- Deep Sidhu was arrested on February 9 over violence at farmers’ rally
- Farmer leaders had accused him of attempts to derail their protest
- His lawyer last week told a court that there is no evidence against him
Actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, accused in the violence at the Red Fort complex in Delhi on Republic Day during a farmers’ tractor rally, has been granted bail.
The 36-year-old was arrested on February 9 from Haryana’s Karnal, about 100 km from Delhi, days after scenes of chaos unfolded at the iconic Red Fort and other parts of the national capital, triggering nationwide shock. He was accused by farmer leaders of trying to derail their protest against three controversial farm laws.
A Delhi court granted him bail on conditions of signing a “personal bond with two sureties of Rs 30,000 each”. He has also been asked to submit his passport and “cooperate” with investigating officers.
“While it is beyond the realm of dispute that dissent and dialogue is fundamental to democracy where the absolute power vests in the people exercised by the people through its elected representatives and that the Constitution of India guarantees the right to protest, the present FIR (First Information Report) however is not impinging upon his fundamental Right to Protest in any manner,” a Delhi court said in its order.
Deep Sidhu was accused of fueling chaos and clashes as protesters went rogue on January 26 and defied agreed routes and schedules, forcing their way into the Red Fort. Police, who repeatedly appealed for calm and urged protesting farmers to stand down and return to the agreed routes, resorted to tear gas and lathi-charges to regain control.
Last week, his lawyer told a Delhi court that “there is no evidence that he mobilised the crowd to Red Fort and called for the protest”. “The call for protest was by farmer leaders, I’m not a member of farmer union, no call was given by me to go to Red Fort. There is no evidence that I have mobilised the crowd,” Deep Sidhu’s lawyer told the court on his behalf.
“He has not indulged in a single act of violence. He left even before violence erupted. He was even helping the police, he hasn’t been a part of violence. Only people who have indulged in violence can be prosecuted. Mere presence does not make him a part of unlawful assembly,” argued the lawyer.
Shortly after the violence on Republic Day, Deep Sidhu had posted videos on Facebook defending himself even as teams of the Delhi Police’s crime branch hunted for him.
Responding to the farmer leaders, he had said at that time: “If I’m being labeled a gaddar (traitor), then all farmer leaders are gaddars.” In one of his videos, he also accused farmer leaders of backtracking on their protests.
Farmers have been protesting against the government’s three controversial laws since late November.