New Delhi: In its ‘Year End Review 2020′, the Ministry of Home Affairs has noted that the February violence in northeast Delhi which killed 53 people was a spontaneous one, indicating that the role of incitement by rightwing leaders played no part.
The violence which raged centring Jafrabad and Maujpur areas of the National Capital is understood to have affected the region’s Muslim population to an extent from which they are far from recovering, one year since. In addition to video evidence of police complicity and even police attacks on Muslims in the course of the riots, the investigation into the violence by an openly partisan Delhi police has raised rounds of questions by civil society and the judiciary.
The Delhi police is under the Union home minister Amit Shah’s direct charge.
Successive accounts and reports by the Minority Commission, eye-witnesses, fact finding teams and citizen investigators on the ground have pinned the beginning of the violence on incendiary speeches made by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma.
Mishra, against whom there is no FIR yet, had promised in public to take the law into his own hands if anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters at Jafrabad did not lift their sit-in.
As a report on The Telegraph highlights, a month before the violence took place, the Union home minister himself had said at a pre-election rally in “Baburpur, one of the sites of the subsequent riots, to press the voting button with such “anger” that the “current” was felt at Shaheen Bagh, venue of the celebrated women-led vigil against the new citizenship law.”
In such a backdrop, the home ministry’s analysis and chronology strike as hollow and in places, quite untrue. On February 25, the review notes:
“Shri Amit Shah urged political parties to avoid provocative speeches and statements which could flare up the communal violence. He noted that the professional assessment is that the violence in the capital has been spontaneous. The Union Home Minister directed deployment of additional forces in affected areas.”
Moreover, a few paragraphs down in the same review, the home ministry notes:
“Shri Shah said that vested interests are misguiding and instilling a fear in Indian Muslims that CAA would take away their citizenship. The hate speeches delivered in the last two months were the main reason behind anti-CAA protests culminating into Delhi riots.”
Thus, by the home ministry’s logic, the same riots which were “spontaneous” were also the product of a two-month process of Muslims delivering “hate speeches” against the CAA, an act which keeps Muslims out of the ambit of citizenship when it comes to people seeking refuge from three neighbouring countries.
It is noteworthy that the review begins the timeline from February 25, when it says Shah chaired a meeting on the Delhi violence. By most accounts, the violence in the National Capital began on February 23.
In part two of a three-part analysis for The Wire, N.D. Jayaprakash writes that “by the afternoon of February 24, the Delhi Police top brass were well aware that the situation in north-east Delhi was going out of control.”
He adds, “It is hard to believe that they would not have shared that information with their bosses in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is the nodal ministry for law and order in the capital and not any department of the Delhi government.”
Shah’s meeting thus not only arrived at an erroneous conclusion regarding the riot’s spontaneity, the meeting itself was delayed.
Jayaprakash’s analysis also notes other media reports as having noted that police action and deployment of RAF and specialised paramilitary was decidedly late.
“According to the Times of India report of February 27, 2020, it was only on February 25 that RAF contingents finally arrived in Kardampuri, Karawal Nagar, Bhajanpura, and Chand Bagh (riot-hit areas of north-east Delhi).
“Whether the RAF was actually deployed for duty even on that day in the affected areas is not clear as according to the Delhi Police’s own log, in at least two police stations in the violence-hit areas, as noted by NDTV, appropriate action in response to SOS calls was never taken even until the late evening of February 26.”
In addition, the home ministry’s review notes that Shah, on March 12, addressed the riots in the Rajya Sabha.
“…the Union Home Minister reassured the Nation that Modi Government is committed to bring the perpetrators to justice regardless of their religion, caste, creed or political affiliation.”
However, investigation into the riots have, in fact, found Muslim scholars, activists and politicians – irrespective of their distance from the scene of violence – on the receiving end of police torture, UAPA cases and prolonged and punishing jail terms.