‘Nothing to Gain From Speeches He Makes’: Sharjeel Usmani’s Father
“There is nothing to gain other than being harassed and that is not going to yield anything,” his father said.
“We live in a composite culture, so I understand that we should say and listen to each other. So, if someone had said something, Sharjeel should have just listened to it, and at the same time, he should not have said anything that would hurt anyone in the first place.”
These are the words of 52-year-old Tariq Usmani, who is the father of Aligarh Muslim University student and anti-CAA activist Sharjeel Usmani. In the first week of February, Sharjeel was booked for promoting enmity on grounds of religion in an FIR registered in Pune. A few days later, he was booked for sedition in an FIR registered in Lucknow. These complaints were registered due to his allegedly controversial speech at the Elgar Parishad conclave organised in Pune on 30 January.
The Quint spoke to Tariq Usmani and saw a concerned father, who, unlike the politics that his son practises, believes in exercising caution and being circumspect. He said:
Tariq is also in an uncomfortable predicament by himself. He is not only the father of a anti-government, anti-CAA/NRC, Muslim activist, but also a Geography professor at Aligarh Muslim University and therefore, has a ‘government job’ as he likes to emphasize. Sharjeel’s politics, especially since his involvement in the anti-CAA protests of December 2019, in the aftermath of which several cases were slapped against him, has meant that Tariq keeps hearing taunts because of what his son does. Sharjeel told this reporter how this has affected their relationship over time :
“The entire AMU faculty and VC generally tend to taunt my father for what I do. Unka professional life mere vajaye se kaafi kharab hogaya. Ye sarkaari log bol rahain mere abba ko ki apne bete ko samjaiye kya kar rahaan hai. (His professional life has become worse due to me. These men, employed by the government, are telling my father that he should keep a check on me.)
Tariq agrees that he gets asked questions and is told things by people in the district every time Sharjeel’s name comes up. “Every time Sharjeel goes anywhere, I tell him not to say a thing. Whatever time of the day, I tell him to not say anything that would lead to such a situation. In November last year, the UP government, essentially the Aligarh district administration issued an externment order against Sharjeel, banning his stay in the district and therefore also his home, for six months under the UP Control of Goondas Act. Which is why I have not been able to see my son,” he said adding that if he could talk to his son face-to-face, he would fix him up.
This back and forth has taken a toll on the health of Sharjeel’s parents. “I do not see social media, my blood pressure increases whenever I read anything about my son. Above that Sharjeel’s mother is not alright, she cries several times a day. She is not in the state to talk to you,” he told this reporter.
If only he had more time with his son, would he want to tell him how caution is key for Sharjeel. “The social fabric is not like it was, before speaking every person needs to think several times. The media is not the same anymore either. Nothing is reported as is, everything is twisted and turned,” Tariq said.
Tariq wants Sharjeel to stay out of controversy, which for him means not making public his political views against the current government. “I can not handle all this, it is against my temperament. I am a teacher and can not tolerate all this. See, I am the kind of person who is always against someone saying anything against another person. I believe that once we are able to make ourselves ideal, that we can comment on another person,” he said.
Tariq has however been unsuccessful in ensuring Sharjeel keeps mum. “When I try and tell him he says 'haan haan haan (yes yes yes)' politely, but does what he wants to. He is not so mature, he is only 23 years old. I do not want controversies around my child and my son needs to live carefully. I am in a lot of tension ever since.”
When asked about his speech, Tariq comes to the natural defense of his son. “His speech ended and nothing happened, filing a case was a deliberate afterthought,” he said, adding:
He continued to say, “I do not think my son said anything that amounts to promoting enmity or sedition. He started his speech by saying that he was sorry on the off chance he would make a mistake while speaking as he was speaking in front of a majorly non-Muslim crowd for the first time. Why are people taking these angles in his speech?”
What Did Sharjeel Say in His Speech
What was the controversial statement?
Hindi: "Aaj ka Hindu samaaj sadh gaya hai"
English: "Today's Hindu society is rotten."
"This was the most controversial line apparently from my speech," Sharjeel had told The Quint in a detailed story that can be read here.
The FIR registered against Sharjeel in Pune qutoes the following portion of his speech:
“Today’s Hindu society is rotten. These people who lynch, who murder, what would they do with themselves after murdering someone and returning to their homes? Would they wash their hands in a different way? Would they add some medicine to the water and take a bath? What do these people do, that after it they come back and eat amidst us, spend time with us, they go and watch movies and then again, the next day, the catch someone, kill them and continue to live normally. They are also falling in love with people at their home, they touch their father’s feet too, go to the temple and offer prayers, then again come out and do this.”
“I don’t trust the Indian judiciary, I do not trust Indian executive, I do not trust Indian parliament, in all I do not trust in Indian state.”
FIRs Against Former AMU Student, Activist Sharjeel Usmani
The first FIR was registered on 2 February, under Section 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion) on the basis of a complaint registered by advocate Pradeep Gawade. Gawade is the secretary of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and a former member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS, and a law graduate from Pune’s Fergusson College.
A few days later, Sharjeel was booked under sedition and other charges on the complaint of Anurag Singh, who told the police that he found a video of the speech on the Internet. He has accused Usmani of “creating hate” against the Yogi Adityanath government, promoting enmity among groups, hurting religious sentiments, and conspiring against the government. The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 124 A (sedition), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings) along with sections of the IT Act.
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