New Delhi: A fact-finding report released by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday has held home minister Amit Shah responsible for the communal violence that broke out in North East Delhi earlier this year. The riots in February claimed 53 lives, of whom 40 were Muslim and 13 Hindu. The report specifically holds Shah responsible for the “escalation” of violence and prejudicing the police probe in the matter.
The report, titled ‘Communal Violence in North East Delhi, February 2020’, says,“The role of the home ministry under Mr Amit Shah was in substantial measure responsible for the escalation of the violence.”
The Delhi police has so far arrested several activists and students who were a part of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, claiming that they hatched a “conspiracy” that resulted in the riots. The name of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has also figured in a witness statement part of a supplementary charge sheet on the February riots, allegedly for “provoking and mobilising” anti-CAA protesters, but he was not named as an accused.
The CPI(M) had previously condemned the criminalisation of “peaceful political protests,” referring to the anti-CAA protests. A statement said, “The CPM condemns this obnoxious action by the Delhi Police to further the narrative of its political masters and urges the government to desist from such acts of criminalising peaceful political protests.”
The report released on Wednesday concluded that “it is incorrect to describe the communal violence as Delhi riots. ‘Riots’ describe a situation where both sides are equally participatory… However, the offensive was from the Hindutva mobs while the other side, in the main, was desperately trying to save themselves from such attacks… In almost all areas, there is video evidence of the police siding with the Hindutva mobs.”
The report also lists several specific instances of violence that go against the general narrative pushed by the police and highlights several identical FIRs and confessions cited by the police as well as complaints of torture. Quoting a chargesheet filed in a case in which several students have been charged with terrorism for allegedly inciting riots by their protests against the new citizenship regime, the report shows that the number of personnel deployed during the riots from February 23 to 27 ranged from 1,393 to 4,756 in a district with a population of 26 lakh.
“The question is, when the violence erupted on 24 February, why was the curfew not imposed? After all, why was the army not deployed? Even the number of Delhi Police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel was extremely low and the deployment was done very late,” the report asks.
It also alleges that the home minister dismissed the well-documented speeches by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders “that called for shooting traitors or alleging that members of the minority community will invade homes of Hindus to rape and kill.”
The report further reads, “Before any investigation was done, the home minister laid down its findings (in the Lok Sabha on March 11). The subsequent investigation was only to substantiate and validate this narrative…then he went on to describe what he thought were the real hate speeches. He said that Congress leaders gave hate speeches on December 14, 2019, at a rally calling upon people to come out onto the streets because it was a do-or-die battle. With this, he not only sought to build the version that it was really the Opposition that incited violence, but more significantly, he blamed the minority community for the violence.”
In the Lok Sabha on March 11, Shah had called the riots a “well-planned conspiracy” and praised the police for controlling the violence within 36 hours. The Congress and the CPI(M) had walked out during his speech.
Contradictory to Shah’s statement, the report describes attacks even on February 28, five days after the killings began. Besides holding BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur’s speeches and the provocative sloganeering in the Shivratri processions on February 21 responsible for the violence, the report also slams Delhi’s AAP government for delays in “partial” compensation given to the victims. The report seeks an independent enquiry by a retired high court judge into the matter.