There are at least eight accusations in common between Delhi police first information reports/charge-sheets and a controversial book—backing the police version of events in the March riots—with 100 instances of misinformation. A close look at Delhi Riots 2020
Bangalore: There are at least eight instances of Delhi Police legal filings and its theory of conspiracy coinciding with the allegations and overall message of Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, according to a new report, which also lists nearly 100 instances of misinformation and false claims in the book.
Written by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, the 190-page book's main allegation of a criminal conspiracy between anti-CAA protestors and ‘Urban Naxals’/ ‘Jihadis’ behind the riots of February is now reflected in FIR 59/2020, the 17,000-page chargesheet of which was submitted to a Delhi court on 16 September.
The book categorises anyone with liberal leanings and those who opposes the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as “urban naxals”, all Muslims as “jihadi” and makes a series of false or unsubstantiated claims, said the report, called “Sifting Evidence, written by a collective of academics and activists, anchored by nonprofits Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Anhad and Muslim Women’s Forum.
The term “urban naxal” appears 45 times in the book, “jihadi” 42 times, and “urban-naxal-jihadi” 28 times. There are repeated references to “Left” (46), “ISIS” (24), “Syria” (13), “PFI” (17), the last referring to the Popular Front of India, a radical Muslim group.
The word “victim” appears 16 times.
The Delhi police alleged the riots that raged through northeastern neighbourhoods of India’s capital between 23 and 26 February 2020 were a “pre-planned conspiracy and centrally co-ordinated” by those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, to coincide with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India. The police said that no BJP leaders were involved in the communal riots, despite open incitement by its leaders
The police built up to the conspiracy theory with more than 200 chargesheets, such as the Jaffrabad chargesheet (FIR 50/2020), the Ratan Lal chargesheet (FIR 60/2020) and the Ankit Sharma chargesheet (FIR 65/2020). Dozens of anti-CAA activists were arrested on the basis of these FIRs, which abound in contradictions (here and here).
On 5 March, the Delhi Police Crime Branch filed a “conspiracy” case based solely on the information of a ‘special informant’ who claimed that the riots were a pre-planned conspiracy. Nearly a week later, on 11 March, a “Group of Intellectuals and Academicians”, of which the authors of the book are members, submitted a fact-finding report to the home ministry. This report is the basis for the book.
Yet, commonalities are evident between the book and Delhi police legal documents.
Book: Muslims were being radicalised in the course of the anti-CAA protests through hate speeches and fear-mongering which created a situation for public violence.
Ratan Lal Charge-Sheet (FIR 60/2020): “The mind set which emerges from this unprovoked high intensity violence clearly establishes that the lies and misinformation which were being peddled among the Muslim population for the last more than 40 days had made their impact and the situation had ripened for extreme violence.”
Book: The anti-CAA/NRC protests soon morphed into protests against the Hindus, the police, the government and the country.
Jaffrabad Charge-Sheet (FIR 50/2020): “...The sitting protestors were instigated from the stage by many people… who strongly spoke things anti-government and anti-religion, and explained CAA in false terms to fill poison in the hearts of people.”
Book: “...at Shaheen Bagh, women and children came on the forefront while the men made all the background preparations for rioting”. Muslim women leading from the front was the strategy and the police hesitate firing “as a majority of the rioters were women and children”.
Ratan Lal Charge-Sheet (FIR 60/2020): “The other well-planned strategy was to keep women and children in front so that police would be constrained to not take any coercive measure”... “As per conspiracy, women protestors were kept in front so police could not take any coercive action except for retreating and saving themselves”.
Book: “As the CAA became a law on 12 December 2019 after the approval of the president, voices against it started coming from many corners. Beginning 15 December 2019, anti-CAA protests began across campuses in the capital, from JMI to JNU and others. Before long, the protests appeared pan- India. Muslims were brought at the forefront as they were made to believe that it was a fight for their survival.”
Jaffrabad Charge-Sheet (FIR 50/2020): “After the CAA was passed on December 11, 2019, by the Indian Parliament and His Excellency The President, in a constitutional manner, people of one particular religious community (the Muslim community) in a well-organised manner, in different parts all over the country, slowly started protest demonstrations, where people were explained the provisions of this law in particular ways, to agitate the people of this particular religious community that this law is against them)”
Book: “The protests which began with photos of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B.R. Ambedkar and the unfurling of the Tricolour sadly ended with the Tricolour being used in making petrol bombs and torching shops and houses.”
Ratan Lal Charge-Sheet (FIR 60/2020): “Outwardly, the protest was being done innocuously for protection of Constitution and Constitutional values, the protestors could be seen waving the National flag and displaying pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Shaheed Bagar Singh and others. However, the truth about the protest and the protestors and its true intentions became clear as soon as the unprovoked violence was started by them.”
Book: The “constant stream of high decibel sloganeering” was a source of fear and anxiety for locals and caused daily disruptions. “The protest sites across the road were a daily inconvenience”.
Ankit Sharma chargesheet (FIR 65/2020): “The said illegal encroachments and illegal occupation of the areas for protest and their continued presence in the public streets, continuous sloganeering though (sic) mics/loudspeakers and large gatherings especially during late evening hours not only caused incalculable inconvenience to the commuters and residents but also created an extremely tense and polarised atmosphere in the area.”
Book: “Some locals, resenting the disturbance and road blockage, also started protesting near Maujpur Chowk.” Hindus mobilised on 23 February “primarily due to anxieties generated by the total blockage of Jaffrabad Metro Station by the Muslim women”.
Jaffrabad Charge-Sheet (FIR 50/2020): “The other community, inconvenienced by the road blocks, to get them opened came forward”.... “tired of the blockage, people of the other community on Feb 23, 2020 raised their voice against this dharma”
Book: The book accuses the conspirators of picking a time that coincided with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India in order to “internationalise the issue of Muslim unrest”, “attract international scrutiny” and “build a fake narrative against the current Indian government”.
Jaffrabad Charge-Sheet (FIR 50/2020): “on Feb 24/25/2020 the American President Donald Trump was visiting India and keeping that in mind these conspirators had planned to throw Delhi into the fire of riots and they planned it all. So that at the international level India’s image could be spoiled and the international media would make the CAA a big issue.”
Ratan Lal Charge-Sheet (FIR 60/2020): “The conspirators were well aware about the state visit of President of USA Mr Donald Trump to India and the intervening days were deliberately used to foster trouble with the intent to not only malign the nations (sic) image but also grab local and international media attention”.
Allegations Without Evidence
Without providing evidence, the book says “the violence … is a preplanned systematic conspiracy, complete urban warfare, the first episode of its kind in India, engineered by radical Muslims and Urban Maoists in tandem”. This is the book’s major argument, buttressed by a series of allegations without backing facts.
For example, the book claims that “PFI or ISI [the Inter-Services Intelligence, a Pakistani agency] might have provided the lists of targeted individuals as most of the targets of Islamic mobs snipers were individuals who either belonged to security forces—police, intelligence agencies or persons belonging to Hindu organisations”.
Of 53 people killed in the riots, 40, or 75%, were Muslim. The book blames Muslims, Muslim women, Muslim children and Muslim rioters, for the killings.
Like the book, the Delhi police, too, have been accused of a bias in favour of Hindus.
In an 8 July order, Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Praveer Ranjan, citing “intelligence inputs”, said arrests of “Hindu youth” from riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi had caused a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community” and cautioned senior officers leading the investigation to “suitably” guide its team members.
The Delhi High Court on 31 July called the order “mischievous”.
The book says conspirators—which it interchangeably refers to as urban-naxal or jihadi—placed skilled sharp-shooters, possibly trained in Syria or Egypt, on high rise buildings in northeast Delhi to kill by aiming for people’s head and necks. There is no such evidence, and the Delhi police have made no such allegation.
The book alleges, again with no evidence, that “conspirators also trained women to hide swords under their burqas” and that Muslim women attacked the police officers “with stones, knives and swords hidden beneath their burkhas”. The police wanted to be “extra careful”, “very cautious” and “tried all possible ways to dispel the protesting anti-CAA crowd without resorting to force or aggression”, says the book. “The killer mob appeared to be bent on lynching police officers” who were “rescued” by Hindus.
The Delhi police, according to the authors, “had no choice but to crush this Islamist-Naxal conspiracy, which is also taking root in our most reputed universities”. Without evidence, it suggests how “these sanctuaries of education turned into theatres of secession.”
The book claims that there is “empirical data” available about the role of (urban-naxal-jihadi) organisations in the riots” but does not cite any such data. It suggests more research to prove this hypothesis and understand the “networks that operated from front organisations in public universities and institutions of repute in Delhi”.
Checking The Book’s ‘Facts’
“Pandit Nehru, who famously said, ‘By education I am an English man, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and Hindu only by accident of birth,” says the foreword of the book, written by P C Dogra, a former director general of police.
Nehru, India’s first prime minister, never said this, as this AltNews reported in November 2018.
The book is replete with fake news and misinformation, with nearly 100 such assertions without evidence.
In its foreword, it says: “Professor Nandini Sundar, a well known protagonist of break India, had told Karan Thapar in an interview on now-defunct Tiranga TV channel that she stood for the breaking of India into smaller independent states premised on ethnicity and religion.” Sundar never gave any such interview and never said this.
“It was in Shaheen Bagh that Aum and the Swastika, holy to all Indic faiths, were desecrated,” says the preface. There was no desecration of religious symbols at Shaheen Bagh. The book falsely reproduces, as BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had done in January, as evidence of disrespect (page 68) a poster with, not the Hindu swastika, but the symbol of Nazi Germany.
The book says (page 38) “hundreds of hate speeches at anti-CAA protests have added to the hatred building up during these months.” There is no evidence of hate speech by protestors.
“Samvidhan bachao, desh bachao (Save the Constitution, save the country) protests have culminated in the mob lynching of Vinod Kashyap, a scheduled caste person, and the shooting of Dinesh Khatik, another scheduled caste person, by rioters in North East Delhi on 24 February 2020,” the book says on page 39. There was no link between these deaths and slogans extolling the constitution.
The book goes on to make allegations about the judiciary as well. ““The network of Urban Naxalism runs through the judiciary primarily in the form of human rights activism and the civil liberties spectrum. This is in keeping with the larger theory of Urban Naxalism elaborated in previous chapters. On the legal front, Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaisingh and other advocates filed six petitions in the Supreme Court on 16 December 2019.”
(Ayswarya Murthy is a Bangalore-based freelance writer)