Media reports over the last two weeks about cases related to the February communal violence in North East Delhi make it clear that the Delhi Police has turned the investigation into a witch hunt. The authorities are targetting Muslims, despite the community being the disproportionate victims of the riots. Activists who supported the community during the riots and the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act that preceded them also being unfairly prosecuted.
The Delhi Police’s mala fide actions include a range of illegalities. On Thursday, The Hindu reported on a 24-year-old man who was severely injured in the violence and lost his vision in both eyes, but had been accused in a case related to the riots. The police claimed the man had confessed to participating in the violence and had named members of the student group Pinjra Tod in his confession statement. As a result, two Pinjra Tod members are now in jail. They have been denied bail as the police booked them in several cases. They have even been booked under the draconian terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
But the man told the newspaper he had no idea who these activists were. He claimed that he had been forced to sign the statement by the police and could have not known the contents because he had lost vision.
On Thursday, the Indian Express reported that nine of the 12 confession statements related to the riots that it had accessed were almost identical. This attempt to duplicate confession statements in multiple cases points to a police conspiracy to cook up evidence.
There are many more discrepancies in the police cases. On May 28, this led to a sessions court hearing the cases to remark that the investigation was targetting one community but that “rival factions” (that is, Hindu rioters) were not being investigated properly. For instance, the Delhi Police is yet to book Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra, whose inflammatory speech instigating a mob just before the riots began on February 23 has been widely reported in the media.
Last week, a Delhi magistrate criticised the police for arresting the manager of a school accused in several cases involving the same allegations and refused to allow the police to take him into custody. After a court gave him bail in the original case, the police had arrested him in a second case.
Adding to this, the secrecy in the investigations is derailing efforts by lawyers and activists to help those accused in cases related to the Delhi violence. Already, access to legal aid has been restricted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Delhi Police has flatly refused to make public the first information reports relating to the cases.
Given that the investigation by Delhi Police has lost its credibility, it is time for the Delhi High Court to pull up the police and to monitor the cases closely. The court has a constitutional duty to protect fundamental rights and come to the aid of those unfairly targeted by the authorities.