BJP leader among six arrested for anti-Muslim sloganeering at Jantar Mantar
Delhi Police on Tuesday arrested Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Upadhyay and five other people in connection with an event at Jantar Mantar two days ago where anti-Muslim slogans were allegedly shouted.
Videos shot at Sunday’s event -- which organisers claimed was held to push for the abolition of “colonial-era laws” -- showed people shouting communal slogans, triggering outrage . After the videos went viral on social media, activists filed police complaints on Monday.
Police said it didn’t grant permission to the event organised by Upadhyay under the banner of Bharat Jodo Andolan (Unite India movement). Upadhyay, a former Delhi BJP spokesperson, said no inflammatory slogans were raised on Sunday.
Deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi) Deepak Yadav said that apart from Upadhyay, Preet Singh, Deepak Singh, Deepak Kumar, Vinod Sharma, and Vinit Bajpai were arrested.
A senior police officer, who did not want to be named, said that the six were arrested following raids conducted at various locations in Delhi-NCR on Monday night.
“All six have been booked on the alleged charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant, and defying Covid-19 guidelines laid by the Delhi disaster management authority (DDMA), said the officer, adding that the FIR was registered under Indian Penal Code’s sections 153 A and 188 and 51 of Disaster Management Act.
Preet is the director of an organisation called “Save India Foundation” and is also among the organisers of the event. Deepak Singh and Vinod Sharma are learnt to be associated with two different right-wing organisations, the police said.
Searches were being conducted on Tuesday to nab other people, who have been identified among those seen raising communal slogans in the video. Two of them were identified as Pinki Chaudhary, chief of Hindu Raksha Dal, and one Uttam Malik (whose affiliation with any organization is not known), another police officer said, requesting not to be named.
The Hindu Raksha Dal is a fringe organised which had also purportedly claimed responsibility for the violence on JNU campus in January last year.
In a video shown on a news channel, Pinki Chaudhary can be heard taking the responsibility of the incident and saying in Hindi, “…Hindu Raksha Dal takes the responsibility of it. I take the responsibility…people came to the venue through us…whoever were there (at the venue) were our people…If any youth have done something wrong, the government should pardon them because in such a crowd someone comes from somewhere and says something…” Chaudhary is saying in the video.
HT cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video.
“Six people have been arrested after an FIR was registered at the Connaught Place Police Station related to provocative sloganeering at a programme held near Bank of Baroda,” Yadav said.
HT tried to contact Upadhyay on Tuesday but his phone was switched off.
On Monday, the police registered a case against unknown persons under Indian Penal Code’s (IPC) sections 153A (promoting enmity) and 188 (disobedience to order). Relevant sections of the Disaster Management Act were also included in the case because Covid-19 guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks were violated during the event, the police said.
Upadhyay on Monday said that he has filed a written police complaint seeking an investigation to verify the authenticity of the videos and strict action against people spreading “religious frenzy”.
Shipra Srivastava, media in-charge of Bharat Jodo Aandolan, said the protest was held to demand 222 British-era laws be abolished. “We have seen the video but have no idea who they are. The police should take strict action against the persons who raised the slogans,” she said on Monday.
The sloganeering provoked outrage. In a tweet, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said: “What a disgrace to read of an unauthorised BJP demonstration where communal slogans & hate speech were voiced…Expecting exemplary action from @DelhiPolice – only stern action & condign punishment will prevent such misbehaviour recurring.”
Delhi BJP refused to comment on the incident and arrest of BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay. A senior BJP leader said that the event was not organised by BJP.
The Aam Aadmi Party also refused to comment.
Anil Chaudhary, Delhi Congress chief, said that such inciting statements aimed at spoiling the secular fabric of the national capital will not be tolerated and the police should go into a detailed investigation into the backgrounds and motives of the people who were caught.
“For the last few years, since the northeast Delhi violence, we have seen repeated attempts to spoil the secular fabric of Delhi. We will not allow this particular section to disturb the peace that we proudly uphold. To raise such provocative slogans right in the heart of the Capital should attract strict action,” Chaudhary said.
In the afternoon on Tuesday, nearly 40 supporters of the arrested men gathered at the Connaught Place police station and sat on the road to protest against the arrest. The protesters, including self-proclaimed Hindu leader Ragini Tiwari, first reached the police station and demanded the release of the arrested men. When they were asked to leave, they all blocked the traffic on a road outside the police station. All of them were later removed and sent back to their destination by bus, the police said.
Around 4 pm, over 100 civil society members and student activists Civil society members and student activists gathered near Jantar Mantar to protest against the anti-Muslim slogans raised purportedly during Sunday’s event organised in the same area to demand the abolition of colonial-era laws.
“The protesters had not applied for the police permission for their protest on Tuesday. They had given a call on social media and reached near Jantar Mantar. We removed all of them in buses. A total of 25 men and nine women were detained at the Mandir Marg police station and later released,” said DCP Yadav.
Among the protesters were members of All India Students Association (AISA), Students Federation of India (SFI) and other student groups and civil society members.
Condemning the detention of protesters, AISA in a statement said, “Delhi police has detained AISA activists and other protesters form Jantar mantar who gathered to protest against the hate mongering by BJP-RSS. Whilst their hate gathering was allowed to continue, the protest call for Justice and against communal bigotry was abrupted by Delhi Police by detaining students, activists and people of Delhi.”
SFI also issued a statement saying that some of their members were also detained by the police. “Today’s gathering was aimed resisting the communal polarization with a message of peace and secularism...SFI strongly condemns the hypocrite character of the Delhi Police, wherein on the one hand gatherings by BJP and RSS organisations to fuel genocidal and communal sentiments are permitted, and on the other, citizen’s protest calling for peace and harmony are attacked,” said SFI Delhi president Sumit Kataria.