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Thursday, August 06, 2020

WhatsApp group with 125 members used to push hate, mobilise rioters in Northeast Delhi

Chargesheets show accused bragged about killing men, dumping their bodies in sewer; victims were made to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M , Mahender Singh Manral | New Delhi | Updated: July 4, 2020 4:58:38 am
delhi riots, northeast delhi riots, whatsapp group behind delhi riots, northeast delhi communal riots, Hindu muslim clash, pro anti caa protesters clash, jaffrabad, whatsapp group, hate speech,indian express A burnt vehicle after a clash between pro and anti-CAA protesters during the riots at Ghonda Chowk at Jafrabad area in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna/File)

A WhatsApp group with at least 125 members where members bragged about “killing Muslims” and “dumping their bodies in the sewer”, and offering manpower and guns when necessary, has been named in three chargesheets filed in connection with killing of three men during the riots in Northeast Delhi in February.

The chargesheets detail how the group, called ‘Kattar Hindut Ekta’, was used to mobilise and coordinate between rioters, and how armed men stopped passersby, asked them their name, address, ID proof and told them to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Police plan to use the WhatsApp conversations as “extrajudicial confessions”.

The nine men accused of murder and rioting in the three chargesheets are Lokesh Solanki (19), Pankaj Sharma (31), Ankit Chaudary (23), Prince (22), Jatin Sharma (19), Himanshu Thakur (19), Vivek Panchal (20), Rishab Chaudary (20) and Sumit Chaudhary (23).

Read | Delhi riots: 9 of 12 confession statements near copies of one another

While the chargesheets deal specifically with the murders of Aamin, Bhure Ali and Hamza, police say the members targeted others: “They (the accused) resolved to kill Muslims, whoever they came across. From February 25 afternoon to February 26 midnight, these murderers/accused persons, bludgeoned nine Muslim persons to death, whoever they come across or (if they) found someone, (and) injured several persons in Bhagirathi Vihar and other areas.”

Aamin was killed and thrown in a drain in Bhagirathi Vihar’s C-block around 9.30 pm on February 25, when he was coming from Brijpuri Puliya on foot. On February 26, around 10.30 am, Bhure Ali was killed and thrown at the same spot as Aamin. Hamza was murdered on February 26 around 9.15 pm, and thrown in a drain in E-block, while coming from Mustafabad.

“During investigation, it has been established that all the arrested accused persons along with other identified and yet to be identified accused persons were members of an unlawful armed mob, who, with a common object to take revenge of the death of Hindus during riots and to teach Muslims a lesson, had bludgeoned/stabbed many innocent persons, including Aamin, to death for no fault of theirs,” the chargesheet in his murder states. Identical statements have been recorded by police in the other two cases.

Police say 12 persons from the WhatsApp group have been “examined or joined” the investigation, and their mobile phones have been sent for forensic examination. “This ‘Kattar Hindut Ekta’ group was created on 25.02.2020 at 12.49 hrs. Initially there were 125 members… total 47 had exited the group by 08.03.2020,” the chargesheets state.

Lokesh Solanki, who is identified as “key accused”, had “deleted all messages and left this group. However, the police had also seized the mobile phone of one Deepak Singh” and confronted Lokesh with the chats, the chargesheets say.

“On interrogation, he (Lokesh) initially denied that he was a member of ‘Kattar Hindut Ekta’ group, but on sustained interrogation and when confronted with the chat of the group, he admitted that he was a member and admitted to his posts in group,” the chargesheet states.

Police have also shared messages allegedly posted on the WhatsApp group on the intervening night of February 26 and 27 by Lokesh. The first message, at 11.39 pm was: “Bhai, I am Lokesh Solanki from Ganga Vihar. If there is any problem or a shortage of people, let me know. I will come with the entire Ganga Vihar team. We have everything necessary — bullets, guns, everything.”

At 11.44 pm, he allegedly posted: “Around 9 pm, near B.Vihar, your brother has killed two Muslims and thrown them into the drain along with my team. Vinay, you know that your brother is always in the front in accomplishing this kind of a job.”

Half-an-hour later, at 12.15 am, he allegedly posted again: “I am awake the whole night. If there is anything, just remember me.”

Says the chargesheet, “Accused persons and their associates were seething with anger as many stories/news of Hindus being targeted/killed by Muslims were making the rounds. Further, as per the WhatsApp chat, they conspired to teach Muslims a lesson for attacking Hindus, and equipped themselves with lathis, dandas, sticks, swords, firearms, etc and started roaming in the area with a clear cut motive to vandalise/burn the properties and places of worships.”

Police say call detail records of the accused also show they “were continuously wandering” the riot-hit areas — Gokalpuri, Ganga Vihar, Johripur, Johripur Extension and Nala Road, Bhagirathi Vihar. “Their modus operandi was to catch people and ascertain their religion by asking name, address and by their document, that is identity card, and forcing them to call ‘Jai Shri Ram’ many times. Persons who were not calling ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and carrying a Muslim ID were bluntly attacked and thrown into the Main Ganda Nala, Bhagirathi Vihar”.

The chargesheet specifically names Pankaj and Prince for stopping “passersby and checking their identity to confirm whether they are from Muslim community”. Sumit, along with Ankit Chaudhary, was “leading the rioters and giving directions to check the identity” of people, the chargesheet states.

“As per the investigation conducted so far and analysis of CDR of accused persons, it was revealed that the mobile phones of accused persons were continuously connected with each other and were present on the spot, that is, the scene of crime,” the chargesheet states.

Talking about the WhatsApp conversations, the chargesheet says, “These confessions have been done voluntarily by a few of the accused persons and further the attention of the court is drawn towards the timings of these confessions, which are exactly at the time when the offenses were being committed.”

Calling the conversations “extra-judicial confessions”, the chargesheet adds, these “are further fortified by eyewitness accounts which fully establish the culpability of the accused persons. The circumstantial evidence collected during the investigation forms a chain of events. It is to further emphasise that these extra-judicial confessions were not extracted by the police officer but are fully voluntary.”

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