Initial investigation by the Delhi Police Crime Branch has found that an audio clip mentioned in the police FIR against Markaz Nizamuddin head Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, which suggested he had asked Tablighi Jamaat members not to follow social distancing norms and prohibitory orders, may be “doctored” and stitched together using several audio files.
Police have now sent all the individual audio clips as well as the allegedly doctored clip to a forensic science laboratory.
Saad and six other people associated with the management committee of the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat outfit, had been booked by the Delhi Police on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section 304) for allegedly going ahead with a gathering of around 2,000 people at the mosque in the Capital’s Nizamuddin West in late March despite warnings from authorities.
The event has been linked to a number of Covid-19 cases across the country.
The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint by SHO (Hazrat Nizamuddin) Mukesh Walia, who alleged that “an audio recording purportedly by Maulana Mohd Saad was found in circulation on WhatsApp on March 21, in which the speaker was heard asking his followers to defy the lockdown and social distancing, and to attend the religious gathering of the Markaz”.
Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that police recovered a laptop from the Markaz member who put out their audio clips, and had gone through all. “After scanning them, police found there are over 350 audio clips in three forms — raw clips of Markaz events; audio clips sent to their followers; and ones uploaded on their YouTube channel,” a source said.
A team led by Inspector Satish Kumar, that has been trying to find the specific audio which went viral and was mentioned in the FIR, has so far recovered no such clip from the laptop. On the other hand, the investigators found that Saad’s comments on police and religion from other events had been taken out of context and doctored.
In the audio clip mentioned in the FIR, a man can be heard saying “there is no need for social distancing as it is not written about in our religion”. “The investigation team noticed that the viral audio is a mix of several clips, which have been edited and doctored. They heard all audio clips again and found that statements from around 20 had been used. Kumar informed his seniors about the development and was asked to send all clips as well as the viral audio to the FSL for further examination,” a source said.
Earlier, Special CP (Crime) Praveer Ranjan had said, “We have found an audio clip going viral on social media, and are now sending it to forensic experts. We are gathering evidence to substantiate that they went ahead with the event despite warnings by several agencies.” On Friday, he did not take calls or respond to messages.
Clarifications & corrections
Responding to the report in The Indian Express, ‘Tablighi FIR: Police probe indicates Saad audio clip was doctored’ (May 9), Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Mandeep S Randhawa called it “factually incorrect” and sent a rejoinder:
“The report has claimed that the Crime Branch investigation has found that the audio clip mentioned in the police FIR against Markaz Nizamuddin head Maulana Saad Kandhalvi in which he had asked Tablighi Jamaat members not to follow social distancing norms and prohibitory orders is doctored.
“The claims made by the reporter regarding the investigation are strongly rebutted. The news is not only factually incorrect but seems to be based on wholly unverified sources and purely conjectural imagination. The Delhi Police does not in any way stand by the story of the reporter.”
The Indian Express replies:
The report is based on conversations with sources and officials aware of the probe against Maulana Saad. Before publication, calls were made to Special CP (Crime) Praveer Ranjan Friday. Also, a message was sent to him seeking his comments on the key points made in the report. No response was received.
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