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Saturday, September 26, 2020

On eve of session, Opp hits back: bid to muzzle voices critical of Govt

By linking protests against the new citizenship law to the riots and violence, even speech that had no incendiary context, the message, Opposition leaders said, was to muzzle voices critical of the Government and criminalise them.

Written by Aranya Shankar , Anand Mohan J , Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: September 13, 2020 9:19:07 am
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

The naming of CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury; political activist and political scientist Yogendra Yadav; JNU professor and economist Jayati Ghosh; Delhi University professor Apoorvanand; and filmmaker Rahul Roy in a supplementary chargesheet related to the Delhi riots Saturday set off a political firestorm two days before the monsoon session of Parliament.

By linking protests against the new citizenship law to the riots and violence, even speech that had no incendiary context, the message, Opposition leaders said, was to muzzle voices critical of the Government and criminalise them.

“We fought the Emergency, restored democracy and we will fight this also,” Yechury told The Sunday Express.

Slamming the Delhi Police for its “misdeed,” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader in Lok Sabha, said: “This is strongly condemnable. The Delhi Police is doing this at the behest of the ruling dispensation only to malign those personalities. They may be Left-oriented but their credentials and integrity are unquestionable and are recognised across the country. What is this? To say that demonstrations were organised to malign the image of the government of India is to silence the Opposition voices. This is simply politics of vendetta, this is simply driven by their own fear.”

Ghosh and Roy declined to comment.

Read | Yechury, Yadav, 2 professors, filmmaker named in Delhi Police riot chargesheet

“If speaking truth to power is a crime, if exposing circle of hate is a crime, if standing up to rioters is a crime, if being righteous and just is a crime, only then will my country survive. Jai Hind!” tweeted Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala. Saying he was “stunned” by the development, Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor said: “will those who actually incited & perpetrated violence are allowed to go scot free? What is happening to our country?”

Some of those named hit out at the police for what they said were “illegal, illegitimate actions”, “falsehoods” and “fiction”. They also questioned the veracity and legality of the “disclosure statements.”

Yechury, named in the “disclosure statement” of accused Jamia Millia Islamia student Gulfisha Fathima as “provoking and mobilising the crowd” at Jafrabad, said: “It’s my fundamental right and duty to stand up for peaceful protest in defence of constitutional rights. What is provocation in this? The basic point is that anybody who dissents is to be branded anti-national and hauled up under law.”

In a series of tweets, Yechury said: “Delhi Police is under the Centre and Home Ministry. Its illegitimate, illegal actions are a direct outcome of the politics of BJP’s top leadership…BJP’s illegal intimidation won’t stop people from opposing discriminatory laws like CAA.”

In another tweet he said, “Hate speech videos by those who instigated violence which led to death of 56 persons in Delhi are on record. The person who led violent mobs in JNU is also on video. The BJP govt& Delhi Police under it can’t see those because it is hell bent upon destroying our democracy…”

Gulfisha’s lawyer, Mehmood Pracha, whose name also figures in the chargesheet in the same context as Yechury’s, said: “My office has been trying to give legal assistance and we have been challenging the version that the police is telling the courts. They are trying to put my name in these cases because of that. A confessional statement has no value in Evidence Act. This can be seen in this case as the disclosure statements of both Narwal and Kalita are near identical. This is very hard to believe.”

Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, who has been named in the chargesheet as one of those who told jailed JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal to organise anti-CAA protests and go to “any extreme” for the same, said the Delhi Police was running away from its job and instead criminalising anti-CAA protests.

“A fiction is being woven and the Delhi Police wants us to believe in this fiction. The Delhi Police has deployed all its energies in criminalising the anti-CAA protests and demonising those who were either active in them or supported them. In certain places in the charge-sheet, the term ‘anti-CAA protester/rioter’ is used. They are using both terms as synonyms. This is most unfortunate and unbecoming of a police force,” he said.

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