On January 30, an image of a young man’s face being crushed by Delhi police boots went viral on social media.
The young man in the image was Ranjit Singh, 22, from Kajampur village of Punjab’s Nawanshahr district. He was arrested following the events of January 29 at the protest site on the Delhi border where farmers have been camped since November against the three farm laws. He has been accused of attempt to murder and is at Tihar jail.
The image that went viral.
On January 29, a mob of 150-200 people carrying Indian flags made their way towards the protest site at Singhu slogans like “empty Singhu border”, “shoot the traitors”, and “drive away Khalistanis”. The mob pelted stones at the farmers and on tents where women were resting.
Videos shot by journalists on January 29 clearly show Delhi police and Rapid Action Force personnel while the mob attacked the farmers. Farmers present at the site have for their inaction. Despite early claims that the mob was made up of local people from the area, it largely consisted of and RSS. When the farmers began to retaliate to the mob, the security personnel swung into action and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
All of this was shot on camera by journalists and bystanders. It is in one such video that Ranjit was present. Before he entered the frame, members of the mob could be seen pelting stones and shouting at farmers across the barricades. A policeman in riot gear walked among them but not really stopping them. At one point, one of them attempted to yank his lathi but he gently pulled it back. This individual then managed to yank another lathi from a farmer and started to aim it at a farmer across the barricade.
It was at this point, Ranjit, with a sword tucked in his belt, emerged from the barricaded area. He did not attack or point his sword at anyone. He then walked back into the barricaded area. In response, Delhi police personnel pushed Ranjit and he responded by pushing them back. In a flash, multiple policemen started raining blows on him with lathis. Ranjit pulled out his sword and raised it but was overpowered by the police who pinned him down and beat him.
In another video, Ranjit was seen with his pants and his turban stripped off, being carried away by policemen. A policeman yelled “bring the vehicle” and a police van arrived. A bleeding Ranjit was shoved into the vehicle and driven away.
During the skirmish, Pradeep Paliwal, station house officer of Alipur police station, was injured when Ranjit raised his sword. He later ABP News that at around 1.30 pm, “locals” arrived at Singhu to “request” the protesters to move. Despite video evidence, Paliwal maintained that farmers pelted stones first and the mob was only sloganeering and not violent.
Regarding Ranjit, he said, “We had controlled the crowd but one of the Sikhs who was carrying a weapon stepped out to beat the public...he was walking towards the public with his sword...he was very aggressive. I felt if we didn’t stop him, the public would get injured.” He elaborated that when he tried to “tell” Ranjit to stop, Ranjit responded by asking him to “move or else I will hit”.
“It would not have been right to let him go because he was very aggressive. When I tried to stop him, he hurt me on my forearm, fingers and feet with his sword,” the SHO said.
Even though the video clearly showed the police beating Ranjit with a lathi, Paliwal claimed, “We saved him from the public. He had fallen and I fell on top of him to shield him. To save him, we put him in a car and drove away.”
Ranjit (centre, sitting down) with his family.
Ranjit’s family heard about his arrest when videos of the violence surfaced on social media. “We had been trying to call him from 2.30 to 4.30 pm,” said his brother Pardeep Singh. “I also called the villagers who had gone with him. Then we saw what happened on social media.”
The next day, 32 farmers, not including Ranjit, were picked up from the Singhu protest site. Not a single member from the mob has been arrested as of yet.
Discrepancies in the FIR
The first major discrepancy in Ranjit’s FIR, which was registered at Alipur police station, is that, despite the incident occurring at 1.30 pm, it was registered at 11.30 pm. The complainant is SHO Pradeep Paliwal. Under the column asking the reason for delay, it states, “No delay.”
Ranjit has been charged under penal sections pertaining to attempt to murder, rioting with dangerous weapons and obstructing a public official.
According to the complaint, locals who had trouble commuting due to the protest reached Singhu as they wanted “to talk to the farmers and resolve this problem”. But, seeing these locals, the farmers “got angry and started hurling abuses and stones”. Hearing the commotion, Paliwal and his staff reached the site.
This contradicts the video evidence which already establishes that the mob was stone-pelting, and that the Delhi police was already present at the site when the incident happened.
Ranjit was beaten at the scene.
The third discrepancy again lies in the SHO’s statement, where he stated, “Suddenly, a Sikh took out his sword and started running towards the locals with the intention to kill. Keeping in mind my duty to protect the life of the people, I came in front of the Sikh and asked him to stop but he did not. He even threatened to kill me if I did not move from his path but I did not budge. Enraged, he attacked me with his sword and tried to attack my head...Eventually, I was able to snatch the sword from him. Seeing his behaviour, other people started hitting him and he fell down. To protect him, I covered him with my body and eventually, handed him and the sword over to my colleagues.”
Once again, this contradicts the video evidence which clearly showed Delhi police personnel beating Ranjit.
The SHO also stated that farmers and office bearers of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, namely, Satnam Singh Pannu, Swarn Singh Pandhar, Sukhwinder Singh, and Jasbir Singh Pidhi, were standing by and “instigating and provoking the farmers to kill”.
This statement has been attested by a sub-inspector Sachin. He stated that after taking the SHO to the hospital where the doctor declared his injury as “physical assault”, he visited five other injured colleagues in five different hospitals, all of whom had undergone “physical assault”.
In his statement, Paliwal does not mention anything about the slogans, or the physical violence of the mob as captured on camera.
After the violence at Red Fort on Republic Day, the police began heavily barricading protest sites, especially Singhu. Direct access to the protest site was cordoned off and anyone trying to reach the protest had to take multiple detours. So, how the mob managed to make their way to the protest continues to remain a mystery.
This is not stated in the FIR either.
Another major discrepancy in the FIR is that the FIR only mentions Ranjit as an attacker. Despite that, 32 farmers were picked up in relation to the same FIR.
“How does this make sense?” asked Ranjit’s lawyer, Veer Sandhu Karanjawalla. “They pick up one person on January 29, make up a story, name him in an FIR and say he tried to murder them. The next day, they pick up 32 farmers who are not even named in this FIR. Why did they pick them up? Why are they not named? It doesn’t even say unknown persons attacked the police or the crowd.”
The court’s observations
On January 22 a district court in Delhi heard the bail application of Overseer Singh, one of the 32 who were arrested in relation to the same FIR. The judge, Shivaji Anand, granted bail to Overseer and made a few observations that raised questions regarding the actions of the Delhi police.
During the hearing, he asked the Delhi police about the delay in filing the FIR, and pointed out that the names of the 32 arrested were not mentioned. If it took that long to file the FIR, the judge said, but the police had found time to include the names of those standing by and “instigating” the violence, then why weren't the names of all the assailants who allegedly attacked the police included in the FIR?
The court further observed that the “injuries on the police officials are superficial”, except for SHO Pradeep Paliwal.
The judge asked the prosecution why, despite levying claims of attempt to murder and other charges, the police had not sought police custody of Overseer. Based on these observations, Overseer was granted bail.
Advocate Veer said that three of the 32 have been granted bail, but Ranjit remains in Tihar jail. “I am thankful to the judiciary for raising these important questions to the Delhi police. Now we’re working on the bail of the others arrested in this case, including Ranjit,” he said.
Ranjit’s brother, Pradeep, told Newslaundry the family is now focused on getting Ranjit out on bail. “My mother and I met him once,” he said. “We also spoke to him over a video call a few days ago. He said he’s doing fine.”
It has been close to a month since the violence at Singhu border. When Newslaundry reached out to SHO Pradeep Paliwal, he said that no one from the mob has been arrested. “The investigation is ongoing. We are still trying to identify members of the mob,” he said. Multiple news organisations have the members of this mob already.
Regarding the delay in lodging the FIR, he said “There was no delay. It took us some time to collect evidence”.
Keshav Pransukhka contributed reporting.