Maharashtra home minister says Usmani to be arrested from “wherever he is”
A day after a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Sharjeel Usmani, Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Wednesday said that the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) leader will be arrested from ”wherever he is”.
A case has been registered against Usmani by Swargate police on Tuesday for allegedly trying to create divide between two groups as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) threatened to launch a statewide protest.
Usmani (23) is a resident of Uttar Pradesh, was one of the speakers at January 30 Elgar Parishad in Pune, where he made controversial remarks about Hindus. He had earlier hit headlines after his arrest by the UP police on July 10, 2020, over allegations of his role in the violence that broke out at AMU during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019. He was released on bail on September 2, 2020.
Calls and text messages sent to Usmani went unanswered.
“Police have investigated the video clippings of the Elgar event held on January 30 in Pune and a case has been registered against Sharjeel Usmani for his offensive remarks. He is currently not in Maharashtra, but we will arrest him from whichever state he is in, be it Bihar, UP, Gujarat or elsewhere,” said Deshmukh, while speaking to reporters in Mumbai.
In Pune, BJP leaders stepped up pressure after the FIR and met police commissioner Amitabh Gupta demanding invoking of sedition charges against Usmani and his arrest.
“Yes, a case has been registered under Section 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code based on a complaint lodged by advocate Pradeep Gawade about a speech made at Elgar Parishad. The case is registered at Swargate police station. Investigation is on,” said commissioner Gupta.
Besides being a lawyer, Gawade is also BJP Yuva Morcha general secretary in Pune.
The BJP launched an attack on the state government based on the nature of the case that was registered against Usmani. The BJP leaders have also asked for the organisers of the Elgar Parishad to be booked for sedition.
Moreover, Chandrakant Patil, state chief of the BJP, wrote to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath to register an FIR against Usmani and arrest him.
“We have asked for the sections of sedition to be invoked against him. If that is not done, we will hold large scale protest. The state government is being two-faced in this matter - they are trying to protect these criminals. The Shiv Sena, which asked for votes based on Hindutva, has taken a complete U-turn,” said Jagdish Mulik, Pune unit head of Bharatiya Janata Party. Mulik met with commissioner Gupta and joint commissioner Ravindra Shisve along with mayor Murlidhar Mohol, MLA Mukta Tilak, and complainant Gawade.
In a letter that was given to the commissioner, the BJP members raised the issue of Usmani to have been invited to the Elgar Parishad 2021 in Pune by Harshali Poddar, a member of Kabir Kala Manch, who is among the multiple accused in the case registered after the Elgar Parishad in 2017.
The first edition of the Elgar Parishad was held on December 31, 2017, and allegedly triggered caste clashes in Bhima Koregaon the next day. Following the clashes, Pune police arrested multiple activists and lawyers including Sudha Bharadwaj, VV Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Arun Ferriera, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Vernon Gonsalves, and Rona Wilson by Pune police.
After the current Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government took office, Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) who then arrested at least four more including Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe of KKM, and journalist Gautam Navlakha.
“They have distributed literature during the Elgar Parishad that made defaming statements about the death of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The book claims that he was murdered by his wife, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shripad Dange, and brahmins,” said Gawade.