By Tarushi Aswani 

New Delhi: “When I was living life normally, we saw the CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act], and today we see so many incidents targeting Muslims,” says Shifa Ur Rehman, one of the longest incarcerated undertrials in the Delhi riots conspiracy case. He completed three years in Tihar Jail on April 26, 2023.

Rehman, 46, is also one of the 18 people accused of provocation which led to the violence that unfolded in northeast Delhi in February 2020, and is named in the chargesheet for FIR 59/2020.

Communal violence shook northeast Delhi and caused widespread damage to the area, its Muslim-owned properties, mosques and Islamic shrines. Fifty-three people were killed, a majority of whom were Muslims. But the Delhi Police arrested some of those protesting the CAA, accusing them of using the two-month-long movement as a front for planning the riots. A majority of those arrested, both locals and activists, were also Muslims.

Harassment and hearings

On April 26, 2020, Rehman was asked to report to a police station in Mawana, in Uttar Pradesh’s Satla, from where he was arrested, and then taken to Delhi to remain in police custody. After 20 days in custody, he was moved to Tihar jail.

In the initial two months of his arrest, Rehman was not allowed contact with his lawyers, despite multiple orders by Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat directing the Tihar jail authorities to look into the situation. This continued until the Delhi high court intervened in September 2020.

After he was able to connect with his lawyers, the Delhi police refused to provide copies of the 17,000-page chargesheet in FIR 59 to his counsel, despite two orders by the trial court directing the police to fulfil this basic legal right.

The prosecution was only provided the hard copies of the FIR on March 25, 2021.

The FIR 59/2020 accused Rehman of offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1967 Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Charges include but are not limited to rioting (Section 147 IPC), rioting with a deadly weapon (Section 148 IPC), murder (Section 302 IPC), attempted murder (Section 307 IPC), sedition (Section 124A IPC), promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153A IPC), unlawful activities (Section 13 UAPA), terrorist acts (Section 16 UAPA), raising funds for terrorist acts (Section 17 UAPA), and conspiracy (Section 18 UAPA)…

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