One name which has come up repeatedly in testimonies of Delhi riot survivors is that of BJP leader Jagdish Pradhan, former MLA from Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi.
In the police complaints accessed by The Quint, the complainants claimed seeing Pradhan's supporters take part in the rioting. One complainant going on to allege that the person leading the mob had received a call from Jagdish Pradhan.
As part of its investigation into the communal violence that took place in Northeast Delhi in the last week of February, The Quint has so far reported on testimonies regarding the role of BJP councillor Kanhaiya Lal, Hindutva leader Ragini Tiwari and the curious omission of BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s name from the Delhi Police’s probe.
We examine in detail, the testimonies that mentioned Jagdish Pradhan or his supporters and their alleged role in the delhi riots. We have withheld the names of the complainants for safety reasons.
A complaint filed on 11 March at Gokulpuri police station claims that on 25 February, a mob led by BJP councillor Kanhaiya Lal attacked Muslim houses at Bhagirathi Vihar. The complainant, a resident of Bhagirathi Vihar, alleges that he heard Kanhaiya Lal received a phone call after which he told the mob that "Jagdish Pradhan's orders" were that we "get rid off Muslims".
"They were carrying swords, spears, trishuls, petrol bombs kept inside a black bag and gathered around the Masjid, chanting 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Kapil Mishra Zindabad' and 'Jagdish Pradhan Zindabad,” the complainant said.
Kanhaiya Lal, the BJP councilor from Johripur in the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, is known to be close to Pradhan.
There are at least three complaints which claim that among the rioters were people who had been campaigning for Pradhan during the Assembly elections a few weeks earlier.
This complaint was filed by a resident of Chand Bagh at Dayalpur Police Station on 16 March and a copy of it was received at the Police Commissioner’s Officer and Lieutenant Governor's office on 18 March. The complainant narrates what he saw at the Dayalpur anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest site on the morning of 24 February.
"The people on the road had guns, sticks, swords, trishuls, bombs etc and they were chanting slogans like 'Desh ke gaddaro ko goli maaro saalo ko (shoot the traitors)' and some police personnel were supporting them,” the complainant wrote.
Mentioning Pradhan’s supporters, the complaint says, “Then along with policemen, some people who used to be seen with Jagdish Pradhan during the elections were walking ahead of the mob. They threw a petrol bomb on the (protest) pandal which caught fire. Then they attacked the women protesters with sticks and swords due to which many elderly women were injured.”
The complaint goes on the allege that people were throwing bombs from top of Mohan Nursing Home chanting “Jagdish Pradhan Zindabad”, “Kapil Mishra Zindabad” “Ka**e Murdabad” and the mob went on to attack the Mazaar (tomb or dargah) on the Bhajanpura main road.
This complaint was filed by a resident of Chand Bagh at Gokulpuri Police Station on 19 March. According to it, “At around 10 PM (on 23 February) near Mohan Nursing Home where speeches were being given, the owner of Mohan Nursing Home and Jagdish Pradhan's people who used to come during elections, were standing armed with sticks, swords, guns etc and were chanting slogans like 'Jagdish Pradhan Zindabad', 'Kapil Mishra Zindabad', 'Ragini Tiwari Zindabad', 'Desh ke Gaddaro ko Goli Maaro Saalo ko', 'Musalmaano ke do he sthan, Pakistan ya Qabristan". The atmosphere worsened after the slogans. Then Ragini Tiwari fired at us"
“On 24/02/2020, the situation was very bad in the area throughout the day. One could hear chanting of "Jai Shri Ram" from every direction. They (the mob) set fire to the buses of Victoria School near my house. In the evening, I found out that Jagdish Pradhan's associates had set fire to the mosque near the tyre market as well and its smoke was visible in the air.
Other than these three, a number of complaints filed at Gokulpuri and Dayalpur police stations in March have claimed that the mob attacking Muslims was chanting “Jagdish Pradhan Zindabad” among other slogans.
When The Quint reached out to Pradhan, he was initially surprised to here about the complaints. He then went on to deny any involvement in the violence.
On being asked about the allegations against his supporters, Pradhan said, “People can make up any details they like”.
Pradhan said that the police hasn’t approached him in connection with any complaint.
“No no, no one has approached me from the police even for questioning,” he told The Quint.
We also reached out to Delhi Police PRO MS Randhawa and DCP North East Ved Prakash Surya and asked them whether the police is probing these complaints. But there has been no response from them. This story will be updated as and when they respond.
Now 66 years of age, Pradhan is a trader and a veteran in Northeast Delhi’s politics, having been a municipal councillor from 1997 to 2015. In 2015, he was one of the only three BJP candidates to win his seat despite an Aam Aadmi Party wave.
In the 2020 Assembly elections, Pradhan’s supporters hoped that a high decibel pro-Hindutva campaign and attacking the anti-CAA protesters would help him consolidate Hindu votes and win the seat. But the results proved to be a shock, especially the manner in which the counting progressed.
Till the twelfth round of counting, Pradhan appeared to be cruising towards victory with a lead of nearly 30,000 votes. However, the picture began to change dramatically thereafter. AAP’s Haji Yunus swept the last few rounds. In rounds 17, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 Yunus secured over 40,000 votes while Pradhan could manage just 900. In the end, Pradhan lost to Yunus by around 20,000 votes. BJP’s national IT head Amit Malviya insinuated that this was a result of one-sided voting by Muslim voters when he said, “It tells us what really lurks under the surface of Indian secularism”.
Pradhan admits there was polarisation but entirely blames Muslim anti-CAA protesters for it.
The purpose of this story is to simply raise a question that if there are complaints against leaders of the ruling party at the Centre, should they not be looked into with the same seriousness as other complaints?
Just to reiterate, The Quint has withheld the names of the complainants for safety reasons but we are willing to share these complaints with the police, if called upon to do so.