Jahangirpuri in northwest Delhi came into the headlines when an outbreak of communal violence took place in the course of a confrontation between some Hindus and Muslims during a Hanuman Jayanti procession on 16 April 2022. Two FIRs (nos. 440 and 441 of 2022, Jahangirpuri PS) were filed. The investigation in FIR 440 was transferred to Crime Branch, and several persons were arrested in the course of investigations under this. Less than a week after the incident, as the police investigation and early arrests started, the municipal authorities brought in bulldozers at Block C without due notice, allegedly to carry out long pending demolition of illegal construction at the site of the communal flare-up. Even as suspicions were raised about the timing and place of these demolitions in Jahangirpuri, nothing much came of it, while livelihood and shelter of several persons at the site of the incident were destroyed, and the demolitions negatively impacted upon the scope for a fair investigation, and evidence collection.
The main chargesheet in FIR 440 was presented on 14 July 2022. Although the matter died down in the media subsequently, despite the official account being challenged in court by defence lawyers, the police put forward their version, following ‘investigation’, which re-scripted the account of the communal clash, and presented it as a supposed ‘conspiracy’ by a group of Muslims, rather than as a clash between the two communities as it was reported at the time of occurrence. This notion which became the fulcrum of police intervention and action was based on alleged ‘linkage’ with the CAA NRC protests of 2020, derived from evidence that some people from Jahangirpuri had apparently participated in the protests on certain days. Following a pattern already seen in the city in recent years, the police, accepting the version of one side as correct, did not arrest or penalize any significant number of Hindus and went on to arrest mostly Muslims.
What kind of investigation was the police version constructed upon? What kind of evidence did they rely on to arrive at this version, which became the basis of the spate of arrests? Given their near monopoly of the police on collecting evidence at the time of occurrence and their control over what comprises evidence, biases and anomalies occurring in police investigation, collection and assessment of evidence etc. carry grave implications for democratic rights of citizens.
It is crucial therefore to examine the role of the state – in investigating the incident, identifying, arresting and prosecuting the guilty – in the months after the incident, to fully understand the truth of the communal clash at Jahangirpuri on 16 April 2022 and its aftermath.
PUDR investigated this communal clash both at the time of its occurrence, and in its aftermath. Our fact-finding team spoke to residents from diverse backgrounds in blocks C, G and H in Jahangirpuri, met and spoke to the police at Jahangirpuri Police Station, the Crime Branch, as well as lawyers and journalists in the course of its investigation. We read the FIR and discussed matters related to the main chargesheet (of FIR 440/22, Jahangirpuri PS) in detail with some of the lawyers of the accused. Following is the PUDR report on the making – and framing – of this communal incident.