While Muslims and their properties were disproportionately targeted during the communal violence that engulfed India’s national capital between February 25 and 28, a 700-page charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police in a case related to the murder of an Intelligence Bureau official attempts to create a different narrative: it suggests that Hindus were provoked to respond to Muslims.
Of the 53 people killed during the two-and-a half days of rioting, 38 were Muslim. Fourteen mosques and a dargah were attacked.
The Delhi police have told the courts that they have filed 751 cases related to the violence. Over the last two weeks, the Delhi Police has begun filing charge sheets in a number of these cases.
Scroll.in examined the charge sheet filed in the case relating to the killing of Intelligence Bureau officer Ankit Sharma. He was murdered in Chand Bagh Pulia in North East Delhi on February 25 and his body was dumped in a stream nearby. According to the police, Sharma was attacked by the mob when he tried to pacify two groups throwing stones and other missiles at each other.
In the charge sheet, the Delhi police has mentioned the names of high-profile activists as allegedly playing a part in instigating the violence, which followed nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
No mention of BJP leader
The charge sheet accuses human rights activist Harsh Mander of provoking violence with a speech at Jamial Milia Islamia, even though a clip of the event clearly shows him advocating a non-violent approach to fight injustice. Activist Umar Khalid is alleged to have been part of a meeting that planned a “big blast” in Delhi in January to shame India internationally.
At the same time, the Delhi Police is silent about the provocative speech made by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra in Delhi’s Jaffrabad neighbourhood on February 23. In a video of the speech, Mishra can be heard giving the Delhi Police an ultimatum to clear roads of people peacefully protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, failing which his supporters would take up the task.
Scroll.in was unable to determine if Kapil Mishra’s speech is mentioned in other charge sheets related to the violence.
In this case, the police have listed Tahir Hussain, a municipal councilor of the Aam Aadmi Party, as the prime accused. He was removed from the party after the February violence.
Mishra in February alleged that Hussain was one of the masterminds of the riots, a charge that he has denied.
In a video released just after the riots, Hussain said that a mob had broken through the gate of his office in Main Karwal Nagar on February 24 and climbed onto the roof of the building to attack their opponents. He said that he left the building that day. When he returned the next morning at around 8.30 am, he was greeted with hostile slogans. Paramilitary forces in the area advised him to leave. After this, his lawyers maintain he had not been at the site of the violence.
The police claim that Hussain’s home, which is also in Main Karwal Nagar, was used as a launch pad for attacks on Hindus and that he instigated the mob directly to commit violence. The police say they have found CCTV footage showing some people dumping Ankit Sharma’s body in a stream, but added that cameras that could have captured footage of the actual attack were damaged or unavailable. The police claim that Sharma’s murder was the result of Hussain encouraging Muslim mobs to attack Hindus.
Ironically, the charge sheet it states that despite calls from Hussain on the afternoons of February 24 and 25, the police were unable to reach the spot in time. This inadvertently exposes the inefficiency of the Delhi Police in controlling the riots.
Conspiracy to riot
The overall premise of the conspiracy suggested by the Delhi Police in the charge sheet is that the riots were planned to coincide with the visit of United States President Donald Trump to Delhi in the last week of February.
In its summary on the background of the case in relation to the Ankit Sharma’s murder, the Delhi Police has claimed that the foundations to the violence were laid with the sit-in at the Jaffrabad Metro station by Muslim women and children on February 22. This, the police said, was a response to a nationwide bandh called by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad.
The next day, the Delhi police claimed, they received information that “some people” would assemble at around 3 pm in Mauj Pur Chowk, about 750 meters from the station, to demand that the protestors be removed so that traffic could flow down 66-Foot Road near the Jaffrabad Metro station.
The police failed to mention that Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra was leading the crowd. In a video of his speech that has been widely circulated, Kapil Sharma, flanked by a senior police officer, told the authorities that if the police failed to dislodge the protestors, the crowd would do so itself.
While the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act has been cited as a provocation and Sharma’s speech is conspicuously missing from the charge sheet, the sequence of events points to the fact that violence erupted only after the BJP leader addressed his supporters near the Jaffrabad Metro station.
However, the Delhi Police charge sheet presents Kapil Mishra and his supporters as victims of Muslim mobs, who, it is claimed, came “pre-determined for violence”. This is what the charge sheet claims was the point when the violence exploded:
“Thereafter [after the crowd led by Kapil Sharma demanded clearing of the protest site at Jaffrabad Metro station], all residents from the areas of Jaffrabad and Kardampuri (who had been supporting the blockade of the metro station) numbering thousands gathered and started stone pelting from both sides on the crowd which was demanding re-opening of carriageway of 66-Foot Road and the Jaffrabad Metro station.”
The charge sheet claimed that the police dispersed this crowd, but soon the violence spread to many areas of North East Delhi, with protesters opposing the citizenship initiatives pelting stones. While the document blamed these protestors for several incidents of arson and violence, there is no violence attributed to government supporters defending the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Delhi Police has filed charge sheets in at least 10 cases related to the riots by last week. Scroll.in was unable to ascertain if Kapil Mishra’s speech was mentioned in any of the others as having been a provocation for the violence. However, media reports in March on an internal note of the Delhi Police suggested that the violence was sparked by an attack by supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act on a Bhim Army vehicle on February 23, prompting a retaliation.
The charge sheet then goes on to list the various events of rioting till February 26, before discussing the alleged role of Tahir Hussain in the general violence and in the murder of Ankit Sharma on February 25 between 5 pm and 5.30 pm.
Under the head “conspiracy angle”, the police claim that the planning went back to January, when a meeting was held between Hussain and Umar Khalid at Shaheen Bagh, the neighbourhood on the banks of the Yamuna where a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens started in December:
“During the investigation, it was also revealed that the accused Tahir Hussain was in touch with Khalid Saifi who is connected with Unite Against Hate Group. Tahir Hussain was also connected to Umar Khalid of JNU through Khalid Saifi.
Khalid Saifi had arranged Tahir’s meeting with Umar Khalid on 08.01.2020 at Shaheen Bagh. In that meeting, it was decided to have a big blast so that the Central Govt. could be shaken on the issue of CAA/NRC and so as to defame the country in the international arena. In the meeting, Umar Khalid had assured not to bother about the money as PFI [Popular Front of India] organisation would be ready to provide money and logistical support for these riots.”
A flow chart included in this section of the charge sheet purports to connect Tahir Hussain to several other people, including activists of the Pinjra Tod students’ group, two of whose members have been arrested by the Delhi Police in the riots cases.
The lawyers of these activists have vehemently denied that they had played any role the violence, adding that the women participated in peaceful protests. However, the Delhi Police have arrested them several times, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The charge sheet claims that weapons, including firearms, stored in Tahir Hussain’s house were used by mobs to attack Hindus from his terrace and that he personally instigated the mobs by telling them that Hindus had killed several Muslims. In particular, the charge sheet cites the decision of Hussain on February 22 to take back from the police the licensed pistol that he had deposited with them in January. This was just days before the riots and, say the police, is clinching evidence that he was planning the violence.
The charge sheet claims Hussain was unable to account for missing cartridges from the 100 bullets that was issued to him along with the pistol under the licence.
“Witnesses have categorically stated that Tahir Hussain was present at the spot [of violence],” the document said. “He was leading the mob present at Chand Bagh Pulia [in North East Delhi] and kept on moving from Chand Bagh Pulia to his house.”
Murder of IB officer
According to the charge sheet, the Delhi Police have obtained CCTV footage from several cameras near the scene Ankit Sharma’s murder.
The Delhi Police obtained a piece of CCTV footage in which three persons were seen throwing the Sharma’s body into the stream near Chand Bagh Pulia. This video, the police stated, came from an unknown source.
However, the police seemed to have been unable to obtain video clips of the actual murder. Discussing Tahir Hussain’s role in the incident, the charge sheet claimed that the camera installed at a shop near the scene of crime was burnt by the rioters. In some other shops, the direction of the cameras were allegedly changed by the rioters to ensure there was no recording.
On one such camera, the police said: “The available footage in the hard disk for February 25 from the period between 3 pm and 8 pm was checked and it was found that the faces of the camera had been covered or turned down by the rioters/accused persons to restrict capture of the incidents.”
The Delhi Police has constructed the sequence of events based on the video showing the disposal of the body, certain call records in which the accused discuss the crime with friends and family and the statements of the accused.
Accused number two in the case is Haseen alias Mullaji alias Salman. According to the police, Salman has confessed to the crime. In the video showing three persons disposing the Sharma’s body in the stream, one is seen wearing a red shirt. The police claimed that this red shirt was recovered from Salman’s home, based on his own statement.
Curiously, the charge sheet states that Hussain had made several calls to the police control room on the afternoons of February 24 and 25.
Four calls from Hussain from near his house on February 24 between 2.50 pm and 6 pm were connected to the control room. The Delhi Police claimed that they could not reach the site immediately as large crowds had gathered on the Main Karwal Nagar Road leading to Chand Bagh Pulia, near Hussain’s home. When a police team finally reached the place “late in the night”, they found that homes and shops near Hussain’s home burn but his home was unscathed. Neither he nor his family members were injured, leading the police to conclude that Hussain was known to the rioters.
However, it is not clear why the police did not detain Hussain immediately. The Delhi Police claimed in the charge sheet that the calls to the control room by Hussain were deliberately made to “save his skin from legal complications in the future”.
On February 25, Hussain again made several calls from around Chand Bagh Pulia to the control room between 3.50 pm and 4.35 pm. It is not clear from the charge sheet how the police responded. Ankit Sharma, the police has claimed, was murdered by the accused at around 5 pm on February 25 using sharp and blunt objects that led to 51 injuries.
Hussain’s lawyer Javed Ali told Indian Express that there was “no connection between Hussain and the rioters which has been established by police. There are no call records to connect him with the rioters. Also, when the incident took place, he was not at the spot and was in fact rescued by the Delhi Police.”
Lawyer Abdul Gaffar, who is representing several other accused people in the case, told Scroll.in that there were several illegalities in the arrests and the investigation and the Delhi Police has tried to make connections where none exist.