The many similarities between probes into the Delhi riots, R-Day violence
As part of its case that the violence that erupted during the tractor rally by protesting farmers on Republic Day was a “pre-planned conspiracy” and not a spontaneous outburst, Delhi Police’s special cell has started probing the role played by many farmers’ leaders in the agitation against three laws passed in September to open up agriculture..
Some facets such as the line of investigation, motive, the officers leading it, and the circumstances leading to the violence are strikingly similar to the probe the police launched after the Delhi riots in February 2020.
At least 53 persons died, 627 were injured in the violence that started as clashes between protestors against and for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and took a communal turn.
With the Delhi riots investigation almost complete -- the police have filed charge sheets in all the cases and the cases are in court -- the officers and the units probing the 38 cases connected to Tuesday’s violence are also the same.
Deputy commissioners of police from the crime branch and special cell – Joy Tirkey and Pramod Kuswah – who had led the riots probe are investigating Tuesday’s violence too.
In the Delhi riots, 698 cases of rioting and violence were probed by local police, the crime branch probed 57 cases (all 53 murders and a few cases of heinous rioting) and the special cell investigated one case of an alleged conspiracy behind the violence.
In the Delhi Republic Day violence, of the 38 cases, 28 are of rioting and vandalism, which are being probed by the local police; ten cases in which the most violence took place, such as the incidents in Red Fort and the Income Tax Office area, are with the crime branch, and the one case of the alleged conspiracy is with the special cell.
In both the special cell cases of the riots and Tuesday’s violence, the cases have been registered under stringent sections of the sedition law and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention_ Act).
There is another similarity. In the Delhi riots case, the accused were some prominent Anti-CAA protesters who were on the streets in the weeks leading to the riots. In the riots charge sheets, police linked the role of the accused right from December 2019, when the citizenship law was passed.
In Tuesday’s violence, the police are probing the role of prominent faces of the farmers’ protest – leaders such as Darshan Lal, Rakesh Tikait and Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu -- from September, when the three farm laws were passed by Parliament.
The motive behind the pre-planned violence, according to a Delhi police statement on Thursday, was also similar to what police had said was the one for the Delhi riots.
In the statement, the police said its preliminary assessment suggested that there was a “pre-conceived and well-coordinated plan” to engage in violence and “create an international embarrassment for the government on the occasion of Republic Day.”
Similarly, police in their charge sheets filed in the riots cases said that the violence in northeast Delhi in February 2020 had been planned to coincide with then US President Donald Trump’s official visit to India to create an international embarrassment for India and defame the country.
Arrested suspects such as former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid and student activist Devangana Kalita, currently in jail, have denied the allegations.
On Friday afternoon, Delhi police issued a public notice asking journalists and citizens to come forward and submit statements or videos of the Republic Day violence. It was similar to the notice the police issued in the aftermath of the February 2020 riots.
Police had on March 11 issued a similar notice seeking videos of the riots, apart from many other types of evidence such as statements of protected witnesses and WhatsApp chat records.
A Delhi police officer, privy to the investigation of the Republic Day violence. said on condition of anonymity: “Like the CAA protests, the mobilization at the anti-CAA protest sites happened over WhatsApp messages. Provocative statements were made at those sites after which the riots happened. In the farmers’ protest too, we have many people who heard the farmer leaders making such statements. In the riots cases, many protected witnesses had heard the accused persons making such provocative speeches. Such witnesses will be an important part of the investigation.”
Delhi police commissioner SN Shrivastava had on Wednesday evening said that a night before the violence, police had an inkling that “aggressive and militant people” were taking control of the stage at the protest sites and giving provocative speeches. The top cop did not specify how police had the inkling or who had witnessed or heard the provocative speeches.
A second Delhi police officer, not directly connected with the investigation of the violence, said: “Boss (Commissioner) did not specify who had heard or seen those leaders. Maybe it could be the police personnel at the protest sites, insiders from the intelligence wing, or insiders who work for the police and help pass on information. If police manage to get such witnesses, get their statements recorded before a judge, then it is crucial evidence in this case too.”
Last week, the farmers’ leaders had caught a man and accused him of being a mole planted by the Haryana police.
There is a coincidence too.
On Friday afternoon, when a clash between two groups of protesters -- farmers and those protesting against the farmers -- led to stone-throwing and clashes -- many residents of villages around the Singhu border said they were reminded of the evening before the Delhi 2020 riots, when two groups of protesters -- one supporting the Citizenship law and those against it -- had clashed below the Jafrabad metro station. This clash was the start of Delhi riots.