Set up an independent commission of enquiry led by a retired judge into the North East Delhi Communal violence of February 2020, and its aftermath demanded Justice Gopala Gowda, former Supreme Court judge and Wajahat Habibullah, India’s first Chief Information Commissioner of India today. Speaking at the release of the report today, they were joined by Harsh Mander, an activist and Brinda Karat, polit bureau member of the CPI(M).
They were all speaking at the online release of “In search of justice”, a three-part report that studied the Communal violence in North East Delhi, based on its on ground work carried out by the Delhi State Committee of CPI(M). The speakers also sought justice for the many victims and survivors of the riot, who are yet to be compensated even though 10 months have passed since the six days of violence and arson changed their lives forever.
Justice Gowda once again questioned the role of Delhi Police during the violence, and termed their conduct a “failure of law enforcement to contain the violence. He demanded that this be probed and that the central government appoint a former judge to conduct an enquiry. “The victims are entitled to compensation from the state. it is the duty of the state to protect citizens,” he said adding that an enquiry commission was essential.
According to Wajahat Habibullah, all citizens of India are one community. it needs to be asked who benefits from dividing this wider community. He said it was people in the garb of ‘bhakti’ who were creating such infighting amongst Indians. “What sort of desh bhakts are these?” He questioned why the government did not act against those spreading hate? who are the people who gain from such violence and hate, he asked, adding that the government was responsible and answerable to the people who must stand up as one united force.
Activist Harsh Mander stated that he could not even remember when such massive hate for Muslims was spread in the national capital. He said in the past when such incidents happened it was political representatives who would go into the riot hit areas and compile a report, however now it was only activist-politician Brinda Karat who has been seen doing this. Brinda Karat continues to keep the fight for justice to the victims and survivors alive in court via her many submissions. Mandar, who along with other activists, has found his name in the accusations of conspiracy made by the Delhi Police. Both continue to be vilified by the Right Wing ecosystem on a regular basis.
Karat said while on the first day of the violence, february 23, there must have been attacks from both sides, it was the police inaction thereafter that led to the escalation of violence against the minority community. She detailed how there were only 6 more police personnel deployed at the peak of the violence even as distressed calls were being made “29 people were killed on February 25,” recalled Karat adding that the fight for justice, and the seeking justice from courts shall continue for as long as it takes. This report, released on the eve of December 10, Human Rights Day, has analysed the North East Delhi communal violence in depth, citing data that the Delhi Police itself put on record during various replies in court, and on ground facts gathered by teams, and reached some startling conclusions:
- This was not a riot: According to the report “it is incorrect to describe the communal violence as “Delhi riots” because in a riot both sides are equally involved. However, in this case “the offensive was from the Hindutva mobs while the other side, in the main, was desperately trying to save themselves from such attacks,” it states.
- One sided, area specific attack: The report states that the Hindutva mobs “the offensive was almost completely on minority dominated areas” which were near the . The areas chosen for attack were all near the site where the anti-CAA protest sit-ins were taking place. Subsequently, the greatest losses in the violence were borne by the minority community.
- Delhi Police’s role needs examination: The communal violence continued for five days from February 23 to 27. According to the report, and the panelists who have all studied such violence over the years in other parts too, this arson and killing cannot continue if the police acts quickly. However, in North East Delhi “there were some incidents on the sixth day too because of the role of the police. In almost all areas there is video evidence of the police siding with the Hindutva mobs” concluded the report. “ The serious injuries to the DCP, the ACP, the killing of Ratan Lal, all of these condemnable, are being used by the Delhi Police to cover up their openly blatant and partisan role against minority communities and in support of the aggressive actions of the Hindutva mobs including direct participation in the violence” it concluded.
- Home Minister Amit Shah’s role: Delhi Police reports to Home Ministry, this is perhaps the first report to directly name Home Minister Amit Shah’s role in police deployment. “There has been no answer from him or his ministry as to why adequate security forces were not deployed from February 23 onwards,” the report asks. It cites that the number of police personnel deployed even as the communal violence rged on was “only between 1,393 and 4,756 ( citing charge sheet based on FIR 59/2020 quoted in Section 2 of this report)” and “by not deploying adequate forces, the Home Ministry deliberately left 13,000 distress calls to the police by frightened citizens unattended.” According to the report, and the panelists at the online discussion there was “political conspiracy at the highest level to let Delhi burn as part of a political agenda”.
The political agenda behind the violence and its aftermath of ongoing “conspiracy investigations” , as explained by Harsh Mander was to send a message to dissenters, demonise, end and criminalise the anti-CAA protests. This is also evident, said Karat, in the way student activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal remain in jail even after they have got bail in multiple cases, all because they have also been accused under the UAPA.
Now, months later, the subversion of justice continues as the relief provided to riot survivors is abysmal. “The family of Nitin, a child who was killed in the violence, was given just 50 per cent of the compensation,” revealed Karat as the child’s father leaned in to share this shocking fact with her. She reiterated that she will continue to fight for the victims and survivors as even the Delhi government had not given the proper compensation it promised. There are victims “such Sikander, whose death is not noted as one killed in the communal violence,” recalled Karat who has raised the issue in court too pointing that “the number of those killed is 54 not 53 as officially recognised.”
The first section of the report, apart from recording the socio-economic and political profile of the area as well as the election campaign by the BJP and Sangh Parivar stated that while Kapil Mishra’s speech on February 23 is now recognised as “the trigger for violence, “ there is also “evidence of the plans of the Sangh Parivar plans to spread unrest even before that. The Report cites “use of Shivratri processions on February 21 for aggressive sloganeering. Meetings of Sangh Parivar groups as well as an attack on two Muslim boys on February 22, all before the speech indicate that preparations were already in place to create communal division as part of a plan to attack the anti-CAA protest sites.”
The second section has the details of the killings, dates, places and situations, that “the main offensive was on the Muslim inhabited colonies”, and that “this was almost always backed by the police. The attacks and killings at Johripur Pulia and surrounding areas for four days, including the day that Ajit Doval had visited the area,” are placed on record as is the role of the Home Ministry.
The report also put on record that most of the residents of the area want to live in peace, “though it is true that hundreds were involved in the mob violence, it is equally true that the vast majority of people were deeply disturbed by the violence and did not participate in it. There have been many positive examples of Hindus saving their Muslim neighbours and vice- versa” it stated. The report also has on record detail all the relief and rehabilitation work being done from February 29 till now.
It recommends that an independent inquiry into the Delhi communal violence headed by a retired High Court judge whose record of impartiality in upholding the Constitution is undisputed, be set up. And that inquiry should “include the role of the Home Ministry and the deliberate delay in deploying adequate security forces to prevent the violence.” It seeks the “immediate prosecution and arrest of BJP leaders involved in incitement and participation in violence,” and “investigation and action against all police personnel involved in the violence” apart from setting up “an impartial panel of lawyers for the prosecution as suggested by the Delhi Government.”
And most urgently, it recommends “full compensation and assistance to be given to victims of the violence based on the actual extent and severity of the injuries and damages suffered.”
The report may be read here:
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