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Only anti-CAA protesters accused in 17,500-page Delhi riots charge-sheet

Only anti-CAA protesters accused in 17,500-page Delhi riots charge-sheet
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New Delhi: Fifteen people, all of them linked to protests against the Centre's controversial new citizenship law and none from the campaign in its favour, have been named by the police on Wednesday in a humongous charge-sheet filed in connection with the Delhi riots that raged through the Capital in February this year, leaving 53 dead and property worth crores damaged.

The 17,500-page filing included more than 2,600 pages detailing the charges against the accused and thousands of pages of annexures. Charges include those under the tough anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Among those named are suspended AAP councilor Tahir Hussain and a number of student activists. Saving two (students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita), all others charge-sheeted are Muslims.

Appearing before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, Delhi Police, apart from Hussain, also named Mohd. Parvez Ahmed, Mohd Illyas, Saifi Khalid, Ishrat Jahan, Miran Haider, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Shadab Ahmed, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Tasleem Ahmed, Saleem Malik, Mohd. Saleem Khan and Athar Khan in the case, charging them under a slew of IPC sections and Sections 13, 16, 17 and 18 of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Significantly, one of those charge-sheeted, Asif Tanha, has been given the opportunity to file a fresh bail plea before the trial court by the Delhi High Court on Wednesday, now that the charge-sheet under UAPA had been filed against him. The high court ordered the trial to consider the plea afresh.

Substantiating the charges, police claimed they have recovered several WhatsApp chats that were used to create 'chakka' jams (roadblocks) at around 25 locations and "engineer" riots under the garb of "secular protests". When asked how these groups are linked, police said: "In these groups, there were top-level principal conspirators who coordinated with the middle-level intermediaries who further directed various foot soldiers to confront law enforcement agencies".

Saying that blocking roads is not a democratic form of protest, police alleged that the main conspirators directed youngsters to supervise locations beforehand in order to engineer the violence.

Police also claimed that several students walked from Jamia to Jafrabad to conduct and incite violence. "Jamia is privileged to do chakka jam," they quoted one of the chats as saying.

Another chat, the police claimed, revealed that a set of conspirators were "hell-bent" on inciting violence in the Chand Bagh and Jaffrabad areas. They also said one of the chats told protestors to leave the site "once the violence starts".

Police claimed there was a series of meetings between the core members of the WhatsApp groups, where protests were planned and possible consequences of their plan and a possibility of violence and communal riots were discussed. The facade of women protesters was used as a shield, police claimed.

Police also claimed that on February 24, top conspirators were directly in touch with the people who were at the spot ("foot-soldiers") on the day of violence. The Delhi Police also analysed one group named Delhi Protest Support group.

Claiming to have received sanctions from both the Centre and the state government to prosecute the accused, police cited 747 witnesses to back the allegations in the charge-sheet, which also contains statements from various Investigation Officers (IOs). Fifty-one witness statements of these are under Section 164 of the CrPC, recorded before a Magistrate — making it admissible as evidence. The police added that around 75 electronic devices had been seized as part of the probe.

Meanwhile, the court said the hearings are set to continue on Thursday where the police are expected to justify the humongous charge-sheet.

The police have added that over 16,000 PCR calls were received and a total of 751 cases were registered by Delhi Police in connection with these riots, of which 59 were assigned to the Crime Branch SIT, 691 were investigated by the district police and one case (the current one) was registered on March 6 to probe the "larger conspiracy" — assigned to the Special Cell.

Police said they took 195 days to complete the first phase of the investigation.

"The charge-sheet submitted today runs into 11 volumes, totalling over 17,000 pages. The Hon'ble Court has been requested to take cognizance of the offences and begin the trial of the charge-sheeted accused persons," one official said. Further investigation into the matter is continuing and supplementary charge-sheets are likely to be filed in due course.

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