BHOPAL: Not one lawyer came forward to defend 14 of the 15 men who were arrested on Monday for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in Sunday’s Champions Trophy cricket final. Further, the police have written to the local administration to stop social welfare benefits to the men.
The 14 men, slapped with charges of sedition, were brought to a court in Burhanpur amid tight security this afternoon as a large gathering of saffron party supporters raised slogans demand the death penalty for them. Some of the lawyers joined in.
A judge heard the proceedings and sent the men to two weeks’ in judicial custody at a jail in the neighbouring district of Khandwa.
One man who couldn’t be brought on Tuesday is likely to produced in court later, police said.
Burhanpur District Bar Association president Rajesh Korawala said some lawyers had submitted a petition to the association demanding that no lawyer be allowed to defend the men.
“Some of our members are averse to advocates defending the arrested men. But any decision on the matter will be taken in accordance with provisions of the Advocates Act 1961,” Korawala told the New Indian Express on the telephone.
The 15 men were arrested by the Shahpur police after the latter received a complaint from Mohad village on Monday. The complaint alleged that the 15 men celebrated India’s defeat by bursting crackers and distributing sweets. It also alleged that they raised slogans in support of Pakistan.
An officer at the Shahpur police station, Sanjay Pathak, said, they conducted an “on the spot” investigation and found the allegations mentioned in the complaint to be correct.
Subsequently, the 15 men were rounded up and booked for sedition and criminal conspiracy under Sections 120B and 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
The Shahpur police have written to the district collector of Burhanpur through the superintendent of police, requesting suspension of all social welfare benefits to the 15 arrested men. Officer Pathak confirmed the letter.
The arrested men are all daily-wage workers aged between 18 and 40 years. They are all Tadwi Muslims (tribal people who converted to Islam centuries back) and live in the Muslim-dominated Mohad village.
Their names have been given as Iqbal, Zubair, Robab, Feroz, Mubarak, Sajjad, Anees, Sarfaraz, Imam, Salman, Sharif, Mehmood, Irfan, Ramzan and Feroz.
The Shahpur police station in-charge claimed similar incident had happened a few years back also in Mohad village, but no action was taken then.
Burhanpur district borders Maharashtra is the home district of Madhya Pradesh state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan. It houses a major percentage of Muslim population.
Yusuf, the uncle of the two of the arrested men, Zubair and Mubarak, said, "My nephews have been falsely implicated in the case. They were sitting outside the house and playing a game on their cell-phones on Sunday night. Suddenly the police arrived and took them away."
"We don't have a set-top box at our home, so we could not have watched the match on TV. How could my nephews even be part of any anti-India celebration? We're Indians and cannot imagine raising slogans in support of Pakistan," claimed Yusuf.
“Since the arrests, we've been living in fear of police harassment," said Yusuf, a small-time farmer in Mohad village.