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SC's Relief To Nupur Sharma: A Look Back At Prophet Row And Why Ex-BJP Spokesperson Is In The Dock

SC's Relief To Nupur Sharma: A Look Back At Prophet Row And Why Ex-BJP Spokesperson Is In The Dock

It all started on May 26 when then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made derogatory comments regarding Prophet Mohammad on a national TV debate, sparking protests across the nation.

Former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma
Former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma PTI/File Photo

In what came as a relief to former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, the Supreme Court Tuesday granted interim protection from coercive action to the suspended leader in connection with the FIRs/complaints filed against her in several states over her remarks on the Prophet made during a TV debate show.

It also protected her from coercive action in the FIRs/complaints which may be registered or entertained in the future about the May 26 telecast. The court was hearing a petition by Sharma seeking clubbing of FIRs against her and protection from arrest. After Sharma cited threats made to her life, the SC said that it never wanted her or her family to be put in any kind of danger.

Here's a look at some of the highlights of the Nupur Sharma controversy and what followed since:

Comments on TV

On May 26, the then BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made derogatory comments regarding Prophet Mohammad and his youngest wife Aisha during a national TV news debate. A clip of the debate was later shared on social media by fact-checker and AltNews co-founder Mohammad Zubair, who condemned the speech. Sharma later apologized for the comments and said that she was provoked by the mockery of the "Shiv ling" (pertaining to the Gyanvapi mosque Shringar Gauri temple complex dispute in which Hindu petitioners claimed a 'shiv ling' had been found inside the wazookhana of the 16th century mosque).

Widespread protests and anger 

As Zubair's tweet went viral, protests broke out against Sharma's comments across India with Muslim protesters taking to the streets, demanding Sharma's arrest.

Violence broke out in Kanpur on June 3 and in nine other districts of Uttar Pradesh on June 10 after protests against Sharma's remarks spun out of control. At least 40 people, including 20 police personnel, were injured in the violence in Kanpur. On June 10, mobs pelted police with stones during the violence in Prayagraj and set vehicles ablaze. By then, protests had spread to other parts of the country as well including Rajasthan and Delhi. By June 19, the Uttar Pradesh Police had arrested 415 people for the protests and registered 20 FIRs pertaining to the matter. In retaliatory action, homes of protesters were demolished including the house of activist Amreen Fatima, whose father was one of the protesters.

International condemnation

The comments also landed India in diplomatic trouble, with nearly 16 countries including Muslim-dominated Gulf nations condemning the remarks by Sharma. Qatar was one of the first nations to condemn the comments on June 5 when it summoned the Indian ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal and demanded a public apology from the government over the comments. India responded by calling Sharma a "fringe" voice and distanced the party for the comments. By the time, however, several other Gulf and Islamic nations including Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Maldives, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Turkey Malaysia and bodies like the Mecca authorities, Organisation of Islamic Cooperations and others condemned the comments. Following the international outrage, BJP suspended Sharma as well as Delhi party unit chief Naveen Jindal for their inciteful comments. 

Zubair's arrest

Despite the suspension, cases and FIRs against Sharma kept piling up amidst calls for her arrest. In the meantime, fact-checker Mohammad Zubair, whose viral tweet on Sharma propelled the matter to international infamy, was arrested by Delhi Police for allegedly "hurting religious sentiments" in connection to a 2018 tweet. He was also charged in separate cases for hurting religious sentiments by referring to certain Hindu seers raising Islamophobic slogans at a recent event in Haridwar as "hatemongers" in a Twitter post. Zubair is still in custody and his bail applications are being heard in court.

Udaipur tailor killing

On June 28, a tailor named Kanaiya Lal in Udaipur was killed by two men who slit his throat on camera and made the video viral, claiming to have carried out the killing as a response to Sharma's comments against the Prophet. The killing caused instant outrage and arrests across Rajasthan, with the two accused being nabbed and taken into the custody of the National Investigating Agency (NIA). The case is current;y being probed for terror angles. According to the victim's family, Lal was killed because he had shared a social media post in support of Nupur Sharma. The killing opened up investigation into another murder of a chemist that had taken place in Amravati in Madhya Pradesh. As per reports, the chemsit was killed in the same fashion as Lal and he too had shared. apost in support of Nupur sharma.

SC comes down on Nupur Sharma

On July 1, the Supreme Court came down heavily on suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma for her controversial comments against the Prophet, saying her "loose tongue" has "set the entire country on fire" and asked her to immediately apologise to the nation for her remarks. Refusing to entertain Sharma's plea for clubbing of FIRs lodged in various states against her for the remark, the bench held that the comment was made either for cheap publicity, political agenda, or some nefarious activities. "She actually has a loose tongue and has made all kinds of irresponsible statements on TV and set the entire country on fire. Yet, she claims to be a lawyer of 10 years standing... She should have immediately apologised for her comments to the whole country," the court said.

SC grants relief to Sharma

On July 19, a bench of Justices Surya Kant and J B Pardiwala, which had earlier refused to club the FIRs lodged against Sharma after coming down heavily on her for her controversial comments on the Prophet, took note of the alleged threats to life extended to her after its July 1 order.

Observing that it never wanted Sharma to visit every court for relief, the bench issued notices to the Centre and several states including Delhi, West Bengal, and Maharashtra on her plea urging protection from arrest as well as the revival of her withdrawn petition seeking clubbing of FIRs lodged in several states.  

"In the meanwhile, as an interim measure, it is directed that no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioner pursuant to the impugned FIRs/complaints or such FIRs/complaints which may be registered/entertained in future pertaining to the telecast dated May 26, 2022," the bench said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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