Naveen Dalal, the man accused of attacking JNU PhD scholar Umar Khalid outside Constitution Club last week, was arrested in 2014 for being part of a 40-man mob that had entered the BJP’s office at Ashoka Road with a severed cow head, police said.
Dalal and Darwesh Shahpur, who had released a video claiming responsibility for the attack on Umar, were arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday. In the video, they had promised to surrender at the residence of Sikh revolutionary Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha in Sarabha village of Ludhiana on Friday, but did not turn up. They had said the attack on Khalid was an Independence Day gift for the nation.
After questioning them during the day, police said the two, who are associated with a gau raksha outfit, were “trying to gain popularity”.
Read | Attack on Umar Khalid: Delhi Police detain duo who claimed responsibility
Even in 2014, Dalal was part of a mob led by cow protection activist Gopal Das, who was seeking stringent laws on cow slaughter. Additional DCP (special cell) Manishi Chandra confirmed Dalal’s arrest in 2014 and said an FIR was registered against him at Parliament Street police station. “The case is still pending in a Delhi court,” he said. On Monday, “both accused were arrested from Hisar’s Fatehabad district”.
According to police, when Dalal attacked Khalid on August 13, Shahpur was standing at a tea stall nearby. Both fled separately and later met in Jhajjar, said police. While Dalal is a resident of Mandothi village in Jhajjar, Shahpur is the resident of Jind.
Police questioned them at length, and discovered that both were active on social media and wanted to “do something impactful”. It was on Facebook that Shahpur saw a post about the event, Khauf se Azadi: Towards Freedom without Fear, being organised at Constitution Club. Khalid was in the audience at the event.
They thought disrupting the event would grab maximum eyeballs, police said. The two claimed the pistol was not to attack Khalid but for their own safety. “The pistol belongs to Shahpur; he had borrowed it from a man who is now dead. During the incident, Dalal was carrying the pistol,” said an officer.
Police said the two talked on phone and met at Nangli Dairy near Najafgarh before reaching Constitution Club in a bus. As the event was yet to start, they stood outside to have tea. In the meantime, they saw Khalid with friends and Dalal attacked him. Police are verifying whether or not they came prepared to attack Khalid.
Dalal first hid at Akashwani Bhawan before hiring at autorickshaw and reaching India Gate. He then took the Metro from Central Secretariat and reached Dwarka Mor Metro station. From there, he boarded a bus and went to Bahadurgarh before going to hide in Hisar. Police said both were hiding at residences of their associates.
Khalid, meanwhile, said: “Even though these two have been arrested, I hope the investigation will unearth if there were others behind this conspiracy. We have seen in previous cases how right-wing groups have been involved in murders. That angle must be probed. Those who said this was a staged attack should now apologise to me.”
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