Delhi riots: Chargesheet filed by police focuses only on anti-CAA protests, not wanton violence in February

It makes it a crime to exercise fundamental right to protest enshrined in Constitution. It also makes no mention of incidents of homes and schools being set on fire and attacks on innocent citizens

Photo Courtesy: PTI
Photo Courtesy: PTI

Ashlin Mathew

The Delhi police, in the recently filed chargesheet into FIR 59/2020, has enquired into the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, rather than the finding the evidence of procurement for guns, acid bombs, iron rods, swords and knives used during the violence in north-east Delhi. It also makes no mention of incidents of homes and schools being set on fire and attacks on innocent citizens and fails to name people behind them.

The 24,584-page-long chargesheet states that after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament on December 9 and 10 last year, Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam created two WhatsApp groups (‘Muslim Students of JNU’ and ‘Students of Jamia’) to mobilise people against CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Further, the ‘Jamia Coordination Committee’ (JCC), ‘Delhi Protest Support Group’ (DPSG) and ‘Hum Bharat Ke Log’ WhatsApp groups were formed, it says. The chargesheet has called the creation of these groups and the support of protests as ‘conspiracy against the government’.

“Initially, two protest sites were created at Gate No. 7, Jamia Millia University, and Shaheen Bagh. Thereafter, 23 protest sites were created by these people. The locations of these protest sites were deliberately chosen in mixed population areas, so that at an appropriate time, the sites could be turned into chakka-jams and then into riots. These sites are also located at those places which have a history of past riots,” alleges the chargesheet. Delhi Police states that regular speakers were sent to heighten tension and create anti-government sentiments.

The chargesheet makes it a crime to exercise the fundamental right to protest enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression and Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.

As per the chargesheet, ‘they’ got news of the visit of the US President Donald Trump on February 11, 2020, scheduled for February 24, 2020, and ‘they’ decided to use this occasion to undermine the government. “They started accumulating weapons like firearms, acid, petrol, chilli powder, stones, sharp-edged weapons, bricks, catapults in north-east Delhi. Meetings of different protest sites were called, and instructions were passed,” it says. The police has, however, not provided evidence of accumulation of these items; instead, it has focussed on the ‘intent’. The only ‘incriminating’ evidence the police has mentioned in the chargesheet are the WhatsApp chats.

According to Delhi Police, the blockade points were chosen so that non-Muslim population would get trapped on roads and colonies. However, the first road-block on February 22 was under Jaffrabad metro station, which has a majority of Muslim residents. Moreover, most suburban colonies in Delhi have both Hindus and Muslims residing there.

“It has come on record that secret offices were set up at most of the protest sites where mobilisation of people, strategy, speeches, slogans and materials were decided in a confidential and secret manner,” states the chargesheet. The first of these ‘secret meetings’ were held on January 23 at New Seelampur, which was attended by four of the accused – former JNU student Umar Khalid, women’s collective Pinjra Tod co-founders Devangana Kalita and Natasha Karwal and anti-CAA protestor Gulfisha Khatoon.

The chargesheet has overlooked the fact that when protests are organised, meetings are the norm and speakers are given a schedule.

“About 20 persons sat in a huddle at Chand Bagh on February 17 to plan the future course of action. This meeting crystallised the actions which played out later,” alleges the chargesheet. This has been taken from a WhatsApp group chat by the fifteenth accused in the case, Athar Khan.

The chargesheet goes on to claim that Pinjra Tod had taken responsibility for the execution of the carnage. Here too, the police have not explicitly stated that both Narwal and Kalita had refused to sign the statements recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC.

The chargesheet claims that Khalid, whose name currently does not figure in it but may be added in the supplementary chargesheet, wanted the “protest to ultimately escalate to riots” as this was the only possible way to force the government to withdraw CAA/NRC. The police has relied on protected witnesses to make this claim.

In one of the disclosure statements by Sant Yuvaraj, he alleged that he was forced to go to the Shaheen Bagh protest, where he was asked to speak. “I was asked to speak and perform a ritual (havan) for which I was told I would be given Rs 15,000,” he is quoted as having told the police.

In all of the disclosure statements of the accused in the chargesheet, the Delhi Police has highlighted the anti-CAA and NRC protests. They seized phones as ‘there were some photographs and videos of Khureji protest sites’, adds the chargesheet. Moreover, most of the disclosures have been recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, which is not admissible in court. Only disclosures under Section 164 of the CrPC are permitted in court as in such cases, the confessional statements are recorded in front of a judicial magistrate.

Only Hindus have been asked to give statements against suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, who is the fourth accused in the case. At least 33 others whose statements have been recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC are ‘protected witnesses’, whose names are not known.

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