As the Delhi police ties up the investigation in the Jahangirpuri communal violence case, statements made by the accused raise questions. examined 35 disclosure statements – the account of events given by the accused to the investigating officer and recorded by the police. The statements made by the five Hindu accused arrested in the case are identical. The remaining 30 statements were made by the Muslim accused in the case. About 16 of these statements are almost identical. Several paragraphs are replicated across all 30 statements by the Muslim accused.

All the accused are charged with rioting and attempt to murder in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area on April 16. Communal tensions had erupted in clashes as a Hanuman Jayanti rally crossed the local Jama Masjid that evening.

The five Hindu men accused in the case were part of the procession. They are all members of the Bajrang Dal. All five statements suggest local Muslims, provoked by slogans, initiated the violence as the rally crossed the mosque:

 “There were quite a few of us boys with swords etc and when our procession reached the Jama Masjid around 6 pm, we started chanting Jai Sri Ram slogans loudly, so the other side started getting agitated.”  

The statements go on to say:

 “Some people began to throw bottles and stones from the top of the Jama Masjid and we also started hearing the sound of bullets being fired. That is when we also took the swords that we had with us and began to wave them about in the air.”  

The identical confession statements of two of the Hindu accused from the Jahangirpuri violence charge sheet.

The statements by all 30 Muslim accused seem to echo this version of events. All 30 statements contain these identical lines:

 “Some local people had made a plan to ruin the procession and said I should also join. On Ram Navami, too, Hindutva groups had held poojas and raised Jai Sri Ram slogans.”  

When asked why so many statements were identical or had identical portions, Delhi Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Vichatra Veer said, “If people in the same area are involved then many facts and observations may be similar.”

He added that these statements, taken under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure – which deals with oral statements made to the investigating officer – have limited relevance at the trial stage. Only those portions of the statement that help recover evidence are admissible in court.

Lawyers for the Muslim accused claim that the identical disclosure statements show a lack of investigation. As the case heads towards the trial stage, they allege that alternative accounts of the events of April 16 have been left out of the police investigation and the chargesheet.

The chargesheet

According to the 2,000 page chargesheet submitted by the Delhi Police in July, the clashes on April 16 were part of a “conspiracy” to foment trouble in the capital. The alleged conspirators are two Muslim residents of Jahangirpuri. As evidence, the police cite their involvement in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that started in Delhi in December 2019.

The police chargesheet also compiles statements from 51 witnesses, 49 of whom are Hindu. The Hindu witness accounts and the police’s own reconstruction of the events of April 16 echo the disclosure statements – the Hanuman Jayanti procession was attacked by local Muslims as it crossed the Jama Masjid. These accounts claim that the Muslims initiated the violence as they pelted stones on the procession.

This is a contested version of events. In the aftermath of the violence, beer bottles and flags printed with “Jai Shri Ram” had been found in the mosque. Across Jahangirpuri, Muslim residents allege people in the Hanuman Jayanti procession had entered the mosque and hoisted flags, provoking tensions.

“They kept provoking us by referring to Muslims as ‘Mulleh’, dancing to Jai Sri Ram songs,” said an eyewitness who was in a shop down the road from the mosque. “Two-three boys tried to enter the mosque and hoist a flag on a pole. That was when we stopped them and made them leave.”

According to advocate Abdul Gaffar, the statements of the Muslim accused were recorded selectively by the police so that they could “buttress the claim of the Hindu accused”. “If you see these statements, none of them carry details from the perspective of the local Muslim,” said Ghaffar, who is representing some of the Muslim accused. “Instead, these statements are being used as a matter of convenience to fit into the larger conspiracy theory.”

Mehmood Pracha, another lawyer appearing for the Muslim accused, said the police had failed to investigate all accounts of the incident. “People will tell you how the violence played out but there needs to be an intent to investigate the counterclaim. Here it is being completely ignored,” he said.

When asked about concerns that the accounts of Muslim residents of Jahangipuri had been left out, Veer said, “There are aspects of the investigation yet to be uncovered and a supplementary charge sheet will be filed.”

Almost identical statements by two Muslim accused.

Echoing statements

The identical statements by the Hindu accused claim local Muslims tried to get into the middle of the rally but were dispersed by the police. They returned to argue with and push around the people in the procession, the statements allege.

The statements go on to say:

 “Then in a little while people began to throw bottles and stones from the top of the mosque. So we also used the swords we had and began to brandish them in the sky and picked up stones that were lying around and threw them at the other side.”  

The statements by the Muslim accused confirm this version of events:

 “We all signalled to each other and entered the rally and started arguing with them. The police intervened and sent us back. Then some of us reached the end of the rally from the Khushal Chowk side and started arguing again. Then some of our people started throwing stones, bottles etc from the top of the mosque.”  

The statements of the Muslim accused name other people allegedly involved in the conspiracy to create trouble. Statements by the Hindu accused do not name anyone else.

Bulldozers tore down the entrance gate of the mosque in Jahangirpuri on April 20, 2022. Photo: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

The witnesses

The two Muslim witnesses who are quoted in the police chargesheet had called a police control van as the clashes erupted on April 16. According to the police chargesheet, one of the witnesses, Shaukat Ali, “confirmed the presence of Ansar, Salim @ Chikna, Sonu @ Imam, Sanwar, Ishrafil, Gulam Rasool, Aksar on the spot at the time of riot.” All seven men are accused in the case.

However, when reached out to Shaukat Ali, he denied making such a statement.

“That is a lie, I did no such thing,” he said. “They did not show me any videos or photos. All they did was take the names of these people and ask me if I knew them. I told them I did. I did not say they were on the spot. I was standing quite far away anyway.”

The second Muslim witness, who did not want to be named, said he was not aware he was a witness in the cases.

‘Where is the conspiracy?’

Days after the clashes, the local municipal corporation started a demolition drive in Jahangirpuri. Most of the structures targeted by the bulldozers were Muslim shops and homes. The entrance gate of the Jama Masjid was also demolished, apparently because it was an encroachment.

This was a pattern across states in April, which saw several communal conflagrations over religious rallies. In areas under Bharatiya Janata Party administrations, bulldozers were dispatched to the site of the clashes. Muslim homes and establishments, suddenly found to be in violation of building norms, were demolished.

After the Jahangirpuri clashes, two first information reports were filed. The first one, filed on April 16, accused one Mohammad Ansar, a resident of Jahangirpuri, and “four or five companions” of rioting and attempt to murder. The police chargesheet expands on that FIR to put forward its theory of a conspiracy that has its roots in the anti-CAA protests.

The second FIR, filed on April 17, books the organisers of the third Hanuman Jayanti procession for holding the rally without police permission. Two Hanuman Jayanti processions had passed peacefully through Jahangirpuri on April 16; only the third rally, held early evening, had given rise to clashes. There are no chargesheets and arrests in this case. A senior police official refused to share a copy of the FIR, calling it too “sensitive”.

Pracha pointed out that the police investigation ignored the fact that the third rally had proceeded without permission. “The fact is that two rallies respected the local boundaries and did not cross the road in front of the mosque,” he said. “The third procession went to antagonise [local Muslims], but no one is bothered about that.”

According to Gaffar, no evidence in the chargesheet substantiated claims of a conspiracy by Muslims in Jahangirpuri. The clashes could not have been planned, he argued, because the third procession had not been anticipated.

“If there was no permission for the rally to begin with, where does the question of conspiring even arise?” he demanded.