New Delhi: In his first interview after he was named in a supplementary chargesheet filed against Gulfisha Fatima, one of the accused in the Delhi riots case, that he was one of a handful of people who wanted “to provoke and mobilise the crowd” to turn Muslims against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens, Sitaram Yechury has said the claims are a complete and total fabrication. He says the claim is being orchestrated by the Union home ministry on behalf of the government.
In an interview to The Wire, Yechury said it was his constitutional right to speak against the CAA and NRC. He had done so all over the country but always peacefully. He said it was a complete fabrication to try and accuse him of provoking and mobilising the crowd to riot.
Yechury told The Wire that he is not sure if he ever visited Jaffrabad, although he did go to areas near that part of Delhi. He also said he would have done so well before US President Donald Trump’s visit.
Asked by The Wire if he knew Gulfisha Fathima, Yechury said he did not. He said he does not recall meeting her although it’s possible he may have done so in a crowd or at a rally. Asked if he would recognise her if she walked into the room, he said no. He said he does not know what she looks like.
Yechury said that he did not believe the police claim that “the disclosure statement has been truthfully recorded as narrated by the accused person”. Why in that case, he asked, has it not been signed? Secondly, the garbled English suggests it is not the language of someone who is well educated. For both these reasons he does not believe that this is actually what Gulfisha Fathima told the police. It feels more as if the police have put words into her mouth, he said.
Asked by The Wire if he believes that this is an attempt to silence or punish him for his outspoken criticism of the Narendra Modi government, Yechury said this is definitely being done to cow him down and intimidate him. But he repeatedly said he would not be intimidated. He will continue criticising the Modi government. He said he would not be general secretary of the CPI(M) if he could be that easily frightened and intimidated.
Asked if he is worried that, like Umar Khalid, who was arrested on Sunday, he too could be taken into police custody, his reply was simple: “Let them arrest me”. Yechury made it clear he was not worried about this nor did he intend to take any form of anticipatory bail or other similar legal measures to protect himself.
Yechury added that this was done not just to intimidate and cow him down, but also to send a message to opposition MPs in parliament. The fact that this became public hours before parliament convenes is no coincidence, he said.
In the interview to The Wire, Yechury questioned the police strategy to deliberately link protests against the CAA and NRC with the Delhi riots. He also questioned the fact that whilst the police is assiduously pursuing activists, it has taken no steps whatsoever against BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma.
Yechury told The Wire that the Delhi riots, which are being investigated, were actually incidents of communal violence. He agreed that the correct term for what happened was a ‘pogrom’ or ‘targeted killing’.
The above is a paraphrased precis of Sitaram Yechury’s interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire. Although not inaccurate, it is recounted from memory. Please see the full interview for all the details and nuances of Yechury’s answers.