Cases during the farm protests that the Delhi Police posited, but now hang fire
Over these last 12 months, Delhi police came up with different theories that had connections with the farm protests, which they said were “unearthed” during “investigations”
The three farm laws against which farmers protested for over a year at the Delhi borders have been scrapped. The three border roads connecting Delhi with the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are open and the farmers have returned to their villages. For almost a year, Delhi police and the farmers stood on opposite sides on the three borders in Delhi, Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur, separated by iron barricades, nails, and barbed wires.
Over these last 12 months, Delhi police intermittently came up with different theories that had connections with the farm protests, which they said were “unearthed” during “investigations”.
Was there a premeditated conspiracy to storm the Red Fort complex on Republic Day and hoist religious flags? Was this alleged conspiracy planned abroad by members of pro-Khalistan separatist groups? Were the protests funded from abroad or was it a spontaneous one by farmers from the villages of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh?
To be sure, these allegations levelled by the Delhi police that they said were based on intelligence inputs and the questioning of protesters arrested during the year. The farmers have maintained that their protests were spontaneous and not influenced by anyone from the outside.
Even as the Delhi police have been severely criticised for attempting to ‘defame’ the farmer's movement the fate of these theories and allegations are now entirely uncertain. On December 7, four days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that the Centre would withdraw the three laws, the Home Ministry said that all cases filed against farmers would be withdrawn. This effectively has put the brakes on these allegations.
HT looks at controversial cases that the Delhi Police posited, but are now hanging fire, perhaps permanently.
Delhi police on February 13 arrested 21-year-old environmental activist, Disha Ravi and said that she was part of a Zoom Meeting with ‘separatist groups’ during which they prepared two ‘tool kits’ – “Global Farmer Strike and “Global Day of Action, January 26.” The tool kits allegedly contained the plan and details of the Republic Day protest, the Delhi Police said at the time. They wrote to Google seeking details such as the IP address and creator of the toolkit but have not received any reply. Police had arrested Disha Ravi under the stringent charges of sedition but the court granted her bail when the police failed to provide sufficient evidence against her in the case. The arrest brought the Delhi Police much criticism.
Singh, 21, a resident of Tarn Taran in Punjab was among the two people(the other was alleged gangster turned politician Lakha Sidhana) that the Delhi police could never arrest until both managed to secure bail from court months. Days before the Republic Day violence, a pro-Khalistan group had announced a reward of $350000 to anyone who would hoist a non-tricolour flag at the Red Fort, the Delhi Police had alleged. During the dramatic events on the day, 21-year-old Singh climbed the ramparts of the Red Fort and hoisted the flag of the Nishan Sahib on a pole. With Singh currently out on bail, and the government announced the withdrawal of all cases, this too will always remain an unanswered question for the capital's police.
To be sure, Singh argued vociferously that he did not hoist the flag of any separatist group. In his affidavit to the court, Singh said he only hoisted the Nishan Sahib on an empty flag pole. He informed the court that there was no national flag at the Red Fort that day so there was no question of disrespecting the national flag.
The call to Iqbal Singh
Delhi police had in May 2021 said they would probe a suspicious phone call that one of the accused identified as Iqbal Singh had received at the time when protesters were inside the Red Fort. Police accused Iqbal of being one of the primary instigators of the events of January 26, and arrested the 45-year-old on February 10. In their case papers, the Delhi police told the court that Singh ‘confessed’ he was promised money if he managed to get the Nishan Sahib hoisted at the Red Fort. However, Singh’s confession before the police is not admissible in court according to the law. Police have maintained that he received a phone call from Canada when he was inside the Red Fort.
The farmers have defended Singh since the day of his arrest and argued that most people from Punjab have relatives in Canada and that receiving a call from Canada is not a crime.
One of the most prominent and widely reported arrests during the farmers' protest was that of Punjab actor turned activist Deep Sidhu. Police arrested Sidhu on February 9 and alleged that he was a prominent face, a celebrity with thousands of followers who instigated protesters to not follow the pre-approved route of the Republic Day tractors rally and go to the Red Fort. Police have collected multiple videos, which they claim featured Sidhu instigating the protesters. Sidhu is currently out on bail. Sidhu in his statements has said that he left the Red Fort before violence broke out. He also told the court that he had shouted religious slogans but not inflammatory ones.
THE CASE – In the weeks before the 2021 Republic Day, farmers had announced they would hold a tractor rally inside Delhi to mark their protest against the three now-scrapped farm laws. The police initially did not allow the rally but after several meetings between the police, government representatives and farmers leaders, permission was granted subject to the farmers sticking to specific routes approved in the meetings. On January 26, at least 394 police personnel and 10 farmers were injured during the tractor rally where protesting farmers also deviated from the pre-approved route of the rally; clashed with police personnel at different places in the city when police stopped them from entering parts of Central and New Delhi. That afternoon hundreds of protesters also entered Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag at the ASI protected structure.