New Delhi: Tripura Police have invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against two lawyers who alleged Muslims were targeted in the violence in the state last month and also named fringe outfits Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), and Bajrang Dal as the perpetrators.
In their report, the lawyers, conducting a fact-finding and legal assistance mission on behalf of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), also said the Tripura government and state police did not take timely action to stop the violence, which is “tantamount to sponsoring the violence”.
The lawyers booked under the UAPA, among other charges, are Mukesh, who practises at the Delhi High Court, and Ansar Indori, a Supreme Court lawyer and member of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO), an umbrella body of various human rights groups.
They were accompanied on the mission by Supreme Court lawyers Ehtesham Hashmi and Amit Srivastav.
Their report was released Tuesday at the Press Club of India in Delhi.
The violence in Tripura started with a mosque getting vandalised and shops and houses getting attacked and torched in Panisagar town, during a 26 October VHP rally on last month’s communal violence against Hindus in neighbouring Bangladesh.
This was followed by several other alleged incidents where mosques were vandalised, and establishments belonging to minority communities set on fire.
Around 71 people have been booked by Tripura Police in connection with the violence so far and five criminal cases filed over alleged provocative social media posts.
The Tripura High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the case and sought a report on the violence from the state government.
The PUCL team visited the state on 30 October.
The two lawyers have been asked to appear at the Agartala Police Station by 10 November.
Speaking to ThePrint, Mukesh described the case as “a clear witchhunt and vendetta”.
“We exposed the roles of some religious organisations for the violence but no one has been questioned by Tripura Police and now they are coming after the lawyers who went to the ground for a fact-finding report,” he added.
ThePrint reached officer-in-charge of the West Agartala police station, Jayanata Karmakar, but texts and calls went unanswered.
An officer at the police station who did not wish to be named said they are not authorised to speak to the media “since the case is now in court”.
‘Won’t be surprised if more FIRs follow’
West Agartala Police served notices on the two lawyers Wednesday. They have been booked under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153B, 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 471, 503 (criminal intimidation), 504, 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, and Section 13 of the UAPA, which deals with abetting unlawful activity or assisting with it.
They have been accused of causing breach of peace through their statements and social media posts, according to the notices, copies of which have been accessed by ThePrint.
Mukesh said he “did not share anything which even remotely incited violence or created enmity between religious groups”. “I just stated the facts which I received on the ground,” Mukesh added.
One of the posts related to Tripura violence on Mukesh’s Facebook page is a YouTube video of his press conference, where he said the VHP and the Bajrang Dal trained their cadres in advance to vandalise the houses of minorities and do anti-minority sloganeering.
Both Mukesh and Ansari said they had not deleted any post from their social media. “Courts and the government can check, if they find anything even slightly seditious,” Ansari added.
Hashmi, who spearheaded the fact-finding team, said they stand by their report. “I will not be surprised if FIRs are filed against other members of our fact-finding team also,” he added.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)