Congress leader Salman Khurshid, CPI-ML Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, student activist Kawalpreet Kaur, scientist Gauhar Raza and advocate Prashant Bhushan find a mention in disclosure statements of accused persons in a chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police last week alleging a conspiracy in the Northeast Delhi riots.
Khurshid’s name figures in the disclosure statements of accused Khalid Saifi as well as former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan. Saifi’s disclosure statement from March 30 mentions that to “keep the protest going and sustaining it for long”, he and Jahan called many people, including Khurshid, to deliver “provocative speech”.
“Those sitting on dharna used to keep sitting for these provocative speeches (bhadkau bhashan) and they used to get the zeal to campaign against the government for the sake of their religion,” his disclosure statement reads.
The statement of a protected witness, made under Section 164 CrPC, also names Khurshid as having made a provocative speech.
Khurshid told The Indian Express, “If you pick up all the garbage there is, you will end up with over 17,000 sheets of a chargesheet. A chargesheet is supposed to be distilled, authentic, effective and useful evidence of a cognizable offence. If someone says that 12 people came and made provocative speeches, it can’t be that 12 people made the same kind of provocative speech and each one had the same level of provocation. Provocation and mobilisation is not a criminal offence in this country.”
Scientist Raza’s name comes up for allegedly “instigating Muslims” through his speech at Khureji. A statement of a protected witness says Raza, along with others, “spoke wrong and objectionable things against CAA, NRC and the current government, and instigated Muslims”.
When contacted, Raza said, “I stand by my statement and anger against CAA. Even today, I oppose it and I’ll keep on opposing it because I consider it to be an attack on the Constitution of India… I have always been against any kind of violence anywhere. So there is no question of instigating anybody against anyone else.”
Bhushan’s name comes up in the statements of Saifi and Ishrat Jahan as having given a speech at Khureji. When contacted, he said, “This is a part of Delhi Police’s strategy to gradually implicate any prominent person who was speaking in support of the protest against CAA. I did go to a few places and speak quite strongly against the CAA and in support of the protest. I never make any speech which is provocative in the sense that it provokes violence. I did speak strongly against the government and if they get provoked, then I can’t really help it.”
Kaur’s name finds a mention in the original disclosure statement of Saifi dated May 25, in which he says he was in touch with her, among others, to “plan with them” and get them to send “provocative messages/tweets” so that the “Muslim community feels angered towards the government and its policies due to religious reasons”.
The disclosure statement of one of the 15 accused, Shadab Ahmed, dated May 27, mentions the names of 38 persons, including Krishnan, Kaur and Umar Khalid’s father S Q R Ilyas, as having made “provocative speeches” at the Chand Bagh protest site.
Saifi’s lawyer Harsh Bora said, “Disclosure statements are inadmissible in law because police use coercion to obtain signatures of an accused in its custody on fake disclosures that police have written on their own. That is what has happened in Khalid’s (Saifi) case. We informed the court at the earliest instance in March and April that he had been forced to sign false statements and blank pages in custody. They are false and have no legal value.”
Ishrat’s lawyer Pradeep Teotia said, “This disclosure statement was not written by Ishrat. She has not disclosed anything. This was written by police. A disclosure statement is inadmissible under Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act.”
Krishnan said: “The speeches we made, the meetings we attended, our participation in the equal citizenship movement is a matter of public record and proud record. The Delhi Police is trying to claim that this speech making and meetings between activists, which is routine in Delhi, is some conspiracy.”
Kaur said the allegations against her were “absurd and false”. “None of this is true. None of my speeches talked about violence. With regard to Saifi, I was not in touch with him on WhatsApp or other platforms. This is part of the larger witch hunt of activists dissenting against the government,” she said.
As reported earlier, the names of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh, DU professor Apoorvanand and filmmaker Rahul Roy had also featured in the police chargesheet based on disclosure statements.
Delhi Police spokesperson Anil Mittal, in an official statement, had said, “…A person is not arraigned as an accused only on the basis of the disclosure statement. However, it is only on the existence of sufficient corroborative evidence that further legal action is taken.”