New Delhi: The statements of all three independent witnesses are repeated ad verbatim in Delhi Police’s chargesheet filed recently before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Karkardooma Court in connection with the murder case of Head Constable Ratan Lal (FIR No. 60/2020, PS Dayalpur) during communal riots in North-East Delhi. The near- identical statements, recorded under Section 164 Cr.PC, apparently serve as a premise for the probe.
The confessional statements of all 17 accused, recorded under Section 161 Cr.PC,. are also similar.
Let’s take a look at the statements of the three individuals — Najamul Hasan, Tauqir and Salman alias Guddu.
Najamul:“Tent was hired and people started delivering provocative speeches. Upasna, Shadab, Athar S/O Afzal, Munna, Salim, Salman Siddiqui, Tabassum used to deliver speeches from the stage. The protest started. People from outside such as Advocate Bhanu Pratap, Advocate DH Bindra, Yogendra Yadav and students from the JNU, Jamia and DU used to be called. They used to speak against the government and the NRC. They used to ask Muslims to panic. This continued for 50 days from January to February 24.”
Tauquir: “Salim Khan, Salim Malik, Yunus, Athar, Shahdab and Salman Siddiqui were responsible to manage the stage and serve food. Few women such as Upasna, Ravish, Tabassum, Ishrat, Nazma and Ruby also used to be present there. From managing the stage and serving food, they were responsible for every affair. They were everything — the organisers and the volunteers.”
“….Those who used to deliver speeches and strategise the protest were students from Jamia, JNU and DU.”
Salman: “Salman Siddiqui, Salim Malk, Salim Khan, Dr Rizwan, Ayub, Athar and Shadab were managing the protest. All these people used to address people from the stage and arrange meals for the protestors. Few women such as Ruby, Ishrat, Najma, Ravish, Upasna and Tabassum also used to deliver speeches from the stage.”
“Students from the Jamia and the JNU used to come over there and address people. This is how the protest was going on.”
Najamul: “...he (Advocate DS Bindra) said he will organise a ‘langar’ (community kitchen) and set up a medical camp. He said the entire Sikh community is with you. If you don’t raise your voice, you will meet the same fate as we did in 1984.”
Tauqir: “...DS Bindra had arranged a ‘langer’ there…meals used to be served in the afternoon and evening….During speeches, DS Bindra used to remind people about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and tell the protestors that the government wants to persecute Muslims, Dalts and Sikh communities by bringing in the CAA and the NRC.”
Salman: “DS Bindra was taking part in the protest. He was organising ‘langar’ there. DS Bindra told protestors that CAA/NRC was against the Muslim community. This was told to the protestors by all those who used to address them. They used to tell people that the government will send Muslims to detention camp and brutalise them by passing the CAA/NRC bill. What happened to Sikhs in 1984 will be repeated with Muslims.”
Najamul: “A meeting was organised before February 23 wherein a Bharat Band was proposed by the Bhim Army. Fifteen days before January 23, a meeting was held at 12 o’clock. Two representatives from different protests sites from across ‘Yamuna Paar’ were invited to attend the meeting. It was discussed that nothing is happening because of the protest, and Bhim Army had given a call for a ‘Bharat Band’ on January 23. We will al support the protest.”
Tauqir: “On 23-02-2020, Bhim Army had given a call for ‘Bharat Band’. In support of the strike, Muslim and Dalit communities decided to hold a march from Chand Bagh protest site to Rajghat. Outsiders comprising students had gathered in large number that day.”
“The organisers held a secret meeting at street number 4 at Chand Bagh. Following which, the organisers announced from the stage time has come to do something decisive. This is the right time to show the strength of our protest. Since US President Donald Trump is visiting India for two days, the entire world will have an eye on the country. Therefore, everyone gather here in large numbers and ensure their safety as it is possible that we may have to face the police.”
Salman: Bhim Army had called for a ‘Bharat Band’ on 23-02-2020. There was a call for a march from Chand Bagh to Rajghat on 23rd (February 23, 2020) evening.”
Najamul: “….After taking bath, I reached there in the morning of February 24 at around 11 am…. Salim Munna and Athar were giving lectures from the stage and people present there had sticks, rods and swords in their hands.”
Tauqir: “….I was at home at 11 am the next day i.e. 24-02-2020, shouting and screaming of people began. As I stepped out, I saw people running with sticks and swords in their hands.”
Salman: “There was a huge crowd of men and women on 24th afternoon (February 24, 2020). Everyone had stones, sticks and swords in their hands and the men and women took control of the main road.”
Najamul: “Wazirabad main road was blocked the next day. The police managed to clear the road in the evening by pursuing people. The people now occupied service lane and began delivering speeches from there.”
“When the police stopped them (to take march from Chand Bagh to Rajghat), women, children and men attacked the police with rod, sticks and stones….”
Tauqir: “The planned march was stopped by the police because it had no prior permission. Consequently, the organisers blocked the Wazirabad Main Road in protest.”
Salman: “On 23rd evening, the protest had huge presence of people who had come to attend the march. The march was stopped as it did not have police permission. It enraged people who blocked the road (Wazirabad main road).”
“Salim Malik, Salman Siddiqui, Dr Rizwan, Ayyub, Athar and Shadab told protestors, ‘We have to show our strength to the nation on 24th (February 24, 2020). We will have to show the central government that our protest against the NRC will continue and whosoever comes in between, they will have to face us. Everyone, come tomorrow and bring sticks, stones, etc with you.’”
“There was a huge crowd of men and women on 24th afternoon (February 24, 2020). Everyone had stones, sticks and swords in their hands and the men and women took control of the main road. The police tried to pursue them to clear the road, but they were scattered in different directions.”
“Veil clad women from the crowd attacked the police. It was followed by attacks by people who were holding sticks and swords.”
Cops Analyse the Statements
Based on above statements made by the “independent” witnesses, the police “analysis” reveals that Salim Khan, Salim Munna, Salman Siddiqui, DS Bindra, Dr Rizwan, Athar, Shadab, Ravish, Upasna and Tabassum and others were “main organisers of the protest site and fully involved in inciting the people for rioting”;
The organisers and protestors chose the date and time for march and road blockade i.e. 23.02.2020 and 24.02.2020 for the riots, keeping in view the visit of Mr Donald Trump, the president of the USA, to gain the maximum impact”.
But, the police perhaps forgot that there was no official or unofficial reports on the state visit of US President Trump. The police are relying on the witness statements for what was actually said from the stage. The police have not presented any electronic evidence in support of the claims made by the witnesses, except a video clip of a speech by a physically challenged woman that was shared on the official Facebook page of the protest.
The entire investigation is based on the following premise — the violence was “pre-planned” and “unprovoked”; it was executed at a time when United States President Donald Trump was visiting India to ensure coverage in the international media; “violent mob (anti-CAA protestors) in communal frenzy rampantly started selectively targeted the properties of the Hindu community” and activists and politicians such as Advocate DS Bindra, Kawalpreet Kaur, Rahul Roy and Shriya Ghosh of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal of Pinjra Tod (a women’s collective of students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi), Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haider of the Jamia Co-ordination Committee (a group comprising students and alumni of Jamia Millia Islamia) “instigated” the protestors.
The investigators have categorised the accused as conspirators (DS Bindra, Ishrat Jahan, Meeran Haider, Rahul Roy, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Tabish Hussain, Safoora Zargar, Shriya Ghosh, Devangana Kalita, Mahmood Pracha, Kawalpreet Kaur, Natasha Narwal), interface with conspirators and local organisers (Suleman Siddiqui, Shadab Ahmad, Rayish Ahmad, Upasna, Athar), local organisers (Saleem Munna, Saleem Khan, Md Ayub, Rizwan Siddiqui, Suleman Siddiqui) and local rioters (Mohammad Jalaluddin, Md Ayub, Yunus, Shahnawaz, Ibrahim, Furqan, etc.).
“The nature of injuries sustained by the injured persons and the dead head constable, the type of weapons recovered from the spot like chemical, acid, petrol bombs, stones, cartridges etc, analysis of CCTV footages wherein accused persons were seen carrying sword, sticks, rods, etc. are quite conclusive that it was a well-hatched conspiracy to disrupt peace and harmony between communities,” alleges the police chargesheet.
It goes on to allege that “the weapons used to assault police officials and set ablaze properties could not have been abruptly arranged. It was well-planned in advanced by the organisers of the protest site at Chand Bagh to spread violence on 24.02.2020 and the instigated rioters with common intention created havoc which lead to the loss of life and property.”
The investigators argue that “the links of the organisers of the protest site with the likes of DS Bindra (AIMIM), Kawalpreet Kaur (AISA), Devangana Kalita (Pinjra Tod), Safoora, Yogendra Yadav, etc. itself indicates a hidden agenda behind the violence”.
The protest, say the police, was being done “innocuously” for protection of Constitution and constitutional values, the protestors could be seen waving the National Flag and displaying pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and others.
“However, the truth about the protest and the protestors and its true intentions became clear as soon as the unprovoked violence was started by them. It was not difficult to understand that the present incident was a consequence of a deep-rooted conspiracy, which was hatched under the grab of democratically opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act. Slowly but surely, a build-up was being done, the conspirators caused disruption by dual scheme of misinformation (about the CAA and the NRC) and “CHAKKA JAM” to an extent and level that it triggered a major communal riot,” the police alleged.
Who Killed Head Constable Ratan Lal?
According to the post-mortem report, the head constable died of “haemorrhagic shock as a result of ante mortem injury to lungs produced by projectile of rifled firearm”. “All injuries were ante mortem in nature. Injury number 1 was produced by projectile firearm,” concludes the autopsy report, further adding that “injury number 1, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16 were sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature independently and collectively”.
But, out of all the 17 accused, the police did not identify as to who actually killed Ratan Lal despite the fact that all of them have been booked under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Not even the firearm with which the police officer was killed has been recovered from the possession of any of the accused. Lal received one bullet, but all 17 have been booked for his murder.
All the 17 accused whom the investigators claim to have identified from CCTV footage at or near the crime scene, the police claim, are carrying sticks, rods, swords, etc. No one of them, according to the chargesheet, is seen carrying any firearm.
Discussing the evidence, the police argue, “From the evidences collected against the above mentioned accused persons, it is very much evident that they all were members of the unlawful assembly which caused rioting on 24-02-2020 with common object of protesting against passing of CAA. The Honourable Supreme Court of India has categorically observed in its judgement in ‘Lalji and Ors Vs State of UP’ that ‘thus, once the Court hold that certain accused persons formed in unlawful assembly and an offence is committed by any member of that assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of the assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who at the time of committing of that offence was a member of the same assembly is to be held guilty of that offence. After such a finding, it would not be open to the court to see as to who actually did the offensive act or require the prosecution to prove which of the members did which of the offensive acts. The prosecution would have no obligation to prove that’.”
All 17 accused persons have been arrested in the case and they have been chargesheeted U/S 186, 353, 332, 323, 144, 147, 148, 149, 153-A, 188, 109, 336, 333, 427, 307, 302, 308, 201, 120-B, 34 of the IPC Read With 3 and 4 of the PDPP Act.
Omission of Kapil Mishra’s Name
Najamul Hasan in his statement has briefly mentioned Mishra’s name, saying, “Few supporters of Kapil Mishra (BJP leader who is alleged to have instigated in the violence) set the tent on fire. Though I did not see it, but I heard people shouting alleging this.”
But the investigators chose to ignore it. They have not mentioned Mishra’s name even once in their theory of how the violence erupted. Their analysis claims that “the violent mob in communal frenzy rampantly started selectively targeted the properties of Hindu community”.
They also did not repeat mention the use of force to disperse the crowd from the Wazirabad Main Road and continued to maintain that the violence was “unprovoked”. Also, there is no mention in the chargesheet whether there was other group of people who were opposing the anti-CAA protestors despite the fact several video footages have emerged that show heavy stone pelting between two groups. The destructions stands testimony of the large scale and targetted violence against a particular community.