Protesters armed with swords, rods, pharsi (saintie), wooden legs of a cot and spears stormed the historical Red Fort in Delhi as part of a “well-planned conspiracy” to “cause mayhem”, the Delhi Police have said in a charge sheet in the violence at the monument on Republic Day during a tractor rally taken out by farmers protesting against the three farm laws enacted by the Centre in September last year.
The crime branch of the Delhi police, which is investigating the case, has named 16 suspects in the charge sheet that was filed on May 17 in a Delhi court. The police have termed the alleged storming of the fort by the protesters a “well-planned conspiracy.” According to the charge sheet, the accused came well equipped to “cause mayhem” and use the Red Fort premises as their new protest site.
Scanning footage from over 100 video clips that were shot by drones, hired photographers, those posted on social media and footage from CCTV cameras, police have attached clips in the charge sheet to show how the protesters indulged in violence carrying the “weapons” cited above. As evidence, the police have also attached a copy of the cell phone location of all 16 accused to establish their presence at the Mughal-era fort when the protesters clashed with the police and vandalised property at the monument.
The charge sheet running into 3,224 pages was submitted before a duty metropolitan magistrate in Tis Hazari court which is expected to hear the matter on Friday. A charge sheet is a legal document submitted to court by the investigating officer, which lists the charges and evidence against those who are charged in the case. It is on the basis of a charge sheet that the court holds trial.
Punjabi actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu is among the 16 people named in the charge sheet. All 16 were arrested in connection with the case filed by the police. While Sidhu and 12 others have been released on bail, three accused, 23-year-old Dutch national of Indian origin, Maninderjit Singh, Khempreet Singh and Jabrajang Singh, are still in judicial custody. Police have attached a video of Sidhu allegedly showing him throwing away the national flag. “At the very same time (after rioters climbed the ramparts) another member from the unlawfully assembled riotous mob handed him (Sidhu) over the national flag to hoist it alongside the Nishan Sahib, but the individual (Sidhu) over the pole threw away the national flag,” the police said.
Two separate cases were registered in connection with the violence at the Red Fort. While one case involving serious charges such as rioting, attempt to murder, and criminal conspiracy was registered on the police’s complaint, the second case was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is the custodian of the Mughal-era fort. Sidhu was arrested in both the cases.
The police are yet to file a charge sheet in the second case.
No senior police officer on Friday commented on the charge sheet, saying the matter is in court now.
The police suspect some pro-Khalistan terror groups based outside India could be involved. They have mentioned a telephone call that one of the accused, Iqbal Singh,45, received when he was at the Red Fort complex. Police said the call originated in Canada.
Iqbal has also been mentioned in the charge sheet as one of the people who instigated the mob at the fort. Iqbal, a Ludhiana resident, was held on February 10.
According to the charge sheet, a video shows Iqbal instigating the mob to attack security guards and police personnel, who were deployed to secure the ASI-protected monument on January 26.
“Hamare pass dande bhi hai… dande tayyar rakh lo,” the police quoted him as saying in the video clip.
Quoting an alleged confession by Iqbal Singh, the police said he was promised a cash reward by the Sikhs For Justice group, a banned pro-Khalistan organisation, if he hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag at the Red Fort.
To be sure, Singh’s “confession” to the police cannot be considered admissible evidence by the court.
“During police custody remand accused (Iqbal) has also disclosed that during his stay/visit to Canada in 2009, the accused worked at a gurdwara in Toronto, which is known/popular for its support to Khalistani movement in Punjab. Even on the date of incident i.e., 26th January 2021, while he was present at Red Fort, he received a call from Canada. ….Furthermore there is one audio conversation on record, where in the daughter of the accused Iqbal Singh is conversing with one of his relative mentioning that they will be getting an amount of ?50 lakh,” the police said in the charge sheet.
At least 394 police personnel and 10 farmers were injured during Republic Day’s tractor rally when protesting farmers deviated from the pre-approved route and clashed with police personnel.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, rejected the “conspiracy angle” given by the police to the protest. Sirsa’s team is providing legal help to some of those who participated in the rally and are now facing court proceedings. He said his team has sought bail for 156 farmers, who were accused in the January 26 violence case but in none of the hearings the police said it was a conspiracy.
Sirsa said, “Last month, when Deep Sidhu was granted bail by the court, even then the police did not allege conspiracy.
“First, the police should define what they mean by ‘association with Khalistan terror group’? For the last three months, the investigators are probing the angles of terror links and foreign funding of farmer protests, but they are yet to establish or prove anything.”
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