Alpha, Beta, Bond key to police’s riots probe
The witnesses have recorded their statements before a judge under Code of Criminal Procedure 164, which is admissible evidence during a trial.Updated: Sep 23, 2020, 00:22 IST
Alpha, Beta, Silver, Gold, James and Bond. These are just some of the witnesses, placed under protective custody and referred to by their pseudonyms, who will be the key to the Delhi Police proving that February riots were part of a “planned conspiracy” by some anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act activists and timed with US President Donald Trump’s India visit.
In a charge sheet submitted to a city court on September 16, police have attached the statements of at least 100 “insiders” or “eyewitnesses” (referred to by aliases) who have given statements claiming to have seen some of those arrested -- local leaders Tahir Hussain and Ishrat Jahan, former JNU student Umar Khalid, activist Gulfisha Khatoon, and Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana -- planning the violence.
The witnesses have recorded their statements before a judge under Code of Criminal Procedure 164, which is admissible evidence during a trial. However, the veracity of their statements will be tested during the trial, and some experts contend that the police’s reliance on protected witnesses is a contravention of investigative procedure.
Delhi Police have maintained that some anti-CAA protest leaders, such as Umar Khalid, along with others such as Hussain, Jahan and other activists, planned the protests, mobilised people by blocking roads, and brought different groups together to incite people against the government.
They have all denied any wrongdoing.
As evidence of the role of those arrested, one protected witness, referred to by the pseudonym Lambda, has detailed the alleged role played by former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain before a judge. Lambda has claimed to be an eyewitness to the preparations that Hussain made before the riots. His statement before a judge reads, “…I have known Tahir Hussain for more than a year. Before the riots, I had seen many cars entering his house. I would regularly see him buying bottles from scrap dealers. I have seen people taking acid inside. While the person carrying an acid bottle was coming out, I saw him dropping a bottle. There were fumes emanating, so I asked the person what it was. He said it was an acid. After that I saw that person a couple of times... He has five-six cars. I think he had three drivers. I have seen them carrying petrol tanks inside his factory.”
Lamda has then claimed to have seen the former councillor leading a group and distributing money to his supporters while asking them to pelt stones.
Delhi Police in their case papers claim to have recovered stones, acid bottles, and Molotov cocktails from the terrace of his building. Hussain has repeatedly denied his role in the violence and said he is a victim of a political conspiracy.
The police charge sheet has the statement of another witness, who has been given the name Bond. In the statement before a judge on April 5, Bond said, “Umar Khalid said that at the right time, they will also start ‘Chakka Jam’ in Muslim areas of Delhi. Khalid said to the protesters that the government is a Hindu government and against Muslims so we have to overthrow the government.”
Claiming to be an insider, Bond has described a meeting on December 16, 2019, in which he said that the group deliberately made women and children sit in the protest sites to ensure that police could not act.
Last week, Khalid’s counsel Trideep Pais had told a court that while Khalid was against CAA, and was not ashamed of it, he was not involved in the riots. He also said the police were yet to give any evidence linking Khalid, who was not even in Delhi during the riots, with the incident.
There is another witness -- the police call him Beta -- who has claimed to be an insider who joined the anti-CAA protests after watching videos of protesters burning buses near Jamia Millia Islamia last December. The witness told a judge on April 5 that they joined the protester because of sentimental reasons after watching buses burn. Beta has detailed several meetings that they were a part of since December and how protesters from groups such as Jamia Coordination Committee, Pinjra Tod and Bhim Army came together and conspired to protest.
All of the groups have denied any role in the violence.
Detailing a provocative speech on February 23 at Jafrabad Metro station (the first incident of violence) by Ishrat Jahan, a former Congress party councillor, Beta said, “ …Ishrat Jahan was there. She gave provocative speeches. She said we will finish the government. The stone pelting and riots happened soon after this. I was also beaten during the violence by a mob… After watching everything I realised that all this was part of the plan.”
Senior advocate Mahmood Pracha, who has also been named in the disclosure statement of many arrested persons but was not arrested or charged, said: “Police have misused the law related to the use of protected witness. This is a bogus charge sheet. This evidence in this charge sheet has more diminished value than the behaviour of the police. Delhi Police are behaving like criminals in the investigation of the riots. Let me tell you that these witnesses are ghost witnesses. Police are not acting like a neutral agency while probing the case. All these witnesses are 100% fake. The CRPC 164 statements of such witnesses will not pass the litmus test of evidence during trial.”
Pracha also said that while the protected witnesses may have given statement before a judge, they will again have to pass the litmus test of a judge during trial. “The evidence that police has come up has zero value right now.”
The Delhi Police has not responded to request for comment.