‘Bharat Jodo Yatra, namaz, PFI and Dawood Ibrahim’
The 21-year-old claimed that during her initial police custody, she was probed by more than five different investigative teams over a period of seven days, not allowed to meet her family or even change clothes. “For seven days straight, I was interrogated from morning till midnight.” Sonu said she would be brought to the MG Road police station every morning, and taken to the women’s police station post-midnight.
“There was no communication with my family or anyone,” she claimed. Her family was subsequently allowed to meet her in prison, Sonu said, adding that she fainted in jail when she was informed by her sister that there was “surmounting pressure on lawyers to not represent the case”.
Namaz, madrasa, Pakistan and PFI were a recurrent theme in the questions, she said, adding that she has “not been to a madrasa ever”. Sonu was reportedly also asked whether she knew Dawood Ibrahim, and if she was hiding her real identity. The police also allegedly asked whether she had connections with certain participants of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
“They all asked me the same questions – whether I went to a madrasa, how many times a day do I offer namaz, how many times have I travelled to Pakistan and if I have connections there. They also asked me how I got in touch with the PFI. When I asserted that I haven’t, they repeatedly forced me to accept that I have studied in a madrasa and have connections in Pakistan and PFI.”
“They showed me photographs of Bharat Jodo Yatra and a woman with Rahul Gandhi, and asked if I knew her.”
MG Road police station SHO Santosh Yadav did not provide details of the interrogation. However, he denied any communal line of questioning. “Who told you about this? We have not asked such questions. Somebody has given you wrong information.”
What led to Sonu Mansuri’s arrest?
Sonu had been frequenting Indore district court as an intern under lawyer Noori Khan for over six months, when she was arrested on January 29, following a slew of allegations directed at her by lawyers linked to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
The incident occurred on the day of the hearing of a case against Bajrang Dal leader Tanu Sharma, who was arrested for allegedly making objectionable remarks against Prophet Mohammad during a protest against Shahrukh Khan-starrer film Pathaan.
“On that day, Supreme court lawyer Ehtesham Hashmi had come to Indore for the Tanu Sharma case. However, I was not even aware of the case, but as he is a senior of my mentor Noori Khan, I went to court room no. 42,” Sonu said.
However, as the courtroom was packed, the judge asked interns and juniors to move out. “Soon after, I received a call from Khan, asking me to collect five vakalatnama and money from one of her clients, which I did,” she said. But as she tried to leave, she was obstructed by a woman lawyer and two men. “They stopped me and asked what I was doing in court no. 42, to which I replied that I was there to listen to the hearing.”
Her ID card was subsequently taken out from her pockets and she was allegedly asked about her religion. She alleged that a group of lawyers detained her at the state bar office. She claimed that she objected when a lawyer tried to frisk her. “But they mocked me and said, ‘what complaint are you going to file? we will frame you in such a case that you will never be able to come out of jail.’ They locked the door, they took out the money from my trouser pockets and put them in my coat; they snatched away my phone and vakalatnama.”
Sonu claimed that about an hour later, a woman lawyer was called to the bar office and asked to search her again, and a video was recorded. “They harassed me. Subsequently, I was taken to the MG Road police station amid slogans of Jai Shree Ram.”
“For almost an hour they kept forcing me to make false statements, but as I refused, they went to the police inspector to file an FIR against me,” Sonu claimed, adding that at first, the lawyers accused her of making videos of the court proceedings. “However, as the police said that an arrest could not be made on such charges, they told the police I was a PFI agent and leaked videos of court proceedings of communal incidents to PFI.”
Sonu claimed that these lawyers threatened Sonu’s elder brother and her village sarpanch to convince her to make the false statements. A case was filed under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) on January 29.
The sarpanch refused to comment on the allegations.
While granting bail to Sonu, the Supreme Court had asked the prosecution to file a status report on the next hearing.
The court will now hear the matter on Tuesday.
Sonu, meanwhile, said the legal battle will not discourage her from pursuing her goals. “My family have had high hopes for me, they have struggled a lot to educate me…I am not going to give up. I will continue with my studies.”