On September 1, the historian and political activist wrote to S.N. Shrivastava, Delhi’s police commissioner, detailing an instance he had just learned about, of an acquaintance having been coerced into making a false statement by investigators supposedly probing the Delhi riots.
Appended below is the full text of Umar Khalid’s letter to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi
I am writing to you to bring to your notice disturbing acts of fabrication and attempts at false implication by the officers of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
On 29th August 2020, at around 10:20 pm, my acquaintance XY* passed on a message to me through a common friend that he wanted to meet me to intimate me about something that had just happened. Although I was not in the know of what transpired, but XY emphasised the urgency of the situation, owing to which we met later that night at our friend’s house at around 11 pm.
On meeting me, XY told me, that over the last two months, he has been called to the Special Cell six-seven times for questioning as a part of the ongoing investigation in the Delhi pogrom. On several occasions, he was made to wait for long hours and questioned extensively. As a part of this, on 29th August 2020, he and one of his friends were called to the Special Cell for further questioning. While his friend was questioned only for around 15 minutes or so, XY was again kept for around 8-9 hours. When I met him later that night, XY, who was still rattled from his questioning, told me that he was given a pre-drafted statement by an officer called Mr. Joshi, who told XY that this would be your statement.
He told me that, to the best of his recollection, this pre-drafted statement read as
“Bharat Sarkar dwara CAA ka kanoon paas hone ke baad Muslim samuday mein kaafi rosh tha. Is kanoon ko muslim virodhi samjha jaane laga. Isko leke jagah jagah virodh, pradarshan aur meeting hone lagi. Aisi hi ek meeting 26 December 2019 ko Indian Social Institute, Lodhi Road mein hui thi jismein main gaya tha. Is meeting mein Jamia Coordination Committee, JNU, DU ke chhatra the. Is meeting mein UAH ke member bhi the. Mujhe yeh bhi pata chala ki hum Bharat ke Log ke members bhi the. Mujhe pata chala ki Dilli mein alag alag jagah Muslim bahul kshettron mein Shaheen Bagh protests khadein karne hain. Aur in protests mein zyada se zyada aurton aur bachhon ko shaamil kiya jaayega jisse police karyawahi na kar sake. Umar Khalid ne bola sahi waqt aane par hum Dilli mein chakka jam karenge jisse Sarkar ko yeh kanoon waapis lena padhe. 28.12.2019 ko Delhi Protest Support Group whatsapp pe banaya gaya”
(Translation: “After the passing of the CAA by the Government of India, there was a lot of anger amidst the Muslim community. This law came to be perceived as Anti-Muslim. Protests, demonstrations, and meetings pertaining to this started across places. One such meeting took place on 26 December 2019 at Indian Social Institute, Lodhi Road, in which I went. In this meeting, Jamia Coordination Committee and students of JNU and DU were present. Members of UAH were also present in this meeting. I also got to know that members of Hum Bharat ke Log were also there. I got to know that in different Muslim majority regions Shaheen Bagh protests have to be set up. And in these protests, to the maximum extent possible, women and children will be involved so that police is unable to take action. Umar Khalid said that at the opportune moment we will organize a chakka jam in Delhi so that the Government is forced to withdraw this law. On 28.12.2019, Delhi Protest Support Group was created on Whatsapp.”)
XY informed me that having objected to this statement, he categorically told the officers that a large part of this did not happen in front of him. To this, the officer first tried to insist that this was an accurate account of what happened, and it is only when XY continued to object, did the officer ask him to underline what did not happen in front of him. XY bracketed the lines starting from “Mujhe yeh bhi pata chala ki hum bharat ke log ke members bhi the. Mujhe pata chala ki Dilli mein alag alag jagah Muslim bahul kshettron mein Shaheen Bagh protests khadein karne hain. Aur in protests mein zyada se zyada aurton aur bachhon ko shaamil kiya jaayega jisse police karyawahi na kar sake. Umar Khalid ne bola sahi waqt aane par hum Dilli mein chakka jam karenge jisse Sarkar ko yeh kanoon waapis lena padhe.”
The officer then told him that they would remove these lines on the condition that they will add others about XY’s role in the pogrom and how he too, was involved, in planning a chakka jam. XY told them that he did no such thing and requested them not to add this to his statement.
Having administered this threat of implicating him and detailing his alleged role, they brought another form, which XY said looked like an arrest memo with UAPA written over it. Showing him this form, they told him that he had to make a choice – he could either comply and go ahead with the pre-drafted statement without any deletions or he could sign the other form. Any pleas of not putting him in this situation were naturally in vain. A totally flustered XY felt compelled to go ahead with the statement.
He was asked to read the statement thoroughly and repeat it in front of a camera in the most natural way possible. Having no choice, he complied. At this point, one of the officers present there took the statement to the DCP for a final look, who added one more line to it before “28.12.2019 ko Delhi Protest Support Group whatsapp pe bana gaya”, which read that, “Is protest ko lambe samein tak chalane aur 24 ghante chalane ke liye funds bhi diye jaayenge”. (Translation: “To ensure that these protests are long-term and 24 hours, funds will be given”).
They then started recording XY’s statement. There were two cameras – one on a tripod and the other was the phone camera used by one of the officers. While recording the video, XY, who looked nervous and hence looked away from the camera in this nervousness, was gestured by the officers to look into the camera directly and not look away. They recorded the video, sealed the chip from the camera on the tripod and made him sign. They then told him that he would be asked to come in court during the trial to testify about the video. They told him that he is no longer required at the Special Cell and can now focus on his work.
This is not the first time that I am hearing of such “confessions” against others being extracted under duress with threats of arrests or arraignment to falsely implicate others. Even specifically against me, previously, the police claims to have obtained a “confession” from Tahir Hussain, where he allegedly says that Khalid Saifi arranged a meeting between him and me at the PFI office at Shaheen Bagh on 8th January 2020. This is absolutely false and does not have an iota of truth, as I have never met Tahir Hussain or been to the PFI office and I have already clarified this publicly. In fact, when I was questioned by the Special Cell on 31st July 2020, I was not even asked a single question about this supposed meeting with Tahir Hussain.
I am both deeply disappointed and aghast that the police is resorting to such smear campaigns in order to give legitimacy to their actions. None of what is attributed to me in this pre-drafted statement that XY was coerced into giving was ever said by me. Despite not having a legal case or evidence against me, they are attempting to build a narrative in the minds of the general public to create ground to take action against me based on such obviously false accounts and fabricated statements. Although I have largely remained silent so far in order to continue cooperating with the investigation and not make public statements when matters are sub judice, I have come to realise that my silence is being taken advantage of and used as an opportunity to freely peddle falsehoods against me.
This would not be the first instance where I would be targeted based on completely false and motivated information, which is the reason why I am writing to you. I am concerned that should I continue to remain silent, I would continuously be subjected to public trial. Upon writing this letter, I also fear that XY will be pressurised into making further statements against me or standing by the false statement he was coerced to make and should he refuse to do this, he might be harmed. I hope that no harm will visit XY or me for having spoken truthfully.
Public Relations Officer & DCP/PRO
Staff Officer to Commissioner of Police
*Note: The name of Umar Khalid’s acquaintance has been withheld by The Wire