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Delhi ‘hate speech’: Accused have history; BJP ex-spokesman, 5 held

The Sunday protest march against “colonial-era laws” was called by Upadhyay, and the rally had hundreds of people in attendance. Purported videos of the event showed people shouting slogans threatening harm to Muslims.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman , Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi |
Updated: August 11, 2021 12:15:29 am
Delhi Police rounds up protesters demonstrating Tuesday against the slogans raised at Jantar Mantar. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

SIX MEN, including Supreme Court lawyer and former Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay, have been arrested by the Delhi Police in connection with alleged inflammatory and anti-Muslim slogans raised at Jantar Mantar on Sunday.

“Apart from Upadhyay, we have arrested Preet Singh, president of Save India; Deepak Singh Hindu, president of Hindu Force; Vinod Sharma, head of Sudarshan Vahini; Deepak Kumar Gausewak, and Vineet Bajpai Kranti,” DCP (New Delhi district) Deepak Yadav said.

Police said they are conducting raids to nab Pinky Bhaiya, who had earlier taken responsibility for the January 2020 violence at JNU, and one Uttam Malik, who claims to be a follower of Dasna Devi temple’s head priest.

A closer look at the activities of some of those picked up suggests they often work in tandem — from protests against a proposed Haj House in Dwarka and a mazaar in Patparganj to the event at Jantar Mantar.

Two of the arrested accused, Deepak Singh Hindu and ‘Azad’ Vinod Sharma, not only ran coordinated social media campaigns to mobilise people at such gatherings, but also broadcast the events on a YouTube channel titled ‘Mission CyberSipahi’, which has upwards of 1,75,000 subscribers. It describes itself as a platform for “like-minded nationalists” and aims to raise funds for its “mission”.

On Monday evening, lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, who had organised the Jantar Mantar event against “Colonial-era laws”, went live on the channel, seeking to dissociate himself from the inflammatory slogans that were raised.

In fact, just hours before they were detained, both Singh and Sharma were live on YouTube on Monday night. At one point Sharma, who has over 14,000 followers on Facebook, pointed to news reports indicating that organisers of the event would be arrested, to which Singh responded, “Haan hum gaye thhai Jantar Mantar… jo hum kar rahe hain, ek hazar baar zyada karenge (We went to Jantar Mantar… what we are doing, we will do a thousand times more).”

Singh, however, sought to distance himself from the provocative slogans raised by Uttam Malik, who also goes by Uttam Upadhaya, at the event, saying: “I even got a call from security agencies asking if I know him, but I don’t.”

Police are looking for Malik. A week ago, he had turned up outside the mazaar at Patparganj’s Hasanpur along with three other men and recited a devotional hymn which he also streamed live on his Facebook account. “Hindus should unite. We will ensure that this mazaar is removed,” he said.

On August 3, a protest was held against the mazaar. Both Singh and Sharma were present at the site and streamed the event live, during which they made several inflammatory comments.

The previous night, Singh and Sharma also held a live discussion in which the moderator of the channel, one Shubham Mangla, could be heard requesting police to allow the protests. “Please do not create a situation where the dharmyodhas and the police clash,” Mangla said.

On August 6, Singh showed up at the protest against the proposed Haj House. Before that, in a clip exhorting people to turn up at the protest, Singh launched a diatribe against Muslims.

At the Jantar Mantar event, both Singh and Sharma were present along with Mangla, who also spoke from the dais. They complained that police had stopped many people from reaching the event site by shutting down nearby Metro stations. The main event was wrapped up in an hour but people remained in the area till 4 pm, they said, hosting a live session at night.

Mangla claimed that the man, later identified as Malik, who was seen raising anti-Muslim slogans in one clip, was “planted” to defame the movement. The description of the CyberSipahi portal states that Mangla also runs “different WhatsApp groups since 2013 to spread awareness in the masses”.

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