New Delhi: Despite repeated denial of allegations of “biased” investigation into the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February, the Delhi police continues to move ahead with filing charge-sheets — which hint that the alleged provocation by the anti-CAA protesters triggered a retaliation by Hindu groups. These chargesheets further hint that the ‘action-reaction’ theory resulted in the riots, where in over 50 people killed and hundreds suffered injuries.
The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police on June 8 filed four charge-sheets in connection with the riots, alleging that the violence was “conspired with intent to create communal strife to malign the image of the country under the gaeb of democratically opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)”.
Investigators — in the first final report wherein 17 people have been charge-sheeted in the murder case of Head Constable Rattan Lal — have alleged that the riots were “orchestrated in the garb of opposing the CAA”. They claimed it was a “deep conspiracy, which triggered the communal riots”. The accused of Lal’s murder case — alleged the police — belong to a “web of conspirators”, who spread misinformation about the CAA.
“The conspirators caused disruption by the dual scheme of spreading misinformation on the CAA and Chakka Jam (road blockade as a form of protest), which triggered a major communal riot,” said the charge-sheet.
Lal, who was deployed on main Wazirabad Road near Chand Bagh, was attacked and killed allegedly by a mob on February 24. He was shot dead. His two senior officers — Shahdara Deputy Commissioner of Police Amit Kumar Sharma and Assistant Commissioner of Police Anuj Kumar — had also sustained serious injuries in the attack.
The cops have chargesheeted six Muslims for allegedly killing one Shahid, six Hindus for allegedly murdering one Maruf Ali and eight Muslims — including suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Tahir Hussain — for allegedly making attempts to eliminate one Ajay Goswami in the second, third and fourth final probe reports, respectively.
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The police have so far filed 17 chargesheets against 447 people in 78 cases. Facing flak for allegedly siding with rioters and selectively targetting Muslims, the Delhi Police in a statement had said that of 447 people, 205 belonged to the minority community and rest from Hindu community. Giving a break-up, it had said that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch filed chargesheets against 63 Muslims and 41 Hindus, while the local northeast Delhi police chargesheeted 142 Muslims and 164 Hindus.
These are not the isolated chargesheets, which seem to set the narrative that provocation from the Muslims who were staging protest against the divisive citizenship regime and retaliation from the side of local Hindus led to communal unrest in the national capital. Investigators have tried to set the same narrative in the first four of the total chargesheets filed so far in connection with the violence.
There are crucial differences between the two sets of chargesheets filed against Muslims and Hindus, indicating the line of investigation.
‘Provocation’ Vs ‘Retaliation’
In the chargesheets filed in the murder cases of two individuals, namely Aqil Ahmed (FIR No. 36) and Musharraf (FIR No. 38), the investigators said, “Both the places of incident were not covered with any CCTV cameras. Based upon source information, it was revealed that some Hindu men had joined hands on February 25 and 26, 2020, post the riots on February 24, 2020 in which Muslim mobs had done massive rioting in which large scale loss of lives and properties of Hindu community had taken place. The group was identified and some of the group members were picked up. During questioning, it was revealed that on February 25 and 26, 2020, a WhatsApp group was created. This group had 125 members. Several members of the group were silent in the WhatsApp group. Subsequently, eye-witnesses were identified and examined. Bases upon oral evidences and the chat in the WhatsApp group, the identity of the perpetrators was fixed.”
A painter and car mechanic, Ahmed was killed by the rioters near Jal Boad Puliya in Bhagirathi Vihar, while Musharraf, an auto driver, was beaten to death before being thrown in the drain at C Block Bhagirathi Vihar.
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While the police arrested 10 people in Ahmed’s murder case, they took into custody nine others for Musharraf’s killing. Investigators believe the killings were “reactions” from Hindus to the alleged rioting by Muslims the previous day.
A Saga of ‘Conspiracy’
What is noticeable in the two sets of probe into the role of anti-CAA protesters and the killings and riotings by Hindus is the conspiracy angle, which is evident in the chargesheets filed against the anti-citizenship law activists. This conspiracy angle is entirely missing in the chargesheets involving the other side.
Interestingly, both the chargesheets involving accused from the Hindu community focus on the formation of WhatsApp groups.The chargesheet filed in FIRs 35 and 37, which are related to the killing of two brothers Amir Ali and Hashim Ali, have similar reference to WhatsApp groups.
“During the investigation of these cases, it was found that during the peak rioting, a WhatsApp group was created in the intervening night of February 25 and 26, 2020, which had 125 members. Two active members of this WhatsApp group were located and joined in the investigation. During the investigation, their mobile phones were scanned and the specific WhatsApp group created on February 25 was also identified. During the further investigation, it was revealed that while some members of these groups were only sending and receiving chats, few others were involved in active rioting,” said the police in the chargesheets involving murder of the two brothers.
The police further claimed “revenge” and “retaliation” were the key elements in some of the messages in these groups.
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However, in the Jafrabad case, where the police claimed a road blockade triggered riots, a WhatsApp message advising women what to do in case of communal riots has been used to allege a conspiracy. The message, supposedly found on the mobile of an accused, gives a list of steps women can take to defend themselves and their homes.
Majority of anti-CAA protesters have been charged under stringent anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), apart from severe sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Arms Act; however, only IPC sections have been slapped against those who had added to the riots in “retaliation”.