Delhi riots: Glaring loopholes in the chargesheet filed by the police 

According to police, Muslim ‘conspirators’ hatched a plan to instigate riots in which worst sufferers were Muslims. Police state the key conspirators had an affinity towards violence in their minds

IANS Photo (File)
IANS Photo (File)

Ashlin Mathew

The Delhi Police Special Cell finally gave their 24,584-page-long chargesheet, filed in FIR 59, to the court on Monday, September 21, in the Delhi riots case. It has been separated into 23 smaller documents. At least 751 FIRs have been registered in different police stations in North-east Delhi and Shahdara districts against the rioters. The chargesheet states that 53 died in the riots and 581 were grievously injured.

Multiple charges have been slapped against mainly 15 people, of which 13 are Muslims. The document states that the police are investigating three other men who have been granted bail. It invokes 25 sections of the Indian Penal Code, including criminal conspiracy (120B), attacks on religion (153A), murder (307), defiling place of worship (295), income escaping assessment (147, 148) and forgery (468). This is in addition to the charges under Arms Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP).

People named in the chargesheet

United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi; former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan; Jamia Students Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Shadab Ahmad; Jamia Alumni president Shafa-ur-Rahman; AAP councillor Tahir Husain; Pinjra Tod co-founders Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita; protestors Gulfisha Khatoon, Taslim Ahmad, Salim Malik, Salim Khan and Athar Khan have been named in this chargesheet.

It does not name former JNU student Umar Khalid and JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam though both have been called main conspirators. Their names will be included in the supplementary chargesheet, but as former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro wrote in his letter to the police, “Was Umar Khalid arrested on Sunday in C.R. 59/20 so as to prolong the detention of the others arrested earlier?”. This delayed arrest of Khalid permits the detention of those who have been incarcerated in this case for another three months without trial.

This document states that the “communal riot incidents of February 23-25 were pre-planned and were hatched by Umar Khalid and his associates, all linked with two groups”. He appealed to people to block the roads during US President Donald Trump’s visit so that the “propaganda of minorities in India being persecuted may be publicised internationally. One part of this conspiracy was to use women and elderly as human shields, in the name of carrying out civil protests. In accordance with this, Umar Khalid and his associates brought women and children on the roads to instigate riots.

The Delhi Police is talking about Umar Khalid’s speech in Amravati (Maharashtra) on February 17, where he highlighted the need of a Gandhian protest during Trump’s visit. Delhi Police claims this speech was to incite riots. Though the chargesheet includes a transcript of Khalid’s full speech, the police have not noted that Khalid spoke about non-violent protests. The police obtained snippets of this footage from TV18 and Republic TV, though both of them stated that they had got it from Amit Malviya, the BJP IT cell chief. This ‘conspiracy’ was first mentioned by BJP’s IT Cell and by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, to whom Delhi Police reports.

This is despite Bilkis, the one of the older protestors at Shaheen Bagh, having repeatedly said she was protesting because she felt that their survival as citizens of India was at stake. Moreover, other than statements from protected witnesses named as Robot and Alpha, the police has not included proof of coercion in the chargesheet.

The ‘terror conspiracy’ chargesheet

The Police has linked the protests against CAA from December 2019 - beginning with the burning of buses, the sit-in protests at Shaheen Bagh, and ending with the roadblock at Jaffarabad – as a plot to promote terrorism and engineer riots on a large scale at a suitable time. This is how they have slapped UAPA charges on those arrested.

“The use of firearms, petrol bombs with the intention to overawe the state and force the central government to withdraw CAA, NRC clearly falls in the definition of terrorist activity,” states the chargesheet. But, the police has not submitted a single video clip of any of the accused throwing a petrol bomb or using/carrying a weapon, let alone a firearm.

The chargesheet, touching almost fiction, states that the key conspirators had an affinity towards violence in their minds ever since the results of the 2019 parliamentary elections were declared. This affinity towards violence was because it was, “the only option left for reclaiming the lost turf for some”. Here too, the police is relying on ‘informers’with names such as Oscar and Bond and no evidence has been submitted to substantiate this claim.

The police have claimed that the ‘rioters’ deliberately avoided Jamia and Shaheen Bagh. The police has to answer what proof have they submitted for stating that these conspirators ‘deliberately’ avoided these areas.

The violent police attack on Jamia students has been termed as “precursor riot” to the North-east Delhi violence and the police allege that the university violence was instigated by students.

“The conspirators masked these protests with the secular facade, providing more acceptable civil society participation. The whole of the analytics corroborates and reinforces the investigative findings that in spite of best efforts being put in by the key conspirators, the incidents of December 2019 remained a beta version of the carnage of February 2020. The key conspirators learnt their lessons from December 2019, and while executing the continuing conspiracy in February 2020, chose Northeast Delhi with its unique economic, social and demographic matrix as being the ideal ground for mass scale mobilisation and violence.” The police have not given any details, which can be submitted in court, for ‘unmasking’ this conspiracy.

According to the police, Muslim ‘conspirators’ hatched a plan to instigate riots in which the worst sufferers were Muslims. Of the 53 who were killed in the riots, 37 were Muslims and Muslim families have suffered most losses of property, business and money as is evident from the claims with SDM offices in Delhi. The chargesheet basically says that Muslims turned on Muslims.

Most of this document bases its evidence on a Whatsapp group named ‘Delhi Protests Support Group’ created by filmmakers Saba Dewan and Rahul Roy. But, the group chats in the chargesheet showcase how the group members debated the merits and demerits of a chakka jamor a road block in Jaffrabad. One of those who questioned the effectiveness of such a block is Umar Khalid’s partner Banojyotsana Lahiri, who has not been named or arrested. The police has, however, forgotten to mention in these 25,000-pages that she is Khalid’s partner and that he had not spoken on the road block.

What is ‘unlawful, and anti-national’ about a WhatsApp Group that preaches non-violent resistance to blatantly communal acts being contemplated by the government? And has the freedom of speech and thought guaranteed in the Constitution – the very essence of freedom–been lost in these 25,000 pages?

“Where is the culpable evidence? Where are the weapons? What is the basis of the evidence? There is a WhatsApp Group, so what? Sitting on a protest is not an offence. If their intention as to tire people out, then they have succeeded,” said a senior lawyer, who is representing a person on this chargesheet.

Missing truths

The chargesheet does not highlight the role of the police in instigating violence. In one of the videos, which went viral, Delhi Police personnel were seen assaulting a few Muslim men and then forcing them to sing the National Anthem. One of those men, 23-year-old Faizan, died after he was illegally detained. Though Joint Commissioner Alok Kumar had then stated to BBC that "an inquiry has been ordered into the incident”, the police have not mentioned this incident in the chargesheet.

Several first-person reports have mentioned firing by the police during the violence in North-east Delhi. This doesn’t find a mention in the chargesheet. Neither does it state about the number of calls from victims the police missed during the pogrom.

The fourth accused in the chargesheet, suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, had stated that a mob had broken into his house and he had kept requesting the police for help. The police only arrived much later. He was rescued by East Delhi DCP Ved Prakash on February 24, and the police had searched the entire building. He had then gone back the next day to save his house. This does not find a mention, but we have his alleged statement accusing himself and others of plotting to do ‘something big’. While the police have included his bank statements, they have not checked his tower location to verify where he was taken after being rescued by the police.

The chargesheet also does not mention the incident when men in uniform and rioters wreaked the Farooqia masjid in Mustafabad on February 25. Khursheed Saifi, who was a witness to this attack, was brutally assaulted. He had identified the men and filed a complaint after being released from the hospital.

Glaring lies

On February 23, BJP leader Kapil Mishra had given a speech calling for forcefully removing anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters at Jaffrabad with a police officer standing next to him. He said, “The protestors want to create trouble in Delhi. The DCP is standing in front of us and on your behalf, I want to tell him that till the US President is in India, we are leaving the area peacefully. After that, we won’t listen to the police if the roads are not vacated by them… we will have to take to the streets.”

However, when he was called for questioning in July, he lied to the police stating that he did not give a speech in Jaffrabad. The police have accepted his lies, despite the video evidence and has called Mishra the ‘whistle-blower’. The BJP leader stated that his intention was to tell the police that he would also sit on dharna if anti-CAA protestors did not clear the road. Mishra goes on to claim that he ‘requested’ a police officer to clear the protest site.

Mishra again states that the Muslims had blocked roads for more than two months, when in reality the road block was called for one day. The chargesheet also points this in another section.

According to Mishra’s responses in the chargesheet, he had gone to Maujpur alone, but his tweets tell another story. He had tweeted, on February 23, that he would lead a gathering at the Maujpur Chowk around 3 pm to counter the Jaffrabad protest. He again reiterates that he did not give a speech.

Money trail

The chargesheet pinpoints that Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan, Tahir Hussain, Shifa-Ur-Rehman and Meeran Haider raised Rs 1.61 crore between December 1, 2019 and February 26, 2020. “Of this, Rs 1,48,01,186 was withdrawn as cash and spent in managing the protest sites as well to execute the conspiracy hatched in riots in Delhi,” the chargesheet claims. The first part of this statement is a simple statement of fact. The second part is a non sequitur—a second statement attached to the first without any demonstrable link to it.

Let us look closely at this money, where it came from and what it was spent upon: Even if every rupee was spent on the demonstrations it comes to only Rs 1.89 lakh per day over 85 days. There were at least 10 anti-CAA protest sites in Delhi after the Jamia violence on December 15 and at least 8 regular sit-in protests against the CAA across Delhievery day. From these sit-in protests, an average of 500 protestors would reach Shaheen Bagh daily. Each protest site required water-proof awnings, dais’, audio systems, mattresses, water and for some of the demonstrators, food. All that did not come free.

The police has refused to acknowledge that some of these resistance movements were locally organised.

Some of this money came from the relatives of the accused and the police claim that it was not declared in the IT statement. Of this, Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia (AAJMI) raised Rs 7,60,000, of which Rs 5,55,000 came from alumni working in Muslim countries Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Qatar, states the chargesheet. It mentions these amounts to buttress its explicit assertion that there was a Muslim conspiracy against the country.

What the chargesheet carefully omits mentioning is that by implication the balance, amounting to Rs 1.53 crores was raised within India. That is 96% of the total amount! Thus, this ‘conspiracy’ wasn’t a Muslim conspiracy funded by Muslim alumni, working in Muslim countries all of which, by the way, are staunch allies of the Narendra Modi government.

Additionally, the police have masked the identity of the person who stated that Shafi-ur-Rehman used these alumni funds for the protest. The police cannot but be aware that they are trying to sow suspicion and paranoia in the minds of those who have to read the charge sheet, with next to no evidence whatever. That is almost certainly why they have hidden the identity of the person who stated that Rehman used these alumni funds for the protest.

The police have also claimed that this money was used to buy ‘weapons’ and for the ‘purpose of instigation of riots’. They also have no bills to corroborate this claim and some of the bills that the police seized were termed as ‘fake’. But, no reasons have been given as to why they are ‘fake’.

The police have additionally charged the Jamia alumni association with not disclosing the receipt of foreign funds. But they have no proof that it had any intention as they claim of hiding their source. For the funds came in in driblets between December and March before the financial year closed.

The COVID-19 lockdown occurred before the end of the financial year and the government postponed the last date for the submission of tax returns till November 2020. So how could the Delhi police know in August and September what the Jamia alumni association would, or would not, do before November?

Is the receipt of spontaneously given donations by Indians abroad for a cause they believe in, by itself such a huge crime that it merits the invocation of the National Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, both of which were promulgated specifically to deal with the threat of terrorist attacks on the country?

There have been two largescale protests after 2010 – The India Against Corruption protests in 2010 and 2011 and the anti-CAA movement since December. Even in the IAC protests, which was led by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, and a host of judges, lawyers and intellectuals and backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, some of its funds came from abroad. IAC had also announced they had received donations of more than Rs 82.87 lakh from more than 100 donors across the country. Some of these funds were then deposited with Arvind Kejriwal’s Public Cause Research Foundation.

If donating for protests is a crime, as the Delhi Police chargesheet claims, then those who donated for IAC protests are also criminals in retrospect. So since there is no statute of limitations on terrorist acts why is the Delhi police not also proceeding against the leaders of that movement. Is it because the leaders were not Muslims?

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Published: 23 Sep 2020, 9:00 PM