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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Delhi riots: In statements of 38 ‘protected witnesses’, mirchi powder, WhatsApp and acid bottles

Of these, statements of 33 have been recorded under CrPC section 164, which makes them admissible in a court of law, as opposed to disclosure statements made under CrPC section 161.

Written by Somya Lakhani , Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: September 23, 2020 11:57:11 am
delhi riots, delhi riots probe, delhi riots media coverage, delhi riots zee news, delhi riots zee news source, delhi city newsPolice denied having leaked the disclosure statement. Archive

The Delhi Police Special Cell is relying on statements of 38 “protected” witnesses, whose names have been withheld in the Northeast Delhi riots chargesheet filed at Karkardooma court last week, to bolster its case that the riots were the final chapter of a larger conspiracy.

The statements are part of the “final report” in the chargesheet that spans over 17,000 pages and names 15 people as accused, including suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, Pinjra Tod’s Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and former DU student Gulfisha, among others.

Of these, statements of 33 have been recorded under CrPC section 164, which makes them admissible in a court of law, as opposed to disclosure statements made under CrPC section 161.

Criminal Lawyer Ashish Dixit explained, “Statements recorded under CrPC section 161 are recorded by police while those recorded under 164 are done so in front of a magistrate. It should be noted that statements under section 164 are admissible as evidence but courts also demand corroborative evidence to substantiate the allegations.”

To protect their identities, witnesses have been given pseudonyms such as Charlie, Kilo, Hotel, Romeo, Juliet, Silver, Platinum, Robert, Davis, Smith, among others.

Key disclosures made by the protected witnesses include:

* A witness claimed that on February 25, at the Indian Social Institute, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said “our mission is successful… by orchestrating riots, we have shown our strength to the central government”. The witness also claimed that those at the meeting, including filmmakers Rahul Roy and Saba Dewan, agreed to United Against Hate’s Nadeem Khan’s suggestion that “it’s very important that we put the blame of this violence on someone else… We should pressurise the Delhi CM to put the blame on the Delhi Police.” Yadav denied these allegations and said, “How does one respond to something so ludicrous, except to say that Delhi Police could have chosen better dialogues for my character in this comedy? They could have researched my Twitter and Facebook timeline. Or at least checked the resolution passed in this meeting. Or asked me once.”

On February 24, he said he requested Delhi Police for immediate intervention in Northeast Delhi, especially in Chand Bagh. He also made an appeal to residents to maintain peace. On February 25, he, along with 25 other activists, sent a letter to the Police Commissioner to “bring the (riots) situation under control and restore peace”.

*At least five protected witnesses have stated that the accused Gulfisha, a former DU student, allegedly told protesting women at Seelampur to bring “red chilli powder, sticks and bottles”. Two of these five witnesses claimed that in February, as anti-CAA protests were on, Gulfisha allegedly used code words such as ‘Eid par Nainital jaana hai’ which meant ‘road has to be blocked’, and ‘Aaj chaand raat hai’, which meant ‘the eve of roadblock’.

Gulfisha’s lawyer Mehmood Pracha denied the allegations and said: “Delhi Police has given these so-called witnesses two options — either agree with them to give these bogus statements or get arrested under UAPA without bail. We will take legal action against Delhi Police Special Cell and Crime Branch.”

* Person who figures in the list of 33 claimed to have sold “50 litre acid and 100 bottles” to Tahir Hussain 10 days before the riots. “He told me there is work going on in his house and terrace and he needs acid and bottles for that… I was paid Rs 8,000. When riots broke out, I saw bottles at the petrol pump, and I remembered that these were the same bottles I gave to Tahir Hussain,” claimed the witness. Hussain’s lawyer refused to comment.

* As per another witness, in a bid to “manage the protest at Shaheen Bagh”, JNU PhD scholar Sharjeel Imam and another person started a WhatsApp group called “Shaheen Bagh protest”, while filmmaker Rahul Roy “made Twitter handle Shaheen Bagh Official 1 for media publicity”. The Twitter handle, which had become the focal point for information about the Shaheen Bagh protests, was handled by two other individuals, the witness said. As per the witness statement, “when Supreme Court mediators came to Shaheen Bagh, Rahul Roy and (former JNU student) Umar Khalid, among others, told protesters not to end the protest”. Roy refused to comment.

*At least two protected witnesses have claimed in their statements that “Rahul Roy and certain other elements” on the WhatsApp group called DPSG (Delhi protest support group) “supported call for chakka jam”. As per the witness, Roy “disclosed his plan for chakka jam and said the protest has to turn confrontational eventually with forces, (but) confrontation should not be communal”. The witness claimed that on the WhatsApp group, the call for chakka jam and violence was opposed by two members.

*As per a witness, during an anti-CAA protest at Khureji on January 28 and 29, there was a meeting in which three men who were managing the site — Yogesh, Vishal and Sartaz — said “dharna is not enough, government won’t listen to us, we will have to do something else… whether we block roads for this or riot… we will ensure NCR and CAA are rolled back”. The witness said when the three men mentioned riots, “locals got angry and the three had to apologise… Locals told these three to not come for the protest”.

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