- Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested on December 21 after a similar protest
- Azad was charged with arson, rioting and inciting violence
- He visited a temple this morning, plans to go to Bangla Sahib Gurudwara
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad a.k.a Raavan emerged at the Jama Masjid today during Friday prayers, just a few hours before his court deadline to leave Delhi, and joined a protest against the citizenship law. Standing on the steps of the iconic mosque with protesters, he read out the preamble to the constitution. Hundreds of supporters in the crowded old Delhi neighbourhood swarmed around him, holding up posters; one supporter placed his trademark blue safaa on his head.
Azad also praised the women participating in the month-long sit-in on the road at Shaheen Bagh in the city, which have become the focal point of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
"He has a time of 24 hours after his release from Tihar Jail yesterday to leave Delhi. He is not holding any protest at Jama Masjid," the police said.
Chandrashekhar Azad, 33, was released on bail around 9 pm last evening, almost a month after his arrest on December 21 over a similar protest at Jama Masjid the day before. A court granted him bail on the condition that he leaves Delhi within 24 hours and stays away for four weeks.
The Bhim Army chief visited a temple this morning and plans to go to the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara and a church, making the most of his limited time in Delhi before 9 pm.
At his previous protest at Jama Masjid on December 20, Azad appeared suddenly on the steps, dodging a large police contingent watching out for him after his tweet announcing his plan. He read out the preamble even then. Later, he was caught by the police but he slipped away. He was arrested early next morning after violence at a march and charged with arson, rioting and inciting violence.
Giving him bail, Delhi judge Kamini Lau quoted from Rabindranath Tagore's ''Where the Mind is Without Fear'' and said citizens have a fundamental right to peaceful protests, which cannot be curtailed by the state. "I am reminded of our reverend patriotic poet Rabindranath Tagore who is most relevant today. When the British followed the policy of divide and rule, Tagore visualised a nation where there is no fear in the minds people and education is attained by all," Judge Lau said, also reminding that it was also the citizens' duty to ensure that no corresponding right of another is violated and no inconvenience is caused to anyone.
"There is no evidence that Azad indulged in violence or inflammatory speech. The only thing he read was the preamble to the constitution, which is a sacred document," she added.
During the hearings, the judge berated the prosecutor for using Azad's social media posts about protesting at Jama Masjid to argue that he had incited violence. "You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India," said the judge.
There have been nationwide protests against the CAA, which critics say discriminates against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution. The government says the CAA will help non-Muslim minorities from three Muslim-dominated neighbours - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - to become Indian citizens easily if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution.