'Who Will Answer?': 3 Men Discharged In Delhi Riots Cases Live With Trauma, Debt

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

11 min read
Hindi Female

Irshad, 24, had different plans for the future. He thought he would go back to Kashmir and work in the garage, painting cars like he did and be married by now. However, everything changed after the unfortunate violence in Northeast Delhi broke out in February, 2020. Cut to 2023, after facing multiple FIRs, jail, financial debt and paranoia, Irshad’s story represents that of many others arrested in the Northeast Delhi riots.

“All the police had was our location, which is obvious because we live there. They have had no evidence against us in these three years. Who will give us answers?,” Irshad (who only goes by first name), a resident of New Mustafabad told The Quint.

Irshad, Akil Ahmed and Raheesh Khan — are among the accused in the Delhi riots cases.


It is in their cases that the Additional Sessions Judge of Karkardooma court, Pulastya Pramachala berated and pulled the Delhi police for “not properly and completely” investigating and filing chargesheets in a “predetermined, mechanical and erroneous manner.” 

But first, how did they find themselves accused in Delhi riots cases and what is their situation now?

How Did They Land in Jail?

Irshad’s father Ikram, is a tailor. Through his own work of painting cars, Irshad earned approximately Rs 500 per day.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

This is where Irshad was on the day of the violence. Behind is his father's tailoring shop.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

On 24 February 2020, Irshad was at work in Usmanpur and had told his friend, Junaid to let him know should anything go wrong. Junaid called him several times. Only at the third call did Irshad realise the gravity of the situation and rushed home.

He passed Khajuri Khas and went to his father’s shop. This is where he was on the day of the riots. However, two months later, Delhi crime branch officials arrived in their neighbourhood to inquire about him.

“Junaid, my friend, was also arrested. When he was being beaten, out of pressure, he also mentioned me when asked about his friends. Moreover, a Muslim guy, Shahid was shot dead in February during the violence. His body was carried by Muslims through my lane, so they have booked me for his murder and for allegedly protesting,” Irshad told The Quint.

Irshad was picked up from his home on 9 April 2020 and then taken to the Crime branch in Yamuna Vihar, then to Dayalpur police station on the pretext of resolving some queries. The next day, the police took him to Karkardooma court and then to Mandoli jail. All within 24 hours.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

The police picked Irshad from here, right in front of his house.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

His mother, Rihana, 35, clearly remembered the day of his arrest. She stated that the police were “hell-bent” on only seeing him, “uski pehchaan karwani hain,” they said. But Rehana insisted on taking her to the station instead to identify him.

“The policemen had told me to take him home with me when they were done. As there was a lockdown due to COVID-19, we had trouble reaching the police station. By the time we did, they had already taken him to Mandoli jail,” Rihana told The Quint.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Rihana, Irshad's mother.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)


On being asked about the conduct of the police, Irshad became visibly uncomfortable. 

“The police asked Junaid, your mother used to go to the protest? What kind of work does she do? They kept repeating that we are the ones who rioted and hit us,” recalled Irshad.

Irshad claimed that the boys were hit with lathis and pipes. When they were being taken to the jail, Irshad asked them about their remarks which in turn made the police even more furious, he said.

Irshad had never been to a police station, let alone a jail before this. Similar to his case, is Akil Ahmed and Raheesh Khan’s case.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Akil Ahmed, the driver also arrested as one of the accused.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

A 55-year-old driver, Ahmed is from Chandbagh and is the sole breadwinner of the family. His incarceration devastated his wife and five children, the impact of which is being felt even today.

A driver since 15 years, Ahmed usually drove from Arwan to Bhajanpura. Zebunnisa, 42, is Ahmed’s wife recalled that on 24 February, both of them were merely looking for their youngest children, Ayan and Hibsa (10 and 7 at that time, respectively) who had gotten lost around Bhajanpura.

It was because of this search, that they had called each other from the location repeatedly to check if they had caught hold of them and it was on the premise of this location of Akil that the police used to arrest him.


“They found his location in Bhajanpura. That will happen because we were in the area and we live nearby, the police didn't answer my questions and took him away. My eldest daughter started crying when they saw him being taken away,” Zebunnisa told The Quint.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Akil Ahmed with his wife, Zebunnisa.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

Just like Irshad, Ahmed was also arrested two months later from the New Mustafabad area. Unable to pay the rent of their home, Ahmed’s family has now shifted to Chandbagh.

She added, “When the police were taking him away, I said, 'He's the only one who earns in the family, I have 5 children. If you take him away, how will I eat?' They said, ‘you have many lawyers, release him from the court by yourself’.”

Shortly after, Zebunnisa, unable to find any auto because of the lockdown, walked till the station with swollen feet.


What the Police Said

The Quint also visited the Dayalpur police station on 1 September where this reporter met a constable who has given a testimony against Irshad in one of the cases, which is still being tried in court.

On being questioned about it, he got visibly upset and told The Quint, "Come to court." After repeating this for every question, he refused to comment any further.

We also reached out to the SHO of Dayalpur police station who also didn't want to speak.

An official at the police station, wishing to be anonymous, told The Quint, "Whoever we thought did the crime, where there was evidence, we locked them up. The ones that didn't have anything against them, we released them."

He added, "No policemen will speak to you about this."


Ahmed spent the first three months in the same kurta-pyjama that he had worn the day of the arrest, until his wife sent money and he was able to get another set of clothes. He broke his arm as well which was only treated 15 days after and now he has a misplaced bone on his left hand.

Raheesh Khan was also picked up in a similar manner a month later from Chandbagh. He works in a printing press and was arrested while going back home.

“The situation in jail was very terrible. The policemen were verbally and mentally torturing us. Pointing to my Muslim identity, they said, ‘danga karke aaye ho tum log,” he told The Quint.

What Have They Been Charged With?

There’s FIR 71/20 in which they have been discharged. This consisted of Indian Penal Code sections such as (147-punishment for rioting, 148-armed with deadly weapon, 188-disobedience to order by public servant, 436-mischief by fire, explosives) and sections of PDPP (Prevention of Damage to Public Property) Act, 1984.

Another case is FIR 78/20 in in which a trial is underway. They have been acquitted in FIR 108/20 which mainly dealt charges of unlawful assembly and theft. The fourth is FIR 84/20 which comprises of 302 IPC murder charge and its trial has not begun yet. The Quint has accessed these documents.

In the FIR 108 case, Advocate Mehmood Pracha observed that the “State has miserably failed to discharge its burden to prove the various charges against the accused persons.”

He added, “It was further submitted that the accused was falsely implicated, arrested without any evidence, and stock witnesses were used to make sensational and exaggerated accusations against the accused."

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Irshad in Karkardooma court premises.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

Advocate Salim Malik and Shavana Siddiuqui are co-representing Irshad and Khan, they believe that "prima facie," the case didn't make sense.

Police took the easy route, easy targets. The ones who they put in jail, charge them with other cases too. It was a one-sided investigation too.
Advocate Salim Malik

He added that the police “clubbed four complaints together and their witnesses forgot the time and date of the events, this exposed them and the police tried to fill this lacunae.”

Advocate Shavana said that it was their supplementary chargesheet which revealed all the discrepancies in the police’s account as there were many contradictions with regards to the two cases they have been discharged in.

One of them was that first the police's eyewitnesses said the incidents occurred on 24 February but later changed it to 9:30 AM on 25 February in supplementary chargesheets.

“Entire accounts of the police didn't make sense. They have talked about damage to Victoria school in this case in that area, but it belongs to a Muslim person. Why would a Muslim burn it?” Shavana told The Quint.
Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

On top of this building was Shahid who was shot by the Hindu mob on the other side of the road, Irshad alleged.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

The Time, Money — All That Was Lost

While being in jail, Irshad and Ahmed, Khan recall how fast yet slow the night changed in jail no. 12, 11 and 13, respectively.

Irshad and Ahmed did not meet their family for seven-eight months because of the covid-19 pandemic.

When he was in jail, Irshad’s eldest brother, Danish, got married.

Irshad said, “My biggest regret is that when I was in jail, my eldest brother got married and I missed it all. I was not even informed for two months about his wedding because they thought I would be hurt.”

When he heard about his marriage, Irshad was shocked. “Ammi used to cry on calls. My family used to act normal and tell me whatever was going on at home,” said Irshad about the weekly five-minute calls he got to make from jail. 

Meanwhile, his mother, Rihana said that since she has a heart ailment, iron deficiency and low BP, she was not keeping well when she didn’t know where Irshad was.

“We didn't get any calls and the police also didn't inform us. Three-to-four months later, he called from the jail to tell me. I fainted in the bathroom and broke both of my arms. I had a fracture on both for days,” recalled Rehana.


It was the process of finding the lawyers and traveling back and forth from the court that cost them a lot of money.

Before Irshad found Advocate Salim Malik, he had spent over Rs 25,000 in finding the right lawyer.

As for Ahmed, his livelihood, which was his car, was also taken away. 

He had made the down payment of Rs 2 lakhs for 1.5 years but then he was jailed for the same time duration and then he lost that car.

Ahmed said, “I had saved around Rs 5 lakhs for my daughter’s wedding. We were planning it. But because of my incarceration, all that money was spent in court-kachehri, house expenses in my absence.”
Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Akil Ahmed in his house.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

Agitated, Zebunnisa said that it was a double whammy for her, not only was there a pandemic but he was also taken away in the middle of it which made it hard for her to look after their children.

“The situation was really bleak at home. To a point that even if auto-wala asked me for Rs 100, I had to think 100 times before spending,” she noted.

For 2 months, she survived by making face masks to sell during the pandemic with her children. She earned Rs 100-200 daily. However, she also took loans, once from her cousin sister (Rs 1.5 lakhs) and then from her younger brother (Rs 2,000-5,000) each month. Currently, they are in Rs 3.5 lakhs in debt.

Their youngest son, Ayan used to sit and cry all night when his father was jailed. “Why didn’t you bring papa home?” He used to ask Zebunnisa who told the youngest of their children that Ahmed had gone to his village, Sahaswan near Budaun, UP.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Akil Ahmed and his wife, Zebunnisa.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

However, at school, she said they were children who bullied Ayan and said, “tera baap toh jail mein hain” (your father is in jail) and Ayan returned home, crying.

All the while that Ahmed was in jail, he was not able to speak to his children on call. A two-minute phone call once a week could only suffice small talk with his wife.

Khan, too, on the other hand said he met his family once or twice in a week, but was only able to talk to them on call in the initial months in jail. After that, he didn’t get to make calls for a whole year. 

Advocate Shavana stated that Khan lost the most money before finding his current counsel and is therefore hesitant to speak about it.


Another downside to the case is that now there is a paranoia, specifically a fear of the police, among these men and their families.

Irshad’s sister, Alisha, 18 said, “Now, when the policemen come in this area for any kind of work, Amma gets very scared that they will come home again and do something, take someone away.”
Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Rihana, Irshad's mother.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

Moreover, if their parents get even a whiff of protest happening somewhere, “they call us and tell us not to go. They still call bhai and tell him to not go. They're also worried how rishtas will come for him now.”

Ahmed’s wife said, “I still get scared whenever I see the police. I can’t go through this kind of separation again, if something happens, I will take my whole family and shift to my village.”

Khan said that now he’s constantly fearful that something would go wrong when a few months ago, Crime branch officials visited his home as a routine check.

“If a person cannot even be safe at home, then where will they go?”

Court Comes Down Hard on Delhi Police

In the cases of these three men, Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala had observed that the timings were changed in supplementary chargesheet and  that it was incorrect and illegal action on part of the IO (Investigating Officer) to club the complaints.

  • Apart from the conflict in time and date of the incidents, the court said that the IO also “did not come up with any such evidence to show that the subsequent statement of these witnesses, were the correct statements.” 

  • Nor was it established whether which mob (pro or anti-CAA/NRC) were these men a part of.

  • Even in case of FIR 108/20, the court observed that prosecution did not produce any other witness to establish their identity as part of the mob behind alleged theft and use of fire and bombs.

Shavana said that no weapons were found in their possession, nor is there any CCTV footage. In their last case, which comprises the murder accusation, she said:

“Now the police is trying to make their case. We are waiting for the FSL (forensic) report to come and then we'll take a step forward.”

Irshad, Ahmed and Khan, who did not know each other before they were charged with these cases, are now bound by the legal fight to prove their innocence, pick up the pieces and move on.

Back at his house, Irshad’s 90-year-old grandmother, Tameezan sat closely listening to her family. Her voice muffled at first. But then said something very clearly.

Three years later, three men accused in Delhi riots have been discharged in one case, acquitted in another.

Tameezan, Irshad's grandmother.

(Photo Courtesy: Aliza Noor)

“I have lived here all my life. Never had I seen such riots and violence here. Hindus and Muslims co-existed here always.”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Delhi Police   Umar Khaled   Delhi news 

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