Communalism

Delhi Riots: 270 Eminent Citizens Write to CM Kejriwal Urging Probe by Retired Judge

The signatories have said that Delhi police have botched up the probe to “conceal the role played by BJP leaders in the communal violence”.

New Delhi: Nearly 270 prominent citizens of Delhi have urged Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to institute an independent probe under a retired judge into the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February this year. Citing six reasons for demanding such a probe, a letter by the citizens said it would “bring confidence to the people of Delhi and take forward the necessity to punish those guilty and to bring justice to the victims also.”

The letter also referred to how the police investigation and prosecution into various FIRs filed in relation to the violence was botched up and has not evoked much hope since. “The totally one sided and politically motivated reports of the Delhi police regarding the communal violence is also in sharp contrast to the report and recommendations of the Delhi Minority Commission,” it said, adding that “this makes the setting up of such a probe all the more urgent.”

The signatories to the letter, who include Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) N.I. Razzaqui; former Foreign Secretary Muchkund Dubey; former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah; CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat; social activists Harsh Mander and Swami Agnivesh; journalists H.K. Dua and Mrinal Pande; former Planning Commission member Sayeda Hameed; and academicians Prabhat Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh, among others, also reminded Kejriwal about the “grave disquiet and concern about the unfair, unjust, one sided and manufactured ‘investigation’ by the Delhi police.

Demanding that a judicial probe be conducted in a time-bound manner, they said, “The terms of reference should include various aspects of the violence.” Further, the letter noted that the 270-odd signatories wanted “punishment to those guilty” and believe an independent inquiry will help such a process.

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On the reasons for their demand, the citizens wrote of the Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) report which was released recently and how it described the events in total contrast and variance to the claims made by the Delhi police. “The Commission has recommended the setting up of an independent inquiry. The State government should accept this recommendation,” the letter thus said.

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Further, it said, “The Delhi police functions directly under the Home Ministry” and “the Home Minister himself had led the highly communal election campaign in Delhi which was a prelude to the violence and in fact his speech has been quoted in the DMC report. There is a clear conflict of interest between getting to the truth and defending the leaders of the ruling party at the Centre.”

Police stand guard in a riot affected area following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 28, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The letter also stated that “several BJP leaders, including ministers in the Central Government, MPs and other leaders, like Kapil Mishra, had made hate speeches but not a single FIR has been filed” against them. On the contrary, it noted that “the Delhi police have officially declared that such speeches which sow enmity between two communities and incite violence are not ‘cognizable offences’.”

‘Police implementing political agenda to conceal role of BJP leaders’

It also said the “double standards show that the Delhi police seeks to implement a political agenda – which is to conceal the role played by BJP leaders in the communal violence.”

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Also, the letter accused the police of targeting activists through “selective excerpts of speeches” made by them and of using these to name them in charge sheets. “Such are the double standards of the police. An independent inquiry would help to pin down the role of different political functionaries,” it added.

‘Probe not even-handed as minority community bore brunt of violence’

The letter also questioned the Delhi police’s claim that they have been “even handed” in the number of arrests of accused belonging to both communities. Stating that “their own figures show that the losses and damage are overwhelmingly borne by the minority community,” it charged that “in such a scenario “even handed” means to whitewash the facts.”

The Delhi police, the signatories said, have also issued a formal letter to police officers asking them to be cautious in arresting Hindus since “complaints” have been received of arrests from community leaders. “It is therefore clear that the pressure not to arrest those accused of violence even if they have been named is accepted by the Delhi police. This is a shocking exposure of being ‘not even handed’,” the letter said.

‘Delhi police faces charges of connivance, participation in violence’

Coming to the role of the three Special Investigation Teams, set up to probe the violence, the letter said though over 100 Delhi police personnel were injured in the violence, the force is itself accused in several cases of dereliction of duty, connivance and partisanship and in some cases of directly participating in violence against the minority community.

Police photograph burnt properties owned by Muslims in a riot affected area, New Delhi, March 2, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Referring to how there were several videos and press reports to support this charge, the letter also recounted “the infamous incident in which injured young Muslim men were beaten, forced to sing the National Anthem by uniformed policemen and then arrested leading to the death of one of them.”

Also read: Policemen Seen Brutally Assaulting Muslims, But 4 Months Later FIR Has No Suspects

Yet, it said, the Delhi police have stated in courts that they have so far found no evidence against its own personnel. “Clearly no inquiry into the role of the police can have credibility if it is conducted by the police themselves,” the letter said, while advocating the need for an “independent” probe.

‘Anti-CAA protests, Jamia incidents being linked to violence’

The concerned citizens also wrote about how the “one sided investigation” was being used to curb dissent. They alleged that “the entire chronology concocted by the Delhi police is to somehow link the communal violence in the third week of February to the anti-CAA movement starting in December and in particular the incidents in Jamia University.”

In keeping with this storyline, the letter said, “activists who were part of the anti-CAA movement, which was in the main a historic peaceful protest, are being egregiously linked to the communal violence. Many have been booked under the draconian UAPA and are denied bail. Others are being harassed by different wings of the police.”

Also read: The Ideological Strategy Behind the Delhi Riots

In addition, they said, “local youth of the minority community are being harassed and picked up on flimsy grounds” and all this was being done to support the “false chronology of events being manufactured by the Delhi police at the behest of their political masters.”

Finally, the letter acknowledged that while Kejriwal government faces “various constraints imposed by the present centralised structure under the Lieutenant Governor answerable to the Central Government”, but said, even “under the present constitutional framework the State Government has every right and the powers to institute such an inquiry.”