Senior Delhi Police officers have said they would file a conspiracy chargesheet in the northeast Delhi riots of February 2020. They identified blocking of traffic by anti-CAA protesters as “the first indicator that there was a conspiracy due to which it all started”.
The police investigation along with the arrest of former JNU student Umar Khalid under the tough provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) has invited flak from as many as nine retired IPS officers and others.
Retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, who was former Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and Punjab, and former Indian Ambassador to Romania, had written to Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava, has questioned the probe. On Monday, nine more retired officers wrote an open letter to Shrivastava requesting re-investigation of all riot cases. The signatories of the letter included former Director General National Crime Records Bureau Shafi Alam and former Special Director CBI K Saleem Ali.
“As citizens deeply committed to constitutional values, we condemn the arrest of Umar Khalid who has been subjected to a malicious investigation targeting peaceful anti-CAA protesters… With deep anguish, we have no doubt in saying that this investigation is not about the violence in the national capital, but on the completely peaceful and democratic protests across the country against the unconstitutional CAA,” said a statement by 36 signatories, including Syeda Hameed, Arundhati Roy, Ramachandra Guha, T M Krishna, Brinda Karat, Jignesh Mevani, P Sainath, Prashant Bhushan and Harsh Mander.
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At a webinar organised by the Delhi Police Gazetted Officers Association, which was also attended by Commissioner Shrivastava, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Pramod Singh Kushwaha was quoted as saying they had not found any proof yet of the involvement of pro-CAA-NRC protesters.
Kushwaha said, “When we started investigating the Delhi riots, we first saw all the sites and found a common pattern that traffic jam was started at all the sites simultaneously. It was the first indicator that there was a conspiracy due to which it all started.”
Questions have persisted over the lack of action against BJP leader Kapil Mishra over his alleged inflammatory speech a day before the riots in the area. “A narrative is being created that pro-CAA/NRC people were involved in it, but it has not come into the investigation yet,” a police officer was quoted as saying.
The Delhi Police on Monday got 10-day custody of Khalid. The police’s Special Cell also questioned filmmakers Rahul Roy and Saba Dewan on Monday for around eight hours and has told them to join the investigation into the riots.
Commenting on the criticism over Khalid’s arrest and the Delhi Police investigation, Shrivastava said at the webinar, “As we are approaching the final end of this investigation, and as you know Khalid was arrested, so there is more sort of cry especially on social media, print media and also today the TV channels… (They) are trying to take away the sheen from the investigation. You know that people whom we investigate, many have very good social media presence.”
Shrivastava said the Delhi Police would file a chargesheet by Thursday in connection with the conspiracy case in the riots. Kushwaha reportedly said they had identified 25 protest sites, most of them in trans-Yamuna area, and that people who were part of it came from outside, and were not locals.
“People kept on going to the protest sites again and again and they talked about the CAA-NRC so that more and more people would come there and it would look like a CAA-NRC protest was going on.
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Seeking Khalid’s custody for 10 days, the Delhi Police told Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat on Monday that they wanted to confront him with documents running into 11 lakh pages.
Trideep Pais, who appeared on behalf of Khalid, said police have stated no specific reason for the remand. He pointed out that Khalid had been questioned for five hours on July 31, and around 12 hours on Sunday before his arrest.