Two weeks after the vandalism at Red Fort on Republic Day, the Delhi Police Special Cell arrested Punjabi actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, named as one of the key conspirators in an FIR related to the incident, from Karnal in Haryana.
Arrested Monday night by personnel of the Special Cell southwestern range, 41-year-old Sandeep Singh Sidhu alias Deep Sidhu was sent to police custody for seven days by a Tis Hazari court in Delhi though police had sought his custody for 10 days.
Police sources said a woman, who is a leading actor in Punjabi films, may be called for questioning since their investigation showed that he had called her for help and had used her mobile phone to get in touch with friends.
In the police remand application, the investigation officer stated: “The accused on January 26 instigated and provoked the rioters’ mob at Red Fort. It is submitted that several policemen and civilians were injured during the incident that took place on January 26. The accused is one of the key conspirators, who was responsible for instigating the rioters. The accused allegedly covered the incident live on his Facebook account.”
“The police custody remand of the accused is imperative for recovering the mobile phones, laptop, etc used by the accused for uploading provocative videos. The co-accused and co-conspirators are also to be apprehended. The accused has been putting up at different addresses located in Mumbai, Punjab and Haryana. The police custody of the accused is required for unearthing a larger conspiracy,” the remand application stated.
His arrest came days after a reward of Rs 1 lakh was announced for information on his whereabouts.
Police said Sidhu was found instigating the crowd during the tractor rally, organised by farmer unions opposed to the new agriculture laws, and the violence at Red Fort.
In a tweet, the Special Cell said Sidhu was “a prominent player behind Republic Day violence” and had been “instigating youngsters with his provocative speeches and stardom even when he was hiding from the law”.
Police said Sidhu and Lakhbir Singh Sidhana alias Lakha Sidhana, a gangster-turned-politician and president of the Malwa Youth Federation, went underground after an FIR was registered against them over the Red Fort incident.
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“Hours after the vandalism at Red Fort, Sidhu went to Sonepat where he stayed in a motel and also switched off his mobile phone. He was travelling in a car and his friends… were providing all logistic support to him. Initial investigation has also revealed that he was constantly in touch with a woman friend who lives in California. He made several videos from his friend’s phone during the time he was absconding and sent those to her. She would upload the videos, from California, on his Facebook account,” a police source said.
Sidhu told police that he had been hiding in different motels after changing his identity and also obtained a new phone number with the help of his friend, the source said.
Police personnel, the source said, had conducted searches for Sidhu in Mumbai, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, but he had been evading arrest.
A senior police officer said: “A few days ago, in one such raid, police detained one of his associates from Bihar, who provided vital clues about him. A trap was laid on Monday evening and police detained Sidhu when he came to meet his friend on the Karnal bypass.”
“He was constantly changing his location. Five days ago, he was in Punjab, later his location was at Singhu border. Even his friends were hesitant to provide any shelter to him after a reward was announced. For the last five days, he had been wearing the same set of clothes and had not been in touch with any of his friends,” the officer said.
Following his arrest, Sidhu was produced by police before Metropolitan Magistrate Prigya Gupta. Police told the court that Sidhu was “the main rioter and instigator”, and that protestors were seen in a video with “swords, sticks and flags during the violence on January 26”.
Sidhu “provoked people and gave speeches with a loud hailer thus inciting violence,” police told the court. He also “congratulated the person who hoisted the flag at Red Fort and also did a Facebook Live from the spot”.
Police sought his custody for 10 days stating that “his social media accounts have to be searched”. Police said his permanent address was in Nagpur and they had to visit Punjab and Haryana to “ascertain his links”.
Police told the court that Sidhu’s supporters were the first to break through the police barricades and his custody was required to ascertain their identities.
Police said “140 policemen were injured and the protestors breached the security and deviated from the actual route which was assigned for the Tractors’ Rally during Republic Day”.
Sidhu’s lawyers told the court that such a long police remand was not required. “He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The police have all the evidence that they need, there is nothing more that is required,” they said.
Till date, more than 40 FIRs have been registered and 127 people arrested in connection with the Republic Day incidents.
Sidhu and his brother, Mandeep Singh, were among those summoned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month in connection with a case filed against Sikhs For Justice, a US-based secessionist group. Sidhu had campaigned for BJP’s Sunny Deol in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
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