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VHP leader 'joins probe'; more arrests made

VHP leader joins probe; more arrests made
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New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Monday made more arrests in the case related to the Jahangirpuri communal clashes, with Commissioner Rakesh Asthana saying that 23 people had been arrested and two juveniles apprehended from both communities in an attempt to dispel notions that the probe was being partial.

However, even as the Delhi Police booked the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its ally organisations for holding the Hanuman Jayanti procession illegally without permission, the police department shied away from announcing that they were looking at a local VHP leader as a suspect.

The Delhi Police, in a note on Monday, first said that they had arrested Prem Sharma, Jila Sewa Pramukh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad but quickly issued another note, saying that Sharma had "joined the investigation".

Among those arrested on Monday include 36-year-old Sheikh Hameed, a scrap dealer, who was held for allegedly supplying glass bottles to rioters.

The Delhi Police on Monday also arrested Sonu, the 28-year-old man, purportedly seen shooting at the police during the violence on Saturday.

This came as Commissioner Asthana announced that the case related to the violence had been handed over to the Crime Branch, where a Special Investigative Team will look into it. He added that the Special Cell's Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Ops (IFSO) unit and the local district police would assist in the investigation.

During a media briefing, Asthana asserted that those involved in the violent clashes will not be spared irrespective of class, creed or religion, adding that of those arrested, at least eight had a past criminal record.

As Asthana briefed the public on the case, four forensic teams also reached the spot to collect evidence, following which the Commissioner of Police added that other digital evidence is being looked at to identify the accused involved in the clashes.

Three firearms and five swords have also been seized from the accused so far.

Teams have also been pressed into using facial recognition software to identify those involved in the violence. Asthana dispelled the notion that their probe was partial when asked about the violent Hindu procession that went ahead without permission. In fact, the police have said that a case had been registered against the VHP and a Bajrang Dal unit for holding the procession without permission.

However, this case was registered simply under Section 188 of the IPC (for disobeying a public officer's order) even though eyewitness accounts suggest that the procession had members firing guns, wielding swords and other weapons.

At the press briefing, Asthana maintained that the violence began after an argument between some locals and the processionists and appealed to people to ignore rumours on social media, noting there were efforts to break the peace on social media. "We are analysing the social media and if required those spreading false news, misinformation or tweeting any rumour with an intention to disturb the environment will not be spared and legal action will be taken against them," he said.

Amidst this, a letter petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking an independent probe in the entire Jahangirpuri violence case.

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