On February 25, 11.21 pm, a person who identified himself Lokesh Solanki allegedly typed out a message on a WhatsApp group: “The whole of last night, I roamed around Bhagirathi Vihar, Ganga Vihar, Gokul Puri, Johripur. And smashed open the heads of 23 mullahs.”

The areas listed were epicentres of the communal violence that engulfed North East Delhi between February 24 and 26. The message appears in transcripts submitted by Delhi Police as part of a chargesheet filed in court on June 4.

The police claim these transcripts are verbatim records of the conversations in two WhatsApp groups called “Kattar Hindut Ekta” (extremist Hindu unity) and “Hindu Ekta Group” (Hindu unity) both created on February 25 and used by a group of Hindu men to coordinate attacks on Muslims.

The chargesheet has been filed in connection with first information report number 37/2020 registered at Gokulpuri police station on February 27. The FIR relates to the murder of Aamir Khan, 30, a resident of Mustafabad.

The police claim he is one of at least nine Muslim men waylaid and murdered by a mob near Bhagirathi Vihar over three days. Eleven men have been charged in the case. Nine have been arrested. Lokesh Solanki, 19, is one of them.

In the transcripts, Solanki appears to use his alleged murder spree boast as a recruitment tool to get more rioters. “The amount of time you waste in bakchodi (idle talk), you could have spent that helping your brothers who are outside,” he purportedly wrote.

In the chargesheet, the police make the case that the conversations in this WhatsApp group constitute extrajudicial confessions. Solanki’s father, Yogendra Kumar, dismissed the allegations against his son.

Scroll.in cannot independently establish the veracity of these transcripts – or, for that matter, the existence of this WhatsApp group. Delhi Police will have to establish this in court.

If accurate, the transcripts suggest a granular, real time view of a communal riot. In the messages, rioters discuss battle tactics and logistics – where to assemble, calls for assistance, sources for weapons and ammunition.

But the transcripts also show larger currents: rioters repeatedly refer to members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal as playing a highly impactful role in the violence. Also mentioned are evergreen Hindutva tropes: Muslim population growth, economically boycotting of Muslims and the 2002 Gujarat pogrom – the scaffolding that helps justify terrible violence against people the rioters don’t even know.

Men ride a motorcycle past security forces patrolling a street in a riot-affected area in Northeast Delhi. Credit: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Planning violence

A communal riot is often seen as a spontaneous eruption. But the purported WhatsApp exchanges of the alleged rioters suggest the violence was minutely planned.

As per the transcripts submitted by the police, members of the Kattar Hindut Ekta group were furiously sending messages on the morning of February 25 – with violence raging outside. In colloquial, ungrammatical Hindi, the messages exhorted members to be ready and assemble at a particular spot. Scroll.in has reproduced the messages as they appear in the transcripts.

“Bhai tikone pe ajao,” said one member at 9.05 am on February 25. When other members enquired about which junction he meant, another member responded at 9.11 am to say, “Bhagrati vihar or joharipur ke bich me padta he jao bahot badi hindu ekta ho rhi he sare aa jao”. The one between Bhagirathi Vihar and Joharipur, there are many Hindus uniting, everyone come.

In the evening, one member’s message indicated that coordination had picked up pace. “Bhaiyo aaj pkka seen hoga,” said one group member at 6.36 pm. Brothers, today there will surely be action.

Another member messaged at 6.59 pm to say that electricity had been cut in Bhagirathi Vihar and asked other members to be “ready”.

“Andhera h bhai sb hindu bhai tayar h,” said the member at 7.08 pm. It is dark, all Hindu brothers need to be ready. “Flash jalakr,” came the member’s next message. With your flashlight.

Later, a member asked “sare kattar hindu bhai” or “all extremist Hindu brothers” to make sure stones reached the terrace. (The exact location of this is unclear in the transcript.)

Six minutes past midnight, a member messaged to ask others to gather at the drain next to lane number 11. It is unclear which neighbourhood the user is referring to.

Coordinating raids

At 2.17 am on February 26, a user cautions other members to only chant “Har Har Mahadev!” in order to better identify Muslims. “Jay shri Ram mulle bol rhe h”. The Muslims are chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ he said, presumably pointing to Muslims shouting the Hindu religious slogan as a safety measure.

The coordination among group members, as per the transcripts, continued throughout February 26 as well, the transcripts show. In the morning on that day, a user asked all members to be ready to attack a mosque, Fatima Masjid: “Bhai suno aaj sare Bhai taiyaar rho aaj shaam ko fatima maszid pr hamla krna hai,” the user said at 9.45 am.

Fatima Masjid was one of the 14 mosques and a dargah desecrated during the violence.

The Fatimi masjid. Credit: Anjali Mody

Collecting arms and ammunition

The Delhi communal violence was arguably the first instance of the guns being widely used in a religious riot in India. Messages on the Kattar Hindut Ekta group indicate that rioters had access to firearms and were using them as part of the violence, the transcripts show.

At 11.39 pm, February 26, Lokesh Solanki told the group that he was ready with a team as well as firearms and ammunition in case anyone needed assistance.

“Bhai Mai Ganga Vihar se lokesh Solanki hu agr kisi ko koi problem ho or wha log Kam pde to bta dena Mai apni Puri Ganga Vijar ki team k sath aayunga Sara Saman hai humare pass goli bandook sab kuch,” the user said, according to the transcripts. “Brother, I am Lokesh Solanki from Ganga Vihar. If anyone has any problem or falls short of men then please let me know I will come with my Ganga Vihar team. We have all the stuff like bullets, guns, everything.”

Other users then inquired if Solanki had bullets for a .315 rifle. Solanki said he had a pistol, and another user responded to ask if he had some spare.

Police role

Even as rioters used the WhatsApp group for better planning and coordination, there was also awareness that the creation of records could act as evidence.

According to the transcripts of another WhatsApp group called “Hindu Ekta Group” submitted as part of the same chargesheet, one user sent a message on February 27 at 10.30 pm, to help rioters evade the law: “There is a video of a boy burning the Bhajanpura mazar, please delete it from your phones and spread this message on all the groups so that boy’s life is saved.”

Remarkably, a user responded to this message to say that police had advised them to cover their tracks and delete videos. “Right now policemen came to my lane and asked us not to keep any such video on our phones,” said the user on February 27 at 10.38 pm, according to the transcripts.

This raises questions about the police’s actions during the violence. Conversations between rioters on the groups shows that they consider the Delhi Police as an ally, rather than a force they should be fearful of.

“Brothers, please don’t come out. The police is now here to f**k their a***s,” one user said on February 25, 9:15 pm, on the Kattar Hindut Ekta group.

Another user, however, disagreed that the Hindu mob required any assistance from the police. “We don’t need the police. There are enough Hindu brothers to f**k their mothers.”

On March 3, one user on the “Hindu Ekta Group” referred to the security forces as “fojji bhai”. Our brothers in the force. “We must take care of their meals. Since they are only eating at the houses of the Hindus.”

A Muslim man on February 24. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The Sangh Parivar

The police aren’t the only organisation the members of the groups look upon as allies – there are also numerous mentions of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal.

On February 26, one user in the Kattar Hindut Ekta group sends out an emergency messages fearing an attack from a Muslim mob. “Bothers the situation is grim here,” one user WhatsApps in fear (messages later point out the Muslim mob was simply a rumour). “Please, if anyone knows any Bajrang Dal person, call him.”

The Bajrang Dal is part of the Sangh Parivar, the larger family of organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

A chilling message on Kattar Hindut Ekta on February 25, 8 pm announces, “Brothers, RSS members have come to our support in Beijpuri [Brijpuri] and killed nine Muslims.”

On March 3, with the violence subsiding, one user sent in a recruitment forward to Hindu Ekta underscoring the importance of organisations to supposedly spontaneous communal violence: “Hindus, support and join the RSS, VHP, Bajrang, Hindu Sena. When Hindus are in trouble, these will be the first people to fight for you.”

Political scientist Paul R Brass has argued that Hindu-Muslim violence in India is rarely spontaneous and in fact takes place as part of an “institutionalised riot system” in which “the organisations of militant Hindu nationalism are deeply implicated”. These purported real-time conversations during the Delhi violence point to exactly how this works on the ground.

From Mishra to Modi

The frequent mentions of the police and Hindu nationalist organisations illustrate that the riot is a unique crime in India since, unlike an ordinary murder or robbery, it has wider social sanction. The particular social and political outlook of the rioter means that the violence he is committing is not a wrongdoing for him per se – but something done on behalf of his community.

What was this politics in the case of the 2020 Delhi riot? The transcripts of the purported WhatsApp groups submitted by the Delhi Police in court allow us direct insight into the outlook of a rioter.

As Scroll.in has reported, the most prominent political personality for the rioter was Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra.

On February 23, Mishra issued a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi Police, with deputy commissioner of police Ved Prakash Surya standing by his side in North East Delhi: if the police did not clear out the protestors against the Citizenship Act, Mishra would take the law in his hands.

Violence began on the very same night of Mishra’s threats.

Rather than see Mishra as the cause for the violence, most members of the Kattar Hindut Ekta WhatsApp group admired him. “He was actually standing next to the police and requesting people to move,” one user messaged in to say, defending his speech.

Another was clear than the people protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act and proposed National Register of Citizens were actually to blame and Mishra’s threat was only a reaction. One user on the Hindu Ekta group empathised with Mishra, calling him a “bali ka bakra” – a scapegoat.

Mishra is the most popular politician on the rioters WhatsApp groups – but he isn’t the only one.

One forwarded message on Kattar Hindut Ekta on Febraury 25 creates a scenario where a Muslim asks Modi to remove the police force for 10 to 15 minutes after which “not one Hindu will be left”.

The answer sees the Delhi rioters make a direct connection with the violence around them to the 2002 Gujarat pogrom: “Well, I had removed them in Gujarat, no, for 7-8 minutes. And then you people were brought down to 10%.”

The other side of this affinity with the BJP means a bitter dislike for the Aam Aadmi Party: the saffron party’s principal rival in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party is presented as a party controlled by Muslims – which Hindus voted for driven by narrow utilitarian reasons.

“Brothers, even some Hindus voted for the AAP driven by greed – they didn’t know that AAP will be licking the arses of these bhos****e mullahs,” one user messaged on the afternoon of the 25th to Kattar Hindut Ekta. “Free electricity and water for these sisterf******s.”

BJP leader Kapil Mishra. Credit: Screengrab via Twitter

Hindutva ideologues

Most remarkably, however, the purported chat transcripts show how ideologically clued into Hindutva the Delhi rioters were. As members discuss the minutes of the riot, the conversation weaves out into much larger political questions.

On February 25, with the violence raging outside in North East Delhi, one user messaged in to Kattar Hindut Ekta with a plan to boycott Muslims economically – a common Hindu nationalist message found on social media. “I love my country, that is why I will take steps towards an economic boycott,” the message concludes after affirming that goods and services should only be purchased from fellow Hindus.

Later, as participants discuss the installation of gates for safety, another sends a message on Kattar Hindut Ekta that discusses one of the oldest Hindu nationalist tropes: Muslim population increase. Once the Indian Muslim population becomes 300 crore, it predicts (it is 17 crore now), “the same thing will happen what happened to the Kashmiri Pandits”. The conclusion: “CAA, NRC, NPR is necessary”.

A riot is often a key catalyst in building a larger Hindu nationalist identity over and above narrow caste affiliations. As far back as 1935, BR Ambedkar had argued, “A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot.” The purported message records of the rioters offer a glimpse into this. On February 25, close to midnight, in between calls to attack Muslims, one member sends out a plea on Kattar Hindut Ekta to dissolve caste boundaries in favour of a purely Hindu identity:

"Listen brothers. Hindus need to become one. No caste and no jati. We are only hindus – that's it."

Taking pride in violence

The social sanction awarded to a riot means that there are chilling instances of members admitting to – and even boasting about violence against Muslims.

Apart from his claim on February 25 of murdering 23 Muslims, Solanki on February 26 writes in to Kattar Hindut Ekta say that he had killed two Muslims at Bhagirathi Vihar around 9 pm and thrown their bodies in a drain.

The transcripts also contain sexually inappropriate remarks against Muslim women.

On February 25, one user, who features prominently throughout the conversations in the group, sent a message that said a mosque in lane number one had been set on fire. “Swaha ho ghi maszid,” said the user at 8.11 pm. “Swaha” is a term used to invoke Agni, the fire god, during Hindu fire rituals.

An hour or so later, the same user requests other members to take initiative to install an idol in the madarsa they had allegedly vandalised.

Also read

From planning murder to praising Modi: WhatsApp chats offer a window into the minds of Delhi rioters

‘#I-stand-with-Kapil-Mishra’: BJP leader features prominently in WhatsApp group of Delhi rioters

Scroll.in’s complete coverage of the Delhi violence can be read here.