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A key element of the Delhi Police’s investigation into the communal violence in Northeast Delhi is its claim that the riots were part of a “well-hatched” conspiracy. And at the core of its conspiracy theory, lies an alleged meeting that took place on 8 January at Shaheen Bagh.
The Quint has accessed two charge sheets submitted by the Delhi Police, both related to the violence in the Chand Bagh area. In both these charge sheets, the police has claimed that the conspiracy to carry out a ‘big blast’ during US President Donald Trump’s visit in February 2020 was hatched at this meeting, between suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, former JNU student Umar Khalid and United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi.
However, curiously, The Quint found out that the first references to a possible Trump visit to India was only on 13 January, five days after this alleged meeting took place. We went through these charge sheets as well as media reports, government press releases and spoke to criminal lawyers to understand the timeline at play, and figure out how Tahir, Khalid and Umar could have known about Trump’s visit on 8 January itself.
What the Charge Sheet Says
Both these charge sheets deal with the investigation of incidents which took place in the Chand Bagh area. FIR 65/2020, Dayalpur police station, is related to the investigation of the death of Intelligence Bureau (IB) Official Ankit Sharma, while FIR 101/2020, of the Delhi Police Crime Branch, related to the violence at Chand Bagh. Tahir Hussain is an accused in both cases.
A key aspect of Hussain’s alleged involvement in both cases, which ties into the larger idea of a conspiracy, is this meeting that took place on 8 January.
Further details about the hatching of the alleged conspiracy at the meeting on 8 January are provided in both charge sheets. The Crime Branch charge sheet includes further information on the alleged financing of the riots, while the charge sheet for FIR 65/2020 (Dayalpur Police Station), elaborates further on the aims of the conspiracy, specifically the Trump visit angle.
Here’s what the charge sheet says about this:
“During investigation, it was also revealed that the accused Tahir Hussain was in touch with Khalid Saifi who is connected with Unite Against Hate Group. Tahir Hussain was also connected to Umar Khalid through Khalid Saifi. Khalid Saifi had arranged Tahir’s meeting with Umar Khalid on 08.01.2020 at Saheen Bagh.
In that meeting, it was decided to have a big blast so that the Central Govt. could be shaken on the issue of CAA/NRC and so as to defame the country in the international arena. In the meeting, Umar Khalid had assured not to bother about the fund as PFI organization would also be ready to provide fund and logistics for these riots. These riots were planned to be happened during or prior to the visit of US President Donald Trump in the month of February, 2020.
For this, all necessary logistics and manpower were arranged prior to these riots and a number of people from U.P. West had been called before these riots for the purpose of riots in Delhi at a large scale. However, a separate case vide FIR No. 59/2020 dated 06.03.2020 for the conspiracy to these riots has been registered by Special Cell and is under investigation.”
- 7 January: PM Modi and US President Donald Trump exchange New Year greetings. Ministry of External Affairs release has no mention of a state visit
- 8 January: Police allege that Umar Khalid, Tahir Hussain and Khalid Saifi met on this day at Shaheen Bagh and planned a ‘big blast’ for when Trump visits in February 2020
- From December to 12 January: No mention of Donald Trump visiting India in MEA, PIB (Press Information Bureau) press releases and media reports.
- 13 January: First media report by The Hindu on ‘Trump’s visit to India attributing information to sources and only with tentative dates
Questions Around Trump’s Visit
The crucial part in this charge sheet is the police’s claim that “in the meeting it was decided to have a big blast” to “defame the country in the international arena” and that “these riots were planned to be happened prior to or during the visit of US President Donald Trump in the month of February”.
What is curious here is that the first intimation about US President Donald Trump’s possible visit to India in February was on 13 January. It is a report in The Hindu, with the headline, “Trump likely to visit India at the end of February, say sources”. Here are some relevant excerpts from the story:
“Security and logistics teams from Washington are expected in Delhi this week to prepare for a possible visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, multiple sources have confirmed to The Hindu. The visit, which has not yet been announced, would bring the U.S. President to India a year after he declined an invitation to be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, and will go ahead at the end of February as long as dates don’t need to be changed to accommodate the impeachment process in the U.S. Senate”.
“Sources said the decision to visit India, at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation, was discussed during a telephone call between the leaders on January 7. According to the sources, Mr. Trump is “keen” to visit early in the year, ahead of elections in November, and both sides are working towards a visit in the last week of February.” .
“Mr. Trump’s visit will be a diplomatic boost for both leaders and will likely coincide with the U.S. Congress’s impeachment process, and the date of the visit, currently scheduled around February 24 may have to be shifted to accommodate the Senate vote on his impeachment motion.”
This was the first report, followed by several others, including The Hindustan Times with the headline India, US in talks to finalise dates for Donald Trump’s state visit.
Therefore, even the first media report on the visit attributed the information to sources and gave tentative dates. So how is it that Umar Khalid, Tahir Hussain and Khalid Saifi allegedly met on 8 January to plan something during Trump’s visit?
It is reiterated that the meeting took place five days before the first media report on the visit was published and just a day after PM Modi spoke to President Trump.
Govt Press Releases Make No Mention of Trump Visit
Prior to the media reports mentioned above, the only information about PM Modi and President Trump’s call had come from a Ministry of External Affairs press release which was published on 7 January with the headline Prime Minister spoke with Mr Donald Trump, President of the United States to convey New Year greetings also does.
The release notes that PM Modi went on to highlight ‘the significant progress made in deepening the Strategic Partnership between the two countries’ but includes no discussion of a state visit.
The Quint also went through other press releases by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Press Information Bureau (available on their websites) for the whole of December 2019 and all the way up to 8 January 2020 – the date of the crucial conspiracy meeting – and found no mention of Trump’s visit to India.
So this gives us only two possibilities – either there is a discrepancy or error in the information given by the Delhi Police in their charge sheet, or Tahir Hussain, Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi somehow knew about Trump’s visit five days before the media and just a day after the conversation between PM Modi and the US President.
Delhi Police’s Response
The Quint reached out to several Delhi Police officials involved with the investigation into the Northeast Delhi violence.
Inspector Amleshwar Rai, the investigation officer in-charge for FIR No. 65 and the main signatory to the charge sheet, said that the conspiracy part is being looked into by the Special Cell.
However when asked to clarify if the decision to organise the riots in February 2020 was made on 8 January or not, Rai said, “It was probably decided on the 8 January or even before that. However, the Special Cell is better placed to explain this to you.”
The Quint reached out via calls and messages to DCP Special Cell Pramod Kushwaha, Praveer Ranjan Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) as well as Delhi Police PRO Mandeep Singh Randhawa for comment. however, there was no response even after 18 hours sending them the queries.
This copy will be updated as and when they respond.
Lawyers’ Views on Delhi Police’s Conspiracy Theory
Speaking about meeting of Khalid, Umar and Hussain, Satish Tamta, a noted lawyer with a well established criminal law practice in Delhi, told The Quint that the wording of the charge sheet was not ambiguous, and that it was clear from the wording of the charge sheet that the police is alleging that this plan was hatched on 8 January.
“It is clear that the police is saying that all the planning happened on the 8 January meeting itself,” he said, before adding that there were serious questions to be asked about the evidence, or more accurately, the lack of evidence cited by the charge sheet to back up these allegations:
“However what is rather problematic is that while the police is making this claim, they have to also mention in the charge sheet, who these details were disclosed by and what was the evidence. Here there appears to be no evidence at all. This is their own thinking.”Satish Tamta, noted criminal lawyer
He went on to explain the significance of there being no evidence cited in the charge sheet as follows: “A story is being narrated and attempts are being made to make the charge sheet interesting while finalising it – while there is no evidence to back this claim yet, even if an accused or a alleged conspirator has made this statement, it can only be relied upon if it leads to recovery of material/article. Otherwise, the statement is not admissible as evidence.”
When asked about whether this timeline could be modified subsequently by the police in court, given that the charge sheet is supposed to set out the foundations of a criminal prosecution against an accused, Tamta said, “Never have I seen that the police has gone back to change their timeline after they have said something to court. Even when they file supplementary charge sheets, they do not change their stance from the previous one.”
Umar Khalid’s lawyer Trideep Pais was not available for comment. However speaking about this January meeting, Umar told The Quint that ‘"There is not an iota of truth in this." Khalid Saifi’s lawyer, Delhi-based advocate Harsh Bora, said, “The allegations that have been made are without any evidence.”