Capital files: From Bulli Bai to Shraddha Walkar, crimes that left a scar

A look at the incidents which shocked the Capital City in 2022.
Niraj Bishnoi, the alleged mastermind conspirator and creator of Bulli Bai app. (Photo | ANI)
Niraj Bishnoi, the alleged mastermind conspirator and creator of Bulli Bai app. (Photo | ANI)

New Delhi: Though crime is reported every hour in Delhi, yet, some leave a deep scar in the minds of the populace.

Not even a day of the new year 2022 had passed, and a shameful act of humiliating the women of the minority community came to the fore. Ismat Ira, a young Delhi-based journalist lodged a complaint with the Delhi Police stating that she was being targeted by some unidentified group of people on a mobile application named 'Bulli Bai'.

"It was the first day of the new year when I came across.. I was shocked and aghast to find out that a portal had my doctored picture in an improper, unacceptable and a clearly lewd context," Ismat remembered while speaking to the New Indian Express.

Notably, it was not the first time, the act of targeting a woman of a minority community came just six months after the derogatory "Sulli Deals" mobile application had surfaced where photos of Muslim women were displayed without their consent.

Both the cases were probed by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police's Special Cell. The prime accused in the cases, identified as Niraj Bishnoi, who created the Bulli Bai app and Aumkareshwar Thakur, creator of the Sulli Deals app, were arrested by the Delhi Police on January 6 and January 8, respectively.

On March 4, the cops filed a detailed chargesheet. However later in the same month both Thakur and Bishnoi were granted bail on humanitarian grounds. As per latest update, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena, this month, granted sanction to prosecute Aumkareshwar Thakur under section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which pertains to prosecution for offences against the State and for criminal conspiracy to commit such offence.

Clubhouse hatechat

The January month was yet to complete and another obnoxious audio chat on the topic 'Muslim girls are more beautiful than Hindu girls' went viral on social media.

In the said conversation, the participants were allegedly heard making obscene, vulgar and derogatory remarks targeting Muslim women and girls.

Taking suo-motu cognisance over the issue on January 18, Delhi Commission for Women issued a notice to the Delhi Police Cyber Cell demanding immediate registration of an FIR and punitive action against the alleged persons.

The police immediately swung into action and within a few days six people, which even included two women and a minor boy, were detained and questioned by the police. The Mumbai Police Cyber Cell also arrested three men from Haryana in the same case after a complaint was lodged in Mumbai by a woman.

Communal clashes

Just a month later, on April 16 evening, Delhi once again, after a gap of two years, witnessed violent communal clashes in the Jahangirpuri area of the city in which eight police personnel and a civilian sustained injuries.

The clashes broke out during a Hanuman Jayanti procession. But what were the circumstances that led to the violence? The facts were -- there was a religious procession, it was passing through a mosque area and then there was stone pelting, firing, and clashes.

It was not just one procession that passed through the same locality, rather, it was the third one that ultimately led to bloodshed. Special CP (Law and Order) Dependra Pathak had at that time said the first two processions were taken out at 11 am and 1 pm on April 16, and their organisers took permission from the police on March 25 and March 31, respectively. However, Delhi Police denied the request for the third Shobha Yatra procession as its organisers had made the request just one day before at night.

But even though there was no permission, the organisers went ahead and took out the procession. The police personnel kept a close watch on them.

Fortunately, there were no casualties during the clashes. The clashes broke out in the evening and within hours, the Delhi Police contained the situation with the help of paramilitary forces. By 8 p.m., the situation was under control, yet tense. Months later, the Crime Branch charge-sheeted 37 people in connection with the riots.

The Bulldozers

Not even four days had passed since the several communal clashes, the civic agency in Delhi, taking a hardline approach decided to remove illegal encroachments from the riot-hit Jahangirpuri area.

On April 20, bulldozers reached the same road in front of the mosque, which was the epicentre of the riots, and first demolished a tobacconist's shop and then a juice-cum-tobbacco vendor next to it. And then a double storey scrap dealer's shop was also razed to the ground.

The exercise was heavily criticised by the Opposition parties. To stop the demolition drive, Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind went to the Top Court. After hearing the matter in detail, the Supreme Court ordered status quo and drive was halted.

But soon after a fortnight, the civic agency continued with its demolition exercise in other parts of the city. At several times, it even faced the ire of the encroachers, especially in the sensitive areas.

The Tihar fiasco

The high-security prison -- Tihar Jail -- known even before independence to keep the criminals at bay, received much humiliation this year for allegedly extending benefits to the prisoners in one or the other way.

On November 1, The New Indian Express broke the mega-exclusive story of Tihar inmate Sukesh Chandrashekhar writing a letter to Delhi LG VK Saxena in which he leveled serious allegations of extortion against Aam Aadmi Party Minister Satyender Jain and the then director general (Prisons) Sandeep Goel.

Just three days later on November 4, Goel was removed as the head of Tihar Prison and asked to report back to the Police Headquarters in Delhi with immediate effect.

In his first letter, Chandrashekhar alleged that he made payments not only to Jain but also to the Aam Aadmi Party to the tune of Rs 50 crore as he was promised an important position in the party in south India. The allegations put the AAP in the vortex of a political storm with rivals BJP and Congress training their guns at its party chief Arvind Kejriwal. Just a week back, Goel was placed under suspension by the Union Home Ministry. The Ministry, however, cited no specific reason in the suspension order.

The Tihar Prison also came back in news after videos of Delhi minister Jain getting a full body massage inside his jail cell went viral on social media. The purported CCTV footage dated September 13 shows the minister lying on his bed and reading some papers while a man, who was later identified as an inmate convicted in POCSO case, sitting next to him is seen massaging his foot.

The videos surfaced on social media, 10 days after the Enforcement Directorate accused Jain of getting special treatment inside the prison.

The Mehrauli monstrosity

In one of the rarest gut-churning incidents, a 27-year-old Mumbai-suburb resident Shraddha Walkar was allegedly strangled, her body sliced into more than two dozen pieces and then dumped at different locations of a forest area in south Delhi and Gurugram by her live-in partner, Aftab Amin Poonawala.

The case immediately caught the eye of national media and became the talk of the town due to two reasons -- one was the interfaith relation of the accused and the victim and second the barbarity with which Aaftab had committed the crime.

The case that shook the country to its core came to light on November 14 but the victim woman's father - Vikas Walkar’s search for her missing daughter had already begun in October. One of Shraddha’s friends had alerted her father Vikas about Shraddha not responding to her messages and calls for the past some months.

It was Vikas Walkar, who then first approached the Mumbai Police on October 6, frantically searching for his daughter, and later came to know that she was residing in Delhi with her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala.

The Mumbai Police lodged the first missing complaint on October 10 after it found that Shraddha had been inactive on her all social media accounts. Aftab too was called to Mumbai and questioned by the police on October 26. However, he did not reveal anything then.

Searching Shraddha, the Mumbai Police then reached Mehrauli police station in Delhi on November 9 and told them about Shraddha who was possibly residing at Chattarpur Pahadi in south Delhi. Next day, on November 10, the Delhi Police registered an FIR and began searching for her. Poonawala was traced and detained and when put to sustained interrogation, he revealed all the horrific details of the barbaric crime that he had committed six months back on May 18.

It took accused Poonawala several months, starting from May 18 when he killed his partner, to gradually dispose of all the body parts in the forest area of south Delhi and Gurugram in Haryana. For these six months, Poonawala took several precautions so that the brutal crime committed by him did not surface in the open. Night after night, around 2 am, he used to leave his flat, carrying a plastic bag containing a body part of the victim woman, throw it at an abandoned place and return back by 4 am before morning walkers start venturing out.

After arresting Aaftab, began the most intense search operation to locate the chopped body parts of Shraddha and gradually the police -- piece by piece -- began collecting evidence to strengthen the case. Aftab was subjected to a series of forensic tests -- polygraph, narco and even voice sample test. On Aaftab's instance, some bone pieces were recovered from the Mehrauli forest area which matched the DNA of Shraddha's father.

The city now with bated breath awaits justice for the Mumbai woman. Sources say Delhi Police will most likely file a chargesheet in the case by the first month of 2023.

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