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New Delhi: A people’s tribunal consisting of civil society members and organisations has pulled up the Delhi police for its acts of “omission and commission” during the 2020 Northeast Delhi riots through a fact-finding report published on Saturday, February 26; two years after the riots took place.
A group presented the findings of the report in a press conference in Delhi on Monday, which consisted of former Indian ambassador Deb Mukharji, former Union home secretary Gopal Pillai, historian Mridula Mukherjee, senior journalist and researcher Pamela Philipose, and writer and former member of Planning Commission of India Syeda Hameed.
At the press conference, the group alleged that the Delhi police, in spite of having “adequate intelligence and warning indicators of heightened tensions and threats”, failed to prevent the spread of the riots.
The report further claims that police inaction against mobs perpetrating the violence allowed the riots to continue for longer, leaving civilians to “fend for themselves” and leading to greater casualties, property damage and harassment.
Moreover, the report alleged police misconduct, claiming that they refused to take action against powerful people implicated in the violence, tried to extort individuals and acted in a corrupt manner, and filed biased and unjust chargesheets.
It also accused the police of failing to conduct a proper, “transparent” investigation and thereby undermining the investigative process; a charge which has been levelled even by Delhi courts.
The group’s report comes just weeks after Union home minister Amit Shah praised the Delhi police for its “strict” and “fair” investigation into the riots at its 75th Raising Day celebrations on February 16.
Official figures say 53 people were killed and 250 were injured in the February, 2020 riots.
According to the Northeast Delhi police, chargesheets were filed in 353 cases and courts took cognisance of 293 of these cases. Charges were framed in 87, 16 cases were decided, leading to two convictions.
Moreover, 244 supplementary chargesheets were filed. The total number of arrests till date is 2,041.
Activists Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi are currently in prison and facing trial over their supposed involvement in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.
The report also takes objection to the Delhi police’s “predictive policing using facial recognition technologies (FRT)” without any regulatory framework, saying that this was based on the “fallacious assumption that the algorithms ensured bias-free investigations”.
The group also pulled up the Delhi government for its handling of the riots and their aftermath. The report claimed that the government failed to provide adequate compensation to victims, rejected valid claims for compensation and failed to prevent harassment and bridge the communal divide in the region.
On January 18 last year, the Delhi assembly’s minorities welfare committee stated in a report that 2,221 of the 3,425 applications for compensation the government had received had been approved and a sum of Rs 26,09,78,416 was disbursed.
“Amitabh Bachchan’s home in South Delhi reportedly sold at Rs 23 crore recently. Yet for the whole riot, only Rs 26 crore was paid. One businessman who claims a loss of Rs 35 lakh was paid Rs 12,500 – which is lower than the monthly minimum wage for unskilled workers,” the Telegraph quoted Mridula Mukherjee as saying.
Calling it an “abject failure on the part of the Delhi government, Pillai said, “Two years after the riots, there are still people who have filed claims but not been given compensation. They have survived on assistance from NGOs, civil society and so on.”
The report also states that Rs 1 crore each has been paid in two death cases where the victims were employees of the Delhi government.
The report goes on to make several recommendations, including the demand for a judicial probe led by a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
Other recommendations include the creation of an ‘empowered group’ of the Delhi government to ensure compensation is paid out, the creation of job opportunities, free medical care for victims and bridge programmes for dropouts, the Telegraph reported.
The report was backed by the Communist Party of India (CPI)-backed National Federation of Indian Women, CPI-Marxist-backed All India Democratic Women’s Association, ex-civil servants’ forum Constitutional Conduct Group, human rights groups such as the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, United Against Hate and the Karwan-e-Mohabbat, led by former bureaucrat Harsh Mander.
(With PTI inputs)