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Farmer leaders to be charged for sedition; UAPA invoked by police

Delhi police on Thursday said they were probing a “larger conspiracy and criminal design” behind the violent tractor rally by farmers on Republic Day and that this would be done under stringent sections of sedition and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This is in addition to investigations into the violence itself.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Delhi police said their preliminary assessment suggests “there was a pre-conceived and well-coordinated plan” to break the terms of the agreement reached between police and farmer unions on the basis of which the latter were allowed to go ahead with the rally.

Police said the protesters planned to “create an international embarrassment for the government on Republic Day.” The case is being investigated by the special cell, the police’s anti-terror unit. On January 14 , the cell filed a case against unknown persons for trying to fuel tension in the farmers protest at three border points in the national Capital. The case was registered on the basis of intelligence inputs that some terror organisations were trying to foment trouble. Prominent farm group leaders will be investigated in this case, and also for their role in the larger conspiracy the police said.

Police will probe prominent leaders of the protest and their communication with other organisers since the farm laws were passed in September. Police will also check the source of funds for the protests. Police have already identified at least 300 handles from Pakistan, that were trying to mobilise protesters at the borders with the hashtag — Support Khalistan. Investigating officials on Thursday collected videos of the alleged provocative speeches by farmer leaders at the protest sites.

Meanwhile, starting their investigation into the incidents of violence on Republic Day, other units of Delhi police on Thursday issued notices to at least 20 leaders of farm groups or unions, asking them for names of those within their groups who had indulged in violence on Tuesday. These notices were also pasted at the protest sites. Separately, police also issued look-out circulars against 44 leaders to ensure that they do not flee the country during the investigation. Those against whom such notices have been issued include Satnam Singh Pannu, Buta Singh Burjgil, Darshan Pal Singh, and Rakesh Tikait. Until Thursday night, police had arrested 52 persons for the incidents of violence.

Tikait has denied allegations that he provoked the protesters. HT contacted the other leaders but they did not respond despite repeated calls and text messages.

A senior Delhi Police officer who did not wish to be named said that of the 33 FIRs related to the violence during the tractor rally, 9 cases have been transferred to the crime branch – a specialized investigation unit that does not engage itself in routine law and order duties.

The 9 FIRs include the ones registered in connection with the violence at Red Fort and ITO. The criminal case registered — for the acts of violence within the Red Fort complex, hoisting of farm union and religious flags and attacks on police personnel — is the one in which actor Deep Sidhu and gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana will be investigated . Police said these two were among those allegedly leading the protesters at Red Fort who desecrated Red Fort.

Police teams have started collecting dump data of cell phones that were in Red Fort area when violence was at its peak. “We will identify the individuals involved in the violence there. We will analyse their call records. We also have footage from multiple CCTV cameras,” a second officer, who did not wish to be named said.

The officer added that until Tuesday morning the WhatsApp groups of the farmers were active and had discussed the siege of Red Fort on their groups. “Some protesters on horses and swords had led the violence at Red Fort. This was a well-planned move to ensure that they were not stopped by police. We have many of them on tape swinging their swords at the police,” the second officer added.

The police officer mentioned above said, “So far this case has sections of rioting, attempt to murder, attempt to (commit) culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy. It was not a spontaneous move to storm the Red Fort on Republic Day. It was a conspiracy and a planned one. The special cell is separately investigating the role of farmer leaders and people such as Deep Sidhu. He will be probed by both units — one for violence at Red Fort and second of the larger conspiracy to start violence and embarrass the government.”

Delhi police commissioner SN Shrivastava on Wednesday named four farmer leader SS Pannu, Darshan Pal, Buta Singh Burjgil and Rakesh Tikait – for either giving provocative statements or veering from the prescribed routes for the rally, leading to the violence. At least 394 police personnel and 10 farmers sustained injuries during the clashes. One farmer died in the protests after his tractor overturned after ramming into a police barricade at ITO

Tikait a member of the Samyukth Kisan Morcha — a union of at least 40 farmer unions — denied allegations that they indulged in violence.

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DS News Service