attacked and blood was oozing from his head. We tried to reason with those shouting anti-national slogans. After hearing anti-national slogans, I lost my temper too,” said Verma.
A former secretary of the Bar Council, Verma said he was acting in self defence. Asked about his party’s response, he said, “The party is very upset with me. But it was not in my hands. It happened because my homeland was verbally abused,” he said.