In the charge sheets it has filed in connection with the Delhi riots, the Delhi Police has attached as much focus on the “chronology” that allegedly led to the riots, as to the communal violence that took place in February 2020.
For instance in the charge sheet filed last week in connection with the murder of Intelligence Bureau employee Ankit Sharma, (detailed report here) the police has included an over 1500 word long section titled “Chronology Of Events Leading To Riots In North-East, Delhi” – that lays down the premise on which the police appears to be basing its entire probe into the violence. And the premise is clear - the police believes that the riots were a planned conspiracy by a section of the protesters against CAA and any violence from the other side was a retaliation.
The interesting part is that the police’s “chronology” entirely omits BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s speech at Maujpur on 23 February, in which he gave an ultimatum to the Delhi Police to “clear the streets” in three days or he would get it done on his own.
Instead, the police’s “chronology” jumps from the blocking of roads by anti-CAA protesters on 22 February and 23 February to the outbreak of violence, completely ignoring Mishra’s speech at Maujpur, which went on to become an epicentre of the communal violence in Northeast Delhi.
Here is the chronology of the run-up to the violence given by the Delhi Police in its charge sheet:
- 13 December 2019: Incident of violence at Jamia Millia University Road.
- 15 December: Incident of violence at New Friends’ Colony
- 16 December: Violence at Jamia Millia University
- 15 December: Formation of Jamia Coordination Committee to “keep protests alive”.
- 16 December: Beginning of Shaheen Bagh protests
- 15 January to 26 January, 2020: “Systematic encroachments and blocking of main roads” in different parts of Northeast Delhi such as Seelampur, Dayalpur, Jyoti Nagar, Khajuri Khas, Bhajanpura and Shastri Park.
- 22 February 10.30 PM: Blocking of Jafrabad main road by protesters following Bharat Bandh call by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad
Now comes the crucial part, on how the police has chosen to characterise the events of 23 February, the day Kapil Mishra made his speech and the day violence broke out in Northeast Delhi.
The Events of 23 February - the Day Violence Began
The charge sheet covers the events of 23 February in about four points. Below are detailed excerpts from the charge sheet regarding that day:
“On 23.02.2020, information was received that at 3.00 PM that some people demanding reopening of carriage way of 66-Foot Road at the Jafrabad Metro station would assemble in Mauj Pur Chowk, which is about 750 meters from Jafrabad Metro station.Delhi Police Charge Sheet in Ankit Sharma case
“Thereafter, all residents from the areas of Jafrabad and Kardampuri (who had been supporting the blockage of the metro station) numbering in thousands gathered and started stone pelting from both sides on the crowd which was demanding re-opening of carriage way of 66-Foota Road and the Jafrabad Metro station. The police intervened and dispersed the crowds on both sides by firing tear gas shells and lathi charge.”
“However, the situation continued to be volatile and tension started to spread to other areas like Welcome, Jafrabad, Dayalpur, Usmanpur, Bhajanpura, Gokalpuri and Khajuri Khas. Incidents of stone pelting were also reported from Sherpur Chowk and Chand Bagh by Anti-CAA protesters.”
By the morning of 23.02.2020, the gathering of protesters at Jafrabad Metro Station swelled to 2000/3000 as women and men of the surrounding areas kept joining the protest. In response the local crowd who was demanding re-opening of carriage way of 66-Foota Road and the Jafrabad Metro station had also gathered at Maujpur Chowk.Delhi Police’s Charge Sheet in Ankit Sharma case
Besides, on 23.02.2020 itself at 12.29 PM, information was received that some AntiCAA protesters had blocked the road at B-Block Yamuna Vihar. The Anti-CAA protesters sitting on the slip road of Wazirabad Road, near Chand Bagh had blocked Wazirabad Road and that they are very aggressive.
Why Omission of Kapil Mishra is Surprising
Kapil Mishra’s speech hasn’t been mentioned in the charge sheet at all. This despite the fact that the DCP was present when Mishra gave his ultimatum to the police.
Instead of mentioning him, the charge sheet vaguely refers to his gathering at Maujpur as “some people demanding reopening of carriage way of 66-Foot Road at the Jafrabad Metro station”.
The onus of violence is put entirely on the anti-CAA protesters.
This is surprising as according to the police’s own charge sheet, the major clashes broke out on 24 February precisely at Maujpur, the area where Mishra made his speech.
There have been media reports such as this one in Outlook that quote eyewitnesses who claim that Mishra said, “Yahi sahi mauka hai. Isse bhuna lo. Ab chook gaye to dubaara mauka nahi milega. (This is the right time. Exploit it. If you miss it, you won’t get another opportunity).
Strangely, the police considers protests in Jamia Millia Islamia - separated from the riots by a period of two months and a distance of over 20 kilometers - more relevant than a provocative speech delivered on the exact area where violence broke out 24 hours later.