Delhi pogrom 2020 reminded me of Mumbai riots 1992: Justice (retd) B N Srikrishna

The  report by The Lawyers Initiative, titled Delhi Riots of 2020: Causes, Fallout and Aftermath, records events from months before the first stone was hurled in North East Delhi. 

BN Srikrishna

A fact finding report on the Delhi Riots has just been released by The Lawyers Initiative. The report, the latest credible fact file, follows the reports by Delhi Minorities Commission, Amnesty International, and the ones by citizens groups who went into the North East Delhi neighbourhoods that were burnt, both figuratively and literally, in the communal riots of February 2020. This report has been compiled and presented by lawyers, and volunteers who examined sites, paperwork, news reports, and spoke to those affected, as well as those who were a part of the relief and rehabilitation work after the violence ebbed.

Edited by Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh for Citizens & Lawyers Initiative, a group of concerned citizens, lawyers and students, the  prologue is written by Justice (retd) B N Srikrishna. Justice Srikrishna writes that the Delhi pogrom has reminded him of the Mumbai riots of December 1992-January 1993. Justice Srikrishna, had led the commission of inquiry appointed in 1993 tasked with examining causes of the communal riots of December 1992, today, he feels a sense of “deja vu”. 

“With the heart rending experience gathered during the Commission of Inquiry that went into the riots and violent incidents in Mumbai during December 1992-January 1993, and the sense of apathy towards the victims of such riots that was clearly discernible there, I could not but get a feeling of deja vu while reading this report. It is time that the State machinery and Constitutional functionaries display greater seriousness in investigation of the causes of such riots and take appropriate steps to prevent their recurrence,” he wrote.

The 227-page report titled Delhi Riots of 2020: Causes, Fallout and Aftermath, records events from months before the first stone was hurled in NE Delhi. It begins with the early warning signs, the Pro-CAA/NRC rallies and the role of Bharatiya Janata Party politician Kapil Mishra in North-East Delhi etc.

“When the State’s version of incidents becomes suspect and unacceptable due to trust deficit, it is imperative that an alternative version of the facts observed by the populace is also presented and publicized. This report is the culmination of such a collective effort. As to whether the material presented in this report represents facts, or mere perspective vision of the events, is for the reader to judge,” wrote Justice Srikrishna.

The data, information, analysis and narrative of this report, is based on information already in the public domain as well as conversations with the public. “It is for the State apparatus enforcing the Rule of Law and the Constitutional machinery, as its sentinel, to objectively assess the trustworthiness of the facts narrated here and take necessary action to restore the faith of the citizens of this country in the Rule of Law,” he added.  


Numbers, narrative and chronology

The pogrom of February, 23 2020,  violence engulfed north-east Delhi for days, killing 53, injuring over 473, destroying property worth hundreds of crores, and displacing thousands, who are yet to rebuild their lives. The report stated that the violence led to the “initial arrest of 1330 accused in 751 cases, 1 with early reports suggesting that 700 of those arrested were Muslims, while 630 were Hindus; 2 by mid-July, a Delhi Police affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court disclosed the then tally of arrests as 1,430.”

The ‘narrative’ and ‘chronology’ in charge-sheets filed by the Delhi Police seeks to establish that the genesis of the violence was a concerted and preplanned conspiracy by anti-CAA protestors to defame the Narendra Modi-led government during the impending visit of US President Donald Trump; it is alleged that the violence, death and destruction was a consequence of these nefarious designs by persons who planned and orchestrated the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh and other places; and the appalling toll of human lives and livelihoods, and destruction of properties, is sought to be explained by painting a picture of ‘Muslim provocation’ leading to ‘Hindu retaliation’. 

However, according to this report this official chronology “overlooks numerous significant events that preceded and also accompanied the violence, not least of which is the complete omission to mention several key leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which not only heads the Central Government, but also directly controls and supervises the Delhi Police; this despite their incendiary speeches, their contemporaneous posts on Facebook and other social media platforms, and the presence of some of them immediately before and even during the violence and blood-letting, broadcast by television channels and recorded on cameras.”

The report cites multiple news reports from the days of violence and afterwards that “highlighted police inaction to stem the violence during the three days from 23 February, coupled with incidents demonstrating police complicity with looters and arsonists, and a clear sense of impunity on part of the police force.” 

The riots followed closely on the heels of a charged Delhi election campaign which saw the Aam Aadmi Party retain power with a decisive majority, stated the report, adding that the  analysis of the “immediate and proximate causes” of the riots have led  to understand the “creation of an environment that fostered appalling violence, in which unchecked mobs were allowed to run amok for 3 days before being reigned in.”

It quotes observations made by Vibhuti Narain Rai, former Director General of Police in U.P. who initiated the prosecution in the Hashimpura custodial massacre of 42 Muslims by the Provincial Armed Constabulary. Rai had said “any riot can be controlled in 24 hours unless the state wants it otherwise”. Words that should have echoed in Delhi too.

“The arson, destruction, and killings in north-east Delhi helped to divert attention from the government-citizen stalemate over the CAA, and provided a fresh content to television news cycles that elided citizens’ demands in protests against the law,” said the report.

The days of violence saw the protestors’ call for emancipation – azaadi– being transformed into a majoritarian war-cry to mete out murder, torture, and retribution; shockingly, members of the Police force reportedly taunted victims of violence and police torture with the words, “Azaadi maangte the na, Yeh lo azaadi [you asked for freedom, here it is]”. This was compounded by social media playing a significant role in mobilising kill mobs, spreading rumors, and misinformation. The aftermath of the violence saw 185 homes, 468 shops, 19 places of worship, and at least 747 vehicles being gutted or badly damaged, as per an affidavit filed by the Police in the Delhi High Court on 13 July 2020, apart from many Rehris (hand-carts) and some Ghoda Gadi (horse carts). 14 Though the affidavit takes pains to try and minimize the destruction and arson suffered by Muslims, and seeks to suggest that both Hindus and Muslims suffered, analysis reveals that 40 out of 52 civilian deaths (apart from a Head Constable who died of gunshot injuries), 85-90% of homes destroyed, 80-85% of shops destroyed, and destruction of the vast majority of vehicles, were suffered by the Muslims. 15 An indication of the disproportionate impact of the violence is provided by the fact that the 1000 people who sought refuge in a relief camp organized at Mustafabad Idgah, and uncounted others who fled to their villages or took shelter in smaller relief camps organized by the Delhi Government, were almost exclusively Muslim.

This report goes through existing news reports, fact-finding initiatives, collates and analyses them to prove the emergence of patterns in violence and the aftermath. 

It raises questions left unanswered even as the victims await justice. It also reinforces that the “credibility of Delhi Police’s narrative came to be further undermined when contrasted with television and print reportage that showed not only police apathy, but actual complicity in the violence.” It states that the “discrepancies between the inclusion and exclusion of certain names and events,” is evident and demonstrates “the high level of political parallelism within the investigative process.”

According to the editor the decision to base this report solely on secondary research was intended “to take a step back and study the breadth of evidence and reportage already existing on the topic. This was done in order to arrive at a comprehensive analysis of the violence and the factors behind its triggers, escalation, and the failure of law and order.”

The report once again puts on record that on December 20 2019: Despite imposition of section 144 in Delhi, a pro-CAA rally was held,  where BJP Leader Kapil Mishra raised infamous slogan “Desh ke Gaddaron ko, Goli maaro saalon ko [Shoot the traitors]”.  Kapil Mishra drew a comparison between the students of Jamia University and Aligarh Muslim University with ISIS, an Islamic terror outfit. However when  questioned by Indian Express on these speeches he stated: “Our slogans have not instigated anyone to indulge in violence. Has anyone killed or threatened people? Those who are questioning me don’t have the courage to question those who are setting buses on fire and hitting policemen”. Later several rallies were held by BJP and its allied organisations in different parts of the country, purportedly in support of the CAA amendments, but in fact only targeting those opposing the law by branding them anti-national or traitors, and threatening to “shoot them like dogs”, “bury them alive”, wipe them out in an hour, make their mosques vanish, and face them with a repeat of the Gujarat riots. 40 The rallies were filled with incendiary slogans “Desh ke Gaddaron ko, Goli maaro saalon [Shoot the traitors]”, stated the report. None of those politicians named by this report, and the ones before it have ever been  made to face the legal consequences .

The complete report can be read here: 



Establish independent review of Delhi Police’s role North East Delhi riots: Amnesty

North-East Delhi Riots: Minorities Commission investigations reveal role of Delhi Police, politicians 

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

Delhi Violence case: Court reprimands police for failure to get video footage

Hate Speech by BJP’s Top Brass fuelled Build Up to Delhi Violence: Minorities Commission

Didn’t give speech, told police about dharna plan: Delhi police chargesheet believes Kapil Mishra

Communal violence was to uproot elected govt: Delhi police riots chargesheet



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