Parliament breach: Papers profile unemployed suspects, Sudhir, Arnab say terrorists, andolanjeevi

15 MPs were suspended on Thursday as the opposition tried to corner the Modi government over the issue. A UAPA case has been filed.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
Cutouts of the four protesters with a picture of coloured gas in the Lok Sabha.
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It was a security breach at the Parliament complex on the anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attack, and it was also a protest against “dictatorship”. While some voices, such as BJD MP Bhartruhari Mehtab, cautioned that the incident could not be compared to the  terrorist attack, hawkish faces on television couldn't help but play to the galleries.

On Wednesday, Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami termed it a “well-planned terrorist attack” and hit out at “perpetual anarchists”. On Aaj Tak, Sudhir Chaudhary offered a similar take. “These people have raised the hopes of terrorists, have given them a new idea, and have encouraged them,” he said, insinuating a link between one of the protesters and Khalistan proponent Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who had warned of a Parliament attack. How? Because the protester and Pannun had both backed the farm protests, Chaudhary suggested. “How dangerous would be the toolkit of this conspiracy,” he told viewers to wonder.

In Parliament, 15 MPs were suspended on Thursday as they disrupted proceedings while trying to corner the government over the breach and demanding a statement from Union home minister Amit Shah.

Meanwhile, the accused have now been booked under the UAPA. Five of them are in custody, and searches are underway for the sixth, who the police suspect to be the “mastermind”. Most of the accused are unemployed, hail from different states, and reportedly got in touch with each other through Facebook – where their posts suggest they were deeply influenced by Bhagat Singh.

On Wednesday, Sagar Sharma and Manoranjan D had released coloured smoke from canisters in the Lok Sabha and raised slogans. Neelam Azad and Amol Shinde also shouted slogans against “taanashaahi (dictatorship)” outside the Parliament building with gas canisters. The fifth accused, Lalit Jha, dropped them outside the complex before leaving with their phones. And a day before the incident, all of them had stayed at the Gurgaon residence of sixth accused Vishal Sharma.

The FIR lodged in the matter said the accused modified their shoes, cutting a cavity in the sole, to hold the canisters. The shoes and the socks worn by the accused were also described, besides a mention of two recovered pamphlets – one with a fist sign and Jai Hind slogan, and another with an English slogan on the Manipur issue.

It said the canisters of “creative colour smoke” opened in the House carried warnings that they should not be used indoor or in enclosed spaces, not without wearing goggles and gloves. “Another instruction was found as for used in supervise arenas only, made in China.”

While various teams continue to probe the incident, here’s what newspapers told us about the protesters.

Manoranjan D, engineering graduate from Mysuru

Manoranjan D is a 33-year-old engineering graduate who earlier worked in an IT firm in Bengaluru and was now helping his father with farming since he was unemployed, according to The Indian Express report on the front page which was headlined “they were frustrated over not getting jobs, say families of accused”.

Manoranjan’s father Devaraj D told the  paper: “If he has done something wrong, he is not my son. But let me tell you, he is good… I was unaware he is in Delhi. He was a student leader in his college days, but I do know about his affiliations. I condemn his act.”

Manoranjan is unmarried and his father said he would travel to Delhi and Bengaluru often.

“He used to read a lot of books, especially by Swami Vivekananda. I am not aware of his political leanings. He was a student leader and even to this day he wants to bring reform in society,” Devaraj told The Indian Express.

The Times of India, on its front page, said Manoranjan graduated from BIT Bengaluru 10 years ago. Within an hour of the incident, Vijayanagar police visited his house. 

The Hindu also interviewed his father. “He would accompany me to the farms, where he would stay for about a week or fortnight. When in Mysuru, he would go for morning walks and exercise,” Devaraj told the paper, adding that his son admired Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

About his son obtaining a pass to the Lok Sabha visitors’ gallery from BJP’s Mysuru MP Pratap Simha, Devaraj said they were voters of the leader. “Even I have a good rapport with Mr Simha,” he claimed. He said Simha gave the pass for a good purpose.

His mother reportedly said that Manoranjan was a silent person without many friends. She said Manoranjan was one of her two children and that she also had a daughter.

Sagar Sharma, e-rickshaw driver from UP

The 27-year-old Delhi-born e-rickshaw driver could not pursue his studies after clearing class 12 exams. He often quoted Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara in his Facebook posts. In one of his posts, according to Times of India, he warned against distractions such as Bollywood, cricket and bigotry. “Efforts are being made to blind the youth who have to lead the country tomorrow,” he said, attributing the quote to Bhagat Singh.

The family, originally from UP's Unnao, had earlier moved to Delhi's Vasant Vihar, where Sagar’s father Roshan Lal worked as a carpenter, but they returned to Lucknow in 2013.

Born in Delhi in 1996, Sagar reportedly completed his higher secondary education from Bhupati Singh Memorial Inter College in Lucknow, but financial constraints prevented further studies. In 2018, he went to Bangalore to work at a flour mill, but returned in 2020 during the pandemic. He was driving a rented e-rickshaw for the past three months, according to a Times of India report.

In Lucknow, Sagar’s family said he had mentioned he was going to Delhi for a protest, according to the Indian Express. On Wednesday evening, the family was being questioned by police and intelligence officials. 

His uncle Pradeep Sharma, a carpenter who lives next door, told the Indian Express that Sagar missed the train to Delhi, but got on the next one on Tuesday morning. His mother Rani Sharma only got to know of the incident when the media turned up at their home.

Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times visited his house. “A chat with his family members and associates revealed the picture of a young man who was active in political protests and movements, drove an e-rickshaw and was ‘highly informed’. His Facebook page suggests he was inspired by Bhagat Singh, albeit in the wrong way and used to read books written by the great revolutionary. He had also shared some quotes of Bhagat Singh on his Facebook wall,” stated the report.

“Two days after Sagar left home, two blankets used by him were still on the bed in his 10-feet by 7-feet room, which also has a big iron trunk and a bookshelf, the last item revealing his affinity for books though he had discontinued studies after class 12 because of financial distress. He had studied at the Bhupati Singh Memorial Inter College here,” it said.

The paper also quoted one of his “close” associates as saying that “we met through a protest organised by a student wing of a group and I was amazed by his knowledge, though he studied only till class 12”.

Neelam Azad, M Phil from MP village

The Times of India, on its front page, reported that she was an MPhil from Gasho Khurd village in Jind district who had cleared the Haryana teacher eligibility test but didn’t get a job. She had participated in farm protests and the wrestlers’ agitation. Her father is a halwai while her two brothers work as milk vendors, the paper reported.

According to the front page report in The Indian Express, for the past six months, Azad had been preparing for competitive examinations while living in a paying guest accommodation in Delhi. “She told us on Tuesday that she was going to Hisar. We were not aware she was in Delhi,” her brother Ram Niwas told the paper.

The Indian Express quoted Sikkim Nain, a farm leader from Jind, as saying that Azad was deeply influenced by BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.

“We are not a prosperous family, but we still educated her. At home, she used to say, ‘I studied too much unnecessarily but did not get a job… It would be better if I die’,” Azad’s mother Saraswati told the paper. 

A villager from Ghaso Khurd village told the Hindustan Times that Azad actively spoke out against problems such as unemployment.

Amol Shinde, army aspirant from Maharashtra’s Latur

The 25-year-old is a Dalit from Zari Budruk village in Maharashtra’s Latur district, and was frustrated after failed attempts at police and army recruitment exams after clearing his class 12, according to his father who spoke to The Times of India.

Shinde’s parents are farm labourers.

His mother told the media that he was depressed over failing to get into the army. “We don’t know what caused him to do this but he had been feeling dejected as, despite his efforts, he wasn’t getting in. ‘What’s the use of my education and preparation if I can’t get in?’ he used to say.”

His father Dhanraj said he was now too old to apply under the Agniveer scheme. “He has participated in recruitment drives many times in the past — in Ratnagiri, Aurangabad, Nashik,” Dhanraj told the media.

The Indian Express quoted a villager as saying that Amol is the youngest of four siblings.

The police reportedly swooped in on his home after the incident in Parliament.

Pune-based lawyer Aseem Sarode, who is representing Amol Shinde, said the security breach was wrong but the use of UAPA is not justified in this case, “He wanted to draw the government’s attention towards unemployment and poverty. His motive was not to harm anyone,” Sarode told Newslaundry.

Lalit Jha and Vishal Sharma

Lalit Jha, the alleged mastermind behind the incident, is linked to two West Bengal-based NGOs – the Samyabadi Shubhash Sabha which claims to work for the education of backward sections and Pather Dabi which works on environment-related issues. While he is a  general secretary of Samyabadi Shubhash Sabha, he helped Pather Dabi organise a recent cycle rally from Birnagar to Delhi.

According to SSS founder Nilashka Aich, Jha maintained a low profile and would introduce himself as a social worker associated with multiple NGOs. A permission letter mentioned a house in Kolkata neighbourhood as Jha’s address. 

Meanwhile, Pather Dabi’s Sourav Chakraborty told Newslaundry that he first met Jha through Facebook. “He never gave me any personal details, nor did I ask,” Chakraborty said, adding that Jha had no political affiliation. “His WhatsApp profile photo is of Vivekananda. I believe he has a soft corner for Shubhash Chandra Bose as well.”

Both Aich and Chakraborty said that Jha shared the video of the protest outside Parliament with them on WhatsApp to “ensure it reaches the media”.

But it was already all over the news.

“I spoke to him quite often, but he never revealed anything of this sort to me. When I contacted him after getting to know about his involvement through the media, I found his phone switched off…irrespective of whether what he has done is right or wrong, he should immediately surrender to the police,” Chakrovorty said about Jha, who remains absconding. 

Meanwhile, the sixth accused, Vishal Sharma, was taken into custody by Gurgaon police from his residence in Gurgaon sector 7 on Wednesday. Sharma, a driver by profession who is from Haryana’s Hisar, has been living at this house for nearly two decades, the police told the media.

Unemployment, recruitment exams delays, paper leaks

While government figures peg the unemployment rate at 6.6 percent in the April to June quarter, a Bloomberg report, citing data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, put the figure at 10.09 percent in October this year.

As many as 36 percent of Indians aged 15 to 34 feel unemployment is the biggest problem facing the country, according to a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies this year. The survey also pointed to a substantial increase in the number of those who believed so, as compared to 2016.

While the population of India is deemed to have overtaken China’s, exam leaks and recruitment delays have grown more common in several states across the country, from Madhya Pradesh to Bihar to Gujarat and Telangana.

For example, in the state where Neelam Azad comes from, thousands are still waiting for jobs despite clearing exams. Newslaundry has reported on the issue in detail (here and here).

When Azad spoke to the media while being escorted away from the Parliament complex by the police, she said there was no platform to raise her concerns. “Koi sunwaayi nahin hai (no one is listening),” she said, referring to unemployment. 

Many states have seen protests by students and job aspirants over these issues. But for pro-government voices, those are just campaigns by the “andolanjeevi”, as Sudhir termed Azad on his show on Wednesday.

 With inputs from Prateek Goyal and Pratyush Deep.

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