Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know

The 17,000-page charge sheet prepared over 6 months shows how the blockade took place but leaves out many pieces.

Updated
India
12 min read
The Delhi Police filed a 17,000-page charge sheet in connection with the Delhi riots ‘conspiracy’. 
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The wait for the most crucial charge sheet narrating the alleged 'large-scale conspiracy' behind the northeast Delhi riots, is over. The Delhi Police special cell brought to court the 17,000-page charge under FIR 59 sheet, on Monday, 21 September.

This alleged conspiracy is centred around three WhatsApp groups. The first being Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam’s Muslim Students of JNU (MSJ) group. The second being the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), alleged to be bang in the middle of this multi-layered ‘conspiracy’. The third is the Delhi Protest Support group led by several well-known anti-CAA activists including United Against Hate and Pinjra Tod members.

“While the Jamia Coordination Committee and Muslim Students of Jamia groups consisted of amateur student activists, the happenings of December 2019 necessitated the emergence of professional ideological deviants called the Delhi Protest Support Group (DPSG),” the charge sheet reads. This particular FIR has invoked 25 sections, including murder, attempt to murder, rioting and the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and is filed against 15 people. Not one of them is a pro-CAA protester.

In this story, we bring you the core investigation of the Delhi Police special cell, which sought an extension twice to file this charge sheet of about 17,000 pages.

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know

  1. 1. Who Are the 15 People Charged: Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam Left Out

    The 15 who have been charge-sheeted under FIR 59 include:

    • United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi
    • Former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan
    • Jamia student and RJD leader Meeran Haider
    • Suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain
    • Anti-CAA protester Gulfisha Fatima
    • Current and former Jamia students – Safoora Zargar, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and Shadab Ahmad
    • Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita
    • Locals from northeast Delhi – Taslim Ahmad, Salim Malik, Salim Khan, and Athar Khan
    The thing to note is that JNU students Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid, both of whom are central players in the police’s conspiracy theory, are not mentioned as accused or in the suspect column. The case against them will be made in a supplementary charge sheet.

    Those who have not been charge-sheeted but are named as accused and are out on bail include Mohammad Danish, Mohammad Ilyas, and Mohammad Parwez Ahmad.

    Expand
  2. 2. Creation of WhatsApp Group 'Muslims of JNU' by Sharjeel Imam

    The police’s chronology begins mainly with a WhatsApp group made by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, a day after the Cabinet committee gave a nod to present the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament. This group was called the Muslim Students of JNU (MSJ) and was created on 5 December 2019.

    In a long message, which starts as an appeal, on the group from 7 December, the role of the MSJ has been outlined.

    The message read: “We should not reduce MSJ to the status of an independent organization.  Core committee is also not structurally rigid, any competent person is welcome. We should be mentally ready to assume others who are more experienced into this field and actively strive towards it.”
    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

    The message goes on to read, "I see a lot of problems in terms of MSJ as an independent organisation, including rivalry with Muslim organisations, like MSF and SIO. If we want the term MSJ as organisation, then there are a lot of organisations in the campus and each organisation is resisting CAB and NRC at it's level, how would MSJ be different? We cannot make any significant contribution if we fail to facilitate coordination and engage various groups inside as well as outside the campus."

    Expand
  3. 3. Sharjeel Imam's Link to 'Students of Jamia' Facebook Page

    WhatsApp chats of Sharjeel Imam show that other than MSJ, he was in touch with what the police charge sheet claims to be a 'radical communal group called the 'Students of Jamia' Facebook page.

    With over 3,500 followers, "Students of Jamia " (SOJ) describes itself as a a 'group of JMI students determined to stand against all injustices, and strive towards achieving justice and righteousness.' It was active in posting against the CAB and continued when the bill became a law. Imam was actively in touch with Arshad Warsi from this group.

    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Photo: Facebook/Students of Jamia)

    A look at their posters shows them protesting against the Babri Masjid verdict delivered on 9 November, which paved the way for the building of a Ram Mandir.

    In a few more screenshots of the SOJ page from the charge sheet, three posts are mentioned.

    The first on 23 February saying :"La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah" (There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet) is against Nationalism." The second also on 23 February saying: "La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah is against Democracy." And on 25 February: La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah is against Secularism.

    Expand
  4. 4. 15 December: 2 'Riots' That Culminated in the Beginning of Shaheen Bagh Blockade

    Anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
    Anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
    (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

    Two incidents of rioting took place on 15 December, one close  to the Jamia police station and the other at the New Friends Colony police station. The police claims that Imam along with co-conspirators, including members of MSJ, instigated students. This led to a riot and attack on police officials.

    On the afternoon, Sharjeel Imam, along with Arshad Warsi from SOJ and others, started moving towards establishing a 24x7 protest, or a chakka jam, at Shaheen Bagh.

    This part of the charge sheet is interesting, it alleges that "local residents of Shaheen Bagh were initially against the protest but Sharjeel Imam threatened them with dire consequences if they did not yield to his demand and posed any obstruction to his road block plan. Protesters who blocked the road of Shaheen Bagh in the initial days were not local residents."

    The police says this was established and confirmed by chats between Aafreen Fatima and Sharjeel, where Sharjeel mentions how some local people including imams, muftis and RWA representatives wanted to get Sharjeel to stop the blockade. But he said he had 200 local boys, and another 200 from JNU were going to show up.

    This allegation – of locals being forced into the protest by Sharjeel Imam – is interesting. In fact, Imam had “called off” the protest barely a few weeks after it began but it was the locals who refused to move and the protest continued until March when it was withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Expand
  5. 5. 17 December: The Setting up of the Jamia Co-ordination Committee

    JMI students Shifa-ur Rehman, Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and others, on the instruction of Umar Khalid and Nadeem Khan, constituted the Jamia Co-ordination Committee, the charge sheet reads.

    Key persons behind the formation of this JCC group are Jamia students Asif Iqbal Tanha and Saiful Islam, the police say. The WhatsApp group has been described as the brain child of Umar Khalid and Nadeem Khan. Its main constituents were SIO, Pinjra Tod, AAJMI, SFI, JSF etc.

    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

    In the second paragraph of the press release, it reads,"Our voices will continue to rise in protest against injustice. We reiterate that our struggle is non-violent in all aspects."

    The police, however, are making a case in their charge sheet that the very purpose of the creation of the JCC was part of a larger conspiracy to mobilise students. That they held regular meetings to ‘discuss strategy, schemes and plans in furtherance of common conspiracy.’

    Expand
  6. 6. ‘NE Delhi Chosen After Conspirators Learnt Lessons From Dec Violence’

    The police claim that the key conspirators had learnt their lesson from the violence of December 2019 and therefore, carefully chose northeast Delhi with its 'unique economic, social and demographic matrix as being the ideal ground for mass scale mobilisation and violence as it was found to be much more vulnerable than south east Delhi.'

    They said the December 2019 violence was a beta version of the carnage of February 2020.

    Pointing out the differences and similarities between the violence from December and February, the police have come up with the following similarities:

    • All hotspots of December 2019 were repeated with varying intensities later.
    • Modus operandi is a text book copy of each other.
    • Mobilisation, incendiary speeches, which were followed by chakka jam and violence.
    • Almost every character who gained notoriety in February 2020 had been noticed as being present in December 2019 incidents.
    • Primary targets of both periods under reference were the same. The police personnel followed by non-Muslim population.

    The differences between the two include:

    • While Jamia and Shaheen Bagh reported the more severe riots from December, the localities were spared in February 2020.
    • Women were universal underlying theme of protests in February 2020, versus the December violence.
    Expand
  7. 7. DPSG Created for 'Gender Cover, Secular Cover and Media Cover'

    JCC's alleged association with the DPSG group is based on three JCC members being in the DPSG WhatsApp groups. DPSG in turn has members from Pinjra Tod and United Against Hate, the charge sheet reads.

    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

    Speaking about the DPSG, the charge sheet reads that due to failures the key conspirators realised that in order to achieve their true objectives, they needed a gender cover, secular cover and media cover. This is what led to the creation of this group according to them.

    The police believes that based on this common conspiracy, the JCC, DPSG, UAH, and Pinjra Tod were successful in creating 24x7 protests at 25 places. These include Jamia Millia Islamia, Shaheen Bagh, Daryaganj, Patparganj, Chand Bagh, Brijpuri Pulia, Jafrabad, and Seelampur.

    The DPSG met for the first time on 26 December at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi. The WhatsApp group was formed two days later. The first few messages posted after the formation of the group were an outline of its purpose.

    The Quint has reported on the DPSG in great detail. At the end of scanning 3,000 pages of these chats, The Quint has not found any direct reference to incitement of violence before, during or after the riots from the exchanges on the DPSG WhatsApp group.

    Expand
  8. 8. 'Execution of Conspiracy' in 2 Meetings

    The 8 January Meeting

    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

    Important to note here that this reference to a meeting in January has been made by the Delhi Police in other charge sheets that were submitted weeks ago. In our exclusive investigation, The Quint reported how there was no information whatsoever about Trump's visit to India on 8 January. In this charge sheet what was till now the 8 January meet, has now become a meet on 14 January. Coincidentally we had reported that the first report regarding Trump’s possible visit was made on the night of 13 January, which was published for the 14 January edition of papers. For more on this story, click the link below here.

    The Meeting on 16/17 February

    According to the charge sheet, “In persuance and furtherance of common conspiracy, a meeting of protest site leaders of Chand Bagh, Mustafabad, Kardampuri and Jafrabad was held in the intervening night of 16/17 February at 2:00 am. It was decided in this meeting that a coordinated blockade of roads would take place in north east Delhi during Donald Trump's visit”.

    It also alleges that post the chakka jam, all protest site members will adopt violent measures to escalate the protests. This discussion was brought up in the DPSG WhatsApp group with people for and against it. JCC were alerted to start preparing for an escalated 24x7 protest and then allegedly engineering riots by inciting violence.

    In JCC, one Raza Khan says, "Trump will be in Delhi on 24 or 25 February. Shall we do something that affect Delhi at this time so our beloved Trump goes out of mind and might call CAA discriminatory. I believe him chaotic enough to say anything."

    On the evening of 22 February, in the JCC WhatsApp group, a member called Shahzar wrote, "Chakka jam karo Delhi ka (Let’s organise a chakka jam in Delhi) To which Safoora Zargar responded, "Shahzar chup ho jao na bhai. Saare plan tum yahan likh doge toh execute kya karoge?" (Shut up, Shahzar brother. If you're going to write all our plans, who will execute them?)

    Expand
  9. 9. 22 February: The Road Blockade Begins

    The police claim that 'in pursuance and furtherance of common conspiracy, members of JCC held an urgent meeting'. It was decided that members of JCC should immediately start reaching Jafrabad and other sides to block the road.

    They allegedly used the Bharat Bandh call by Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad as a ploy to assemble under the garb of a march from Chand Bagh to Rajghat. People kept saying that nothing will happen if they only protested and that the blockade is the only option.

    Within hours, by the night of 22 February, the women at Seelampur had blocked the Jafrabad road. JCC members were asking each other to go to the ground and extend help. Some left for Jafrabad the same night, some left the next morning. Soon people were being asked to reach the Khureji protest site on 23 February, to help with the blockade. There were messages regarding the outer ring road being jammed for kilometres at a stretch, shared with message #thankstoChakkaJaam. Calls for people to go to the ground continued on the evening of 23 February. "Please take note, as we can't let people get beaten or have fear when they have given big calls with so much courage."

    .... and what followed, we all know.

    Expand
  10. 10. Delhi Police Concludes: 'Blockade Not to Create Traffic Chaos, But to Ensure Communal Skirmish'

    According to the charge sheet, the blockade points were chosen to ensure that a simultaneous blockade would lead to a complete paralysis of traffic in a large part of city.

    Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
    (Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

    The charge sheet goes on to allege, “The intent was not to create traffic chaos but to ensure a communal skirmish as is evident from movement from predominantly minority clusters where dharnas were being held to areas of mixed population. The blockade was to be followed by attack on police and non-Muslim population."

    It goes on to argue that, "To say that only the means may have become unlawful for otherwise a lawful expression of dissent is like throwing the baby out with the bath water and nothing else. The fact is that even if the riots and associated large scale violence would have never taken place, that is they would have been prevented by police action or otherwise, the mere factum that there was a conspiracy to engineer riots is a substantive offence; good enough to prosecute and bring to justice the accused under Indian laws.”

    Expand
  11. 11. What the Charge Sheet Establishes and What It Doesn’t

    The charge sheet is able to demonstrate two things relatively effectively:

    • That there was some degree of co-ordination between different groups of anti-CAA protesters, with some linkages with ground-level protest organisers.
    • That there was a co-ordinated call to carry out a Chakka Jam in parts of northeast Delhi to coincide with the Bharat Bandh.

    However, several pieces of the puzzle are missing even in this 17,000-page charge sheet that took over six months to prepare:

    • The Delhi Police in their earlier charge sheets claimed that the 'conspiracy' was hatched in a meeting between Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Umar Khalid at Shaheen Bagh on 8 January. The Quint's investigation revealed how there was no information whatsoever about Trump's visit to India then. The Delhi Police have now changed this date to 16/17 February. What explains this change in narrative?
    • How a plan to facilitate protests or even carry out a Chakka Jam becomes a conspiracy to carry out violence on non-Muslims is not clear.
    • The WhatsApp groups examined by the police do reveal discussions on carrying out a Chakka Jam, but in none of the groups highlighted by the Delhi Police in the charge sheet, is violence being incited, planned or even condoned.
    • The charge sheet ignores differences within the anti-CAA protesters. For instance, Sharjeel Imam “called off” the Shaheen Bagh protest a few weeks into it, but the sit-in continued until March. Even though the police tries to argue that Imam had control even after that, it remains true that Shaheen Bagh protesters had vocally distanced themselves from Imam after his speech regarding a road blockade in Assam had led to a controversy. So contrary to what the charge sheet claims, activists from outside often didn’t have the kind of control over local protesters.
    • There were differences, especially in the DPSG group, on whether there should be a blockade in northeast Delhi at all. However instead of appreciating the context behind the debate, it seems like the police is picking on a few messages to tag people with the role of a conspirator.
    • Similarly, there were also genuine debates on whether protests should be “secular” or “Muslim-centric” but the police presents the focus on the former as an effort to deceive. It is not clear why some parts of the WhatsApp chats are to be taken at face value and others are to be dismissed as an effort at deception.
    • Two aspects that changed between December and February but have been left unaddressed. In December, the clashes were mostly between the police and anti-CAA protesters, be it near Jamia or Daryaganj or northeast Delhi. But in February, pro-CAA or pro-Hindutva activists also got involved. There is plenty evidence for this in the form of testimonies and videos.
    • The second aspect is regarding the intervening period between December and February where there was a steady increase in pitch from the pro-CAA side as well – with statements by BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, and Pravesh Verma, videos by Hindutva leaders like Narsinghanand Saraswati, the two attacks on anti-CAA protesters in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh by pro-CAA “gunmen” and finally Kapil Mishra and Ragini Tiwari’s appearances in northeast Delhi on 23 February. Considering that over two-thirds of those killed in the northeast Delhi violence were Muslims, this other strand cannot be left unaddressed.
    Expand

Who Are the 15 People Charged: Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam Left Out

The 15 who have been charge-sheeted under FIR 59 include:

  • United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi
  • Former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan
  • Jamia student and RJD leader Meeran Haider
  • Suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain
  • Anti-CAA protester Gulfisha Fatima
  • Current and former Jamia students – Safoora Zargar, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and Shadab Ahmad
  • Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita
  • Locals from northeast Delhi – Taslim Ahmad, Salim Malik, Salim Khan, and Athar Khan
The thing to note is that JNU students Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid, both of whom are central players in the police’s conspiracy theory, are not mentioned as accused or in the suspect column. The case against them will be made in a supplementary charge sheet.

Those who have not been charge-sheeted but are named as accused and are out on bail include Mohammad Danish, Mohammad Ilyas, and Mohammad Parwez Ahmad.

Creation of WhatsApp Group 'Muslims of JNU' by Sharjeel Imam

The police’s chronology begins mainly with a WhatsApp group made by JNU student Sharjeel Imam, a day after the Cabinet committee gave a nod to present the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament. This group was called the Muslim Students of JNU (MSJ) and was created on 5 December 2019.

In a long message, which starts as an appeal, on the group from 7 December, the role of the MSJ has been outlined.

The message read: “We should not reduce MSJ to the status of an independent organization.  Core committee is also not structurally rigid, any competent person is welcome. We should be mentally ready to assume others who are more experienced into this field and actively strive towards it.”
Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

The message goes on to read, "I see a lot of problems in terms of MSJ as an independent organisation, including rivalry with Muslim organisations, like MSF and SIO. If we want the term MSJ as organisation, then there are a lot of organisations in the campus and each organisation is resisting CAB and NRC at it's level, how would MSJ be different? We cannot make any significant contribution if we fail to facilitate coordination and engage various groups inside as well as outside the campus."

Sharjeel Imam's Link to 'Students of Jamia' Facebook Page

WhatsApp chats of Sharjeel Imam show that other than MSJ, he was in touch with what the police charge sheet claims to be a 'radical communal group called the 'Students of Jamia' Facebook page.

With over 3,500 followers, "Students of Jamia " (SOJ) describes itself as a a 'group of JMI students determined to stand against all injustices, and strive towards achieving justice and righteousness.' It was active in posting against the CAB and continued when the bill became a law. Imam was actively in touch with Arshad Warsi from this group.

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Photo: Facebook/Students of Jamia)

A look at their posters shows them protesting against the Babri Masjid verdict delivered on 9 November, which paved the way for the building of a Ram Mandir.

In a few more screenshots of the SOJ page from the charge sheet, three posts are mentioned.

The first on 23 February saying :"La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah" (There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet) is against Nationalism." The second also on 23 February saying: "La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah is against Democracy." And on 25 February: La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah is against Secularism.

15 December: 2 'Riots' That Culminated in the Beginning of Shaheen Bagh Blockade

Anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
Anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
(Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Two incidents of rioting took place on 15 December, one close  to the Jamia police station and the other at the New Friends Colony police station. The police claims that Imam along with co-conspirators, including members of MSJ, instigated students. This led to a riot and attack on police officials.

On the afternoon, Sharjeel Imam, along with Arshad Warsi from SOJ and others, started moving towards establishing a 24x7 protest, or a chakka jam, at Shaheen Bagh.

This part of the charge sheet is interesting, it alleges that "local residents of Shaheen Bagh were initially against the protest but Sharjeel Imam threatened them with dire consequences if they did not yield to his demand and posed any obstruction to his road block plan. Protesters who blocked the road of Shaheen Bagh in the initial days were not local residents."

The police says this was established and confirmed by chats between Aafreen Fatima and Sharjeel, where Sharjeel mentions how some local people including imams, muftis and RWA representatives wanted to get Sharjeel to stop the blockade. But he said he had 200 local boys, and another 200 from JNU were going to show up.

This allegation – of locals being forced into the protest by Sharjeel Imam – is interesting. In fact, Imam had “called off” the protest barely a few weeks after it began but it was the locals who refused to move and the protest continued until March when it was withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

17 December: The Setting up of the Jamia Co-ordination Committee

JMI students Shifa-ur Rehman, Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and others, on the instruction of Umar Khalid and Nadeem Khan, constituted the Jamia Co-ordination Committee, the charge sheet reads.

Key persons behind the formation of this JCC group are Jamia students Asif Iqbal Tanha and Saiful Islam, the police say. The WhatsApp group has been described as the brain child of Umar Khalid and Nadeem Khan. Its main constituents were SIO, Pinjra Tod, AAJMI, SFI, JSF etc.

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

In the second paragraph of the press release, it reads,"Our voices will continue to rise in protest against injustice. We reiterate that our struggle is non-violent in all aspects."

The police, however, are making a case in their charge sheet that the very purpose of the creation of the JCC was part of a larger conspiracy to mobilise students. That they held regular meetings to ‘discuss strategy, schemes and plans in furtherance of common conspiracy.’

‘NE Delhi Chosen After Conspirators Learnt Lessons From Dec Violence’

The police claim that the key conspirators had learnt their lesson from the violence of December 2019 and therefore, carefully chose northeast Delhi with its 'unique economic, social and demographic matrix as being the ideal ground for mass scale mobilisation and violence as it was found to be much more vulnerable than south east Delhi.'

They said the December 2019 violence was a beta version of the carnage of February 2020.

Pointing out the differences and similarities between the violence from December and February, the police have come up with the following similarities:

  • All hotspots of December 2019 were repeated with varying intensities later.
  • Modus operandi is a text book copy of each other.
  • Mobilisation, incendiary speeches, which were followed by chakka jam and violence.
  • Almost every character who gained notoriety in February 2020 had been noticed as being present in December 2019 incidents.
  • Primary targets of both periods under reference were the same. The police personnel followed by non-Muslim population.

The differences between the two include:

  • While Jamia and Shaheen Bagh reported the more severe riots from December, the localities were spared in February 2020.
  • Women were universal underlying theme of protests in February 2020, versus the December violence.

DPSG Created for 'Gender Cover, Secular Cover and Media Cover'

JCC's alleged association with the DPSG group is based on three JCC members being in the DPSG WhatsApp groups. DPSG in turn has members from Pinjra Tod and United Against Hate, the charge sheet reads.

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Speaking about the DPSG, the charge sheet reads that due to failures the key conspirators realised that in order to achieve their true objectives, they needed a gender cover, secular cover and media cover. This is what led to the creation of this group according to them.

The police believes that based on this common conspiracy, the JCC, DPSG, UAH, and Pinjra Tod were successful in creating 24x7 protests at 25 places. These include Jamia Millia Islamia, Shaheen Bagh, Daryaganj, Patparganj, Chand Bagh, Brijpuri Pulia, Jafrabad, and Seelampur.

The DPSG met for the first time on 26 December at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi. The WhatsApp group was formed two days later. The first few messages posted after the formation of the group were an outline of its purpose.

The Quint has reported on the DPSG in great detail. At the end of scanning 3,000 pages of these chats, The Quint has not found any direct reference to incitement of violence before, during or after the riots from the exchanges on the DPSG WhatsApp group.

'Execution of Conspiracy' in 2 Meetings

The 8 January Meeting

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Important to note here that this reference to a meeting in January has been made by the Delhi Police in other charge sheets that were submitted weeks ago. In our exclusive investigation, The Quint reported how there was no information whatsoever about Trump's visit to India on 8 January. In this charge sheet what was till now the 8 January meet, has now become a meet on 14 January. Coincidentally we had reported that the first report regarding Trump’s possible visit was made on the night of 13 January, which was published for the 14 January edition of papers. For more on this story, click the link below here.

The Meeting on 16/17 February

According to the charge sheet, “In persuance and furtherance of common conspiracy, a meeting of protest site leaders of Chand Bagh, Mustafabad, Kardampuri and Jafrabad was held in the intervening night of 16/17 February at 2:00 am. It was decided in this meeting that a coordinated blockade of roads would take place in north east Delhi during Donald Trump's visit”.

It also alleges that post the chakka jam, all protest site members will adopt violent measures to escalate the protests. This discussion was brought up in the DPSG WhatsApp group with people for and against it. JCC were alerted to start preparing for an escalated 24x7 protest and then allegedly engineering riots by inciting violence.

In JCC, one Raza Khan says, "Trump will be in Delhi on 24 or 25 February. Shall we do something that affect Delhi at this time so our beloved Trump goes out of mind and might call CAA discriminatory. I believe him chaotic enough to say anything."

On the evening of 22 February, in the JCC WhatsApp group, a member called Shahzar wrote, "Chakka jam karo Delhi ka (Let’s organise a chakka jam in Delhi) To which Safoora Zargar responded, "Shahzar chup ho jao na bhai. Saare plan tum yahan likh doge toh execute kya karoge?" (Shut up, Shahzar brother. If you're going to write all our plans, who will execute them?)

22 February: The Road Blockade Begins

The police claim that 'in pursuance and furtherance of common conspiracy, members of JCC held an urgent meeting'. It was decided that members of JCC should immediately start reaching Jafrabad and other sides to block the road.

They allegedly used the Bharat Bandh call by Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad as a ploy to assemble under the garb of a march from Chand Bagh to Rajghat. People kept saying that nothing will happen if they only protested and that the blockade is the only option.

Within hours, by the night of 22 February, the women at Seelampur had blocked the Jafrabad road. JCC members were asking each other to go to the ground and extend help. Some left for Jafrabad the same night, some left the next morning. Soon people were being asked to reach the Khureji protest site on 23 February, to help with the blockade. There were messages regarding the outer ring road being jammed for kilometres at a stretch, shared with message #thankstoChakkaJaam. Calls for people to go to the ground continued on the evening of 23 February. "Please take note, as we can't let people get beaten or have fear when they have given big calls with so much courage."

.... and what followed, we all know.

Delhi Police Concludes: 'Blockade Not to Create Traffic Chaos, But to Ensure Communal Skirmish'

According to the charge sheet, the blockade points were chosen to ensure that a simultaneous blockade would lead to a complete paralysis of traffic in a large part of city.

Delhi Riots ‘Conspiracy’ Charge Sheet: Everything You Need to Know
(Graphic: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

The charge sheet goes on to allege, “The intent was not to create traffic chaos but to ensure a communal skirmish as is evident from movement from predominantly minority clusters where dharnas were being held to areas of mixed population. The blockade was to be followed by attack on police and non-Muslim population."

It goes on to argue that, "To say that only the means may have become unlawful for otherwise a lawful expression of dissent is like throwing the baby out with the bath water and nothing else. The fact is that even if the riots and associated large scale violence would have never taken place, that is they would have been prevented by police action or otherwise, the mere factum that there was a conspiracy to engineer riots is a substantive offence; good enough to prosecute and bring to justice the accused under Indian laws.”

What the Charge Sheet Establishes and What It Doesn’t

The charge sheet is able to demonstrate two things relatively effectively:

  • That there was some degree of co-ordination between different groups of anti-CAA protesters, with some linkages with ground-level protest organisers.
  • That there was a co-ordinated call to carry out a Chakka Jam in parts of northeast Delhi to coincide with the Bharat Bandh.

However, several pieces of the puzzle are missing even in this 17,000-page charge sheet that took over six months to prepare:

  • The Delhi Police in their earlier charge sheets claimed that the 'conspiracy' was hatched in a meeting between Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain and Umar Khalid at Shaheen Bagh on 8 January. The Quint's investigation revealed how there was no information whatsoever about Trump's visit to India then. The Delhi Police have now changed this date to 16/17 February. What explains this change in narrative?
  • How a plan to facilitate protests or even carry out a Chakka Jam becomes a conspiracy to carry out violence on non-Muslims is not clear.
  • The WhatsApp groups examined by the police do reveal discussions on carrying out a Chakka Jam, but in none of the groups highlighted by the Delhi Police in the charge sheet, is violence being incited, planned or even condoned.
  • The charge sheet ignores differences within the anti-CAA protesters. For instance, Sharjeel Imam “called off” the Shaheen Bagh protest a few weeks into it, but the sit-in continued until March. Even though the police tries to argue that Imam had control even after that, it remains true that Shaheen Bagh protesters had vocally distanced themselves from Imam after his speech regarding a road blockade in Assam had led to a controversy. So contrary to what the charge sheet claims, activists from outside often didn’t have the kind of control over local protesters.
  • There were differences, especially in the DPSG group, on whether there should be a blockade in northeast Delhi at all. However instead of appreciating the context behind the debate, it seems like the police is picking on a few messages to tag people with the role of a conspirator.
  • Similarly, there were also genuine debates on whether protests should be “secular” or “Muslim-centric” but the police presents the focus on the former as an effort to deceive. It is not clear why some parts of the WhatsApp chats are to be taken at face value and others are to be dismissed as an effort at deception.
  • Two aspects that changed between December and February but have been left unaddressed. In December, the clashes were mostly between the police and anti-CAA protesters, be it near Jamia or Daryaganj or northeast Delhi. But in February, pro-CAA or pro-Hindutva activists also got involved. There is plenty evidence for this in the form of testimonies and videos.
  • The second aspect is regarding the intervening period between December and February where there was a steady increase in pitch from the pro-CAA side as well – with statements by BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, and Pravesh Verma, videos by Hindutva leaders like Narsinghanand Saraswati, the two attacks on anti-CAA protesters in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh by pro-CAA “gunmen” and finally Kapil Mishra and Ragini Tiwari’s appearances in northeast Delhi on 23 February. Considering that over two-thirds of those killed in the northeast Delhi violence were Muslims, this other strand cannot be left unaddressed.
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