Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Goshamahal Assembly constituency in Hyderabad T. Raja Singh was arrested, later in the day produced before a court, for allegedly making statements to outrage religious feelings, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. However, the court turned down the remand application of the police for not following proper procedure in arrest and ordered the immediate release of the MLA.
The point at issue for Mr. Raja Singh was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi government allowing stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui to perform a show in Hyderabad. The firebrand leader, prior to the scheduled show on Saturday, had cautioned the organisers, the police and the government, that there would be severe backlash if the show was allowed.
“How will you invite and allow a person who insulted Hindu gods and goddesses to perform here? We will burn down the venue. If you still go ahead, you will see the reaction on August 22,” he had said.
With an intention to maintain law and order, several hundred police personnel guarded the venue, detained a few BJP activists and ensured that the show ended peacefully.
Taking on Mr. Faruqui, as stated earlier, Mr. Raja Singh on Monday uploaded a video via ‘Shree Ram Channel Telangana’ on YouTube “as a reaction to allowing the show.”
Protests and complaints
The video which instantly went viral stirred up passions and within hours thousands of angered Muslims assembled outside several police stations, the Police Commissioner’s Office over midnight and staged protests demanding immediate arrest of Mr. Raja Singh.
Expressing solidarity, complaints were filed at various police stations in Hyderabad and outside, and businesses in parts of the Old City were shut for the day.
According to the first information report registered at Mangalhat police station, a complainant had stated that the Legislator made blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad and his lifestyle. In the 10-minute video, there were also comments ridiculing the attire of the community, the holy book, among other descriptions, it said.
Mangalhat police, based on the video, preliminarily pressed various charges under the IPC — promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (153A (a) (b)), deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings (295A), Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace (504), Statements promoting enmity (505 (2)), and Punishment for criminal intimidation (506).
On Tuesday, a huge police force surrounded the house of Mr. Raja Singh for his arrest. Even as his supporters protested in the tense situation, he was removed in a police SUV and reportedly shifted to a police station on the city outskirts.
Video message before arrest
Mr. Raja Singh, who learnt about the cases being filed against him and the police preparing for his arrest, released a video and said he did not say anything wrong.
“Did I name any god in the video, or did I even refer to them in any code, like Faruqui vulgarly ridiculed Lord Sri Ram and Seethamma? My counter in that video was in the same language as Faruqui’s. The ruling TRS is stifling BJP’s voices, I am only fighting for my faith. First dharmam, next politics,” he said, adding that the said video was removed by YouTube and that he would also release another part of it soon.
Tension and lathi charge outside the Court
High tension prevailed outside the criminal courts complex at Nampally where the police escorted the Legislator for producing him before the magistrate. Hundreds of men from both the majority and minority communities who began to pour in on either side of the road engaged in out-shouting each other, and slogans of Jai Shri Ram and Allahu Akbar rented the air.
Police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the charged activists as their cries refused to subside.
Court rejects judicial remand, orders release
Even as the police were making arrangements anticipating Mr. Raja Singh’s remand by the magistrate, a fresh turn of events changed the way things ended on the day.
The XIV Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (for trial of communal disturbances) returned the remand application filed by the police for violation of prescribed procedure. The court also ordered the police to immediately release Mr. Raja Singh.
It was noted that the police did not follow S. 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which prescribes the various rules to be followed during ‘arrest of persons’.
Congratulated by activists and leaders, a beaming Mr. Raja Singh was seen exiting the court complex.