Communal violence has left at least 42 people dead and several hundred injured in Delhi this week. It’s widely alleged that a speech by BJP leader Kapil Mishra was the immediate trigger for the violence.
Several activists and civil society groups approached the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court for action against Mishra and other alleged purveyors of hate.
While the Supreme Court adjourned the matter until March 23, a high court bench led by , hearing a plea by activist Harsh Mander, expressed its “constitutional anguish” over the violence and asked the police why it hadn’t acted against those who had allegedly whipped up communal hatred.
The notification for Muralidhar’s transfer - the Supreme Court collegium had on February 12 recommended his transfer to Punjab and Haryana High Court, came out that same night. The next day, the matter was heard by a bench led by Chief Justice DN Patel. It showed no urgency to deal with the ongoing violence and posted the matter for April 13.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing Mandar, argued before both the benches that the speeches made by BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra directly led to the violence against Muslims. At this point, several people sought to intervene in the matter, claiming that Muslim leaders were equally culpable of making hate speeches.
At least six other applications have since been filed in connection with Mander’s plea.
Today, a bench led by the chief justice issued notice on a petition seeking FIRs against Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for allegedly making hate speeches. The plea, filed by the Lawyers Voice group, also names Aam Aadmi Party leaders Manish Sisodia and Amanatullah Khan, and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leaders Akbaruddin Owaisi and Waris Pathan. Mehmood Pracha, lawyer and social activist who has been at the forefront of protests against the new citizenship law in Delhi, is named as well.
Another petition, filed by one Ajay Gautam, seeks a National Investigation Agency probe against “anti-national forces” behind the anti-CAA protests. The plea also accuses Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM and Salman Khurshid of the Congress, among others, of making hate speeches.
Hindu Sena founder Vishnu Gupta and lawyer Sanjjiiv Kkumaar have also filed pleas naming Mander, Swara Bhaskar, Radio Mirchi host Sayema, and AAP leader Amantullah Khan.
‘Hate speech has led to murder’
In an affidavit submitted on Thursday, Gonsalves - who represents Mander, underlines comments by BJP leaders other than Thakur, Verma and Mishra that are “provocative and inciteful”, and advocate and valorise violence against opponents of the CAA, NRC and NPR.
“These statements, made in the weeks leading up to the anti-Muslim pogrom that has taken place on 25th February, calculatedly sought to promote anti-Muslim sentiment during the course of the campaign for the 2020 Delhi Assembly election, and led to several instances of violence against Anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protestors,” the affidavit states.
Here are some of the other politicians who have been taken to court for allegedly making inflammatory speeches. The high court issued notices on all these pleas today and the matter will next be heard on April 13.
Tarun Chugh, BJP national secretary
In his affidavit, Mander highlights a tweet made by Chugh in January. “We will not let Delhi become Syria and allow them to run an ISIS-like module here, where women and kids are used,” the tweet reads. “They are trying to create fear in the minds of people of Delhi by blocking the main route. We will not let this happen. #ShaheenBaghKaSach.”
Mander claims Chugh made a similar statement to the TV channel Jagran. “Today, Shaitani Bagh has become the head office of the tukde tukde gang,” he reportedly said, “and these people are trying to make India and Delhi a Syria. We will not let this happen.”
Tajinder Pal Bagga, BJP leader
The BJP’s Delhi election candidate from Hari Nagar tweeted on January 30: “In Shaheen Bagh, claims are being made that the Indian Army kills its own people. Indian Army is being equated with the Pakistan Army. Shaheen Bagh has become a hub on anti-nationals. And on February 11, after the results, a surgical strike will be done on this hub.”
Vishnu Gupta, Hindu Sena founder
In his plea, Mander states that the Hindu Sena made a call to the public on January 29 to assemble near the Shaheen Bagh road to clear it of “jihadis”. Gupta also tweeted out a video in which he purportedly says, “In Shaheen Bagh, anti-national slogans are being shouted, there is talk of breaking the country, talk of splitting Assam from the rest of the country...We will remove these jihadi traitors from the streets. They will be chased from the road there.”
Mander’s affidavit argues that “as a consequence of the abovementioned hate fuelled speeches and hostility developed against all those protesting against the NRC-NPR-CAA, a JMI student, Shadab Farooq on January 30, 2020 was shot by a youth called Gopal Sharma”.
Ajay Singh Bisht, Uttar Pradesh chief minister
Mander’s plea also names Ajay Singh Bisht, popularly known as Adityanath. He submits that despite their threats leading to actual instances of violence against anti-CAA protesters, officials of the BJP “continued to make provocative statements, stigmatising and encouraging all dissenters”.
The plea quotes from during the Delhi campaign: “The protests at Shaheen Bagh are actually an excuse to protest against the removal of Article 370, against the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. They are worried about that. I can understand their worry. The reason for their worry is the ban on triple talaq...Under Modi ji's leadership, the country is moving ahead at full speed but Kejriwal and company do not like this. They hardly have time from sponsoring Shaheen Bagh and feeding protestors biryani. And so the people of Delhi have to decide whether they want the BJP which stands for development and lighting the fire of nationalism or those who feed biryani at Shaheen Bagh.”
At another campaign rally, Adityanath is quoted as declaring, “What do Congress and Kejriwal feed these miscreants? Biryani. What do we feed them? Bullets.”
Sambit Patra, BJP spokesperson
Patra is often criticised for making hateful comments on TV. Mander notes Patra’s remarks on Shaheen Bagh made during a debate on News 18: “These people will enter your homes and hit you. They’re the same people who were responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Who are they? The day is not far when these people will enter your homes and hit you.”
The plea notes that the Election Commission had issued a notice to Patra for making these comments.
Somasekhara Reddy, Karnataka BJP MLA
On January 3, Reddy allegedly threatened the anti-CAA protestors saying, “It’s just a caution for those who are protesting against the CAA. We are 80 percent and you [Muslims] are 18 percent. Imagine what would happen if we take charge…Beware of the majority when you live in this country. This is our country. If you want to live here, you will have to, like the Australian Prime Minister said, follow the country’s traditions…So, I warn you that CAA and NRC are made by Modi and Amit Shah. If you go against these, it won’t be good…If you wish, you can go to Pakistan. We don’t have any problems.”
Mander points out that an FIR has already been registered against Reddy.
Tejasvi Surya, BJP MP
On February 5, 2020, the BJP MP referenced the Shaheen Bagh protest in the parliament while asserting that the days of “Mughal Raj” were not far away for Delhi if “patriotic Indians don’t stand up”. Further, the affidavit says, Surya sought to misrepresent and stigmatise the anti-CAA protesters saying, “What is happening in Shaheen Bagh is fanatic Islamism, masquerading as constitutional secularism...therefore, we must exercise vigilance to ensure that his country is on the path to true secularism.”
‘Ploy by tukde tukde gang’
Vishnu Gupta, who is among those named for whipping up communal hatred, has filed a petition of his own, seeking FIRs against leaders of the AIMIM.
“The speech of Waris has surcharged the communal tension in Delhi which has resulted in the death of several people,” his petition reads. It further says that Mander is attempting to “aggravate the situation by seeking criminal action against leaders of the BJP with the sole intention of defaming the Hindus as if Hindus are the cause of riots in Delhi.”
In his plea, Sanjjiiv Kkumaar seeks “immediate registration” of an FIR against Harsh Mander, RJ Sayema, Swara Bhaskar, Amantullah Khan.
To support his claim, the lawyer claims, “Just a day after CAB was passed in Loka Sabha...Harsh Mandar made a highly provocative, seditious, and anti-India tweet, ‘If CAB is passed, this is my civil disobedience: I will officially register Muslim. I will then refuse to submit any documents to NRC. I will finally demand the same punishment as any undocumented Muslim detention centre & withdrawn citizenship. Join this civil disobedience’.”
“Are we under British rule?” the plea asks. “Is Mr Mander Mahatma Gandhi? Present government is democratically elected by WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA and Mr Harsh Mandar wants to overthrow the constitutionally elected government.”
Mander’s tweet was “seditious”, the plea argues, and was “clearly meant to incite” Muslims and non-Muslims to wage war against the Indian Union.
Underlining tweets made by Sayema, he alleges that she “might not be the in core group of this Delhi siege”, but “actively supported the sit-in seizure” by “mobilizing the crowd”.
Ajay Gautam, a priest from Sanathan Dharam, has also filed a plea, expressing his dismay over anti-CAA protests. He accuses “Muslim universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University” as well as JNU of being “actively involved in these protests”.
He accused the Muslim community of resorting to “anarchy” and creating “havoc and chaos in almost every part of the city and the country”.
He finds “the pattern of protest very suspicious”. “Old women and children are being used as main protesters and the men of their community stand behind them and they openly behave as if they are from Palestine or agents of Gulf countries,” his plea states.