Several citizens of Delhi, including Air Vice Marshal (retired) NI Razzaqui, activist Harsh Mander and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat, have written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to set up an “independent and time-bound inquiry” into the violence in North East Delhi in February.
“We write to request you to order an independent investigation under a retired judge of suitable stature with a time bound mandate,” the statement said. “The terms of reference should include various aspects of the violence. We are committed to ensure punishment to those guilty of the violence and we believe an independent inquiry will help such a process.”
The group described the Delhi Police’s inquiry into the violence as “unfair, unjust, one sided and manufactured”. The signatories, including economist and academician Prabhat Patnaik and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, also noted six grounds under which they called for the independent investigation.
“The Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) in its detailed report released recently has described a version of events which is in total contrast and variance with the claims made by the Delhi police,” the statement said. It added that the commission had recommended the setting up of an independent inquiry, which the Delhi government should accept.
The statement said that the Delhi Police functioned under the home ministry, and that Home Minister Amit Shah had “led the highly communal election campaign in Delhi which was a prelude to the violence”. “There is a clear conflict of interest between getting to the truth and defending the leaders of the ruling party at the centre,” the group said. “Several BJP leaders including Ministers in the Central Government, MPs and other leaders like Kapil Mishra had made hate speeches but not a single FIR [first information report] has been filed.”
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The group called it the police’s “double standards” for using selective excerpts from activists’ speeches to name them in charge sheets. The statement said that the Delhi Police had announced that they were “even handed” in the number of arrests of the accused belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities.
“However their own figures show that the losses and damage are overwhelmingly borne by the minority community,” they wrote. “Moreover, the Delhi police have issued a formal letter to police officers asking them to be cautious in arresting Hindus since ‘complaints’ have been received of arrests from community leaders. It is therefore clear that the pressure not to arrest those accused of violence even if they have been named is accepted by the Delhi police.”
The group claimed the Delhi Police, which is relying on three Special Investigation Teams for the inquiry, is also accused in multiple cases of “dereliction of duty, connivance and partisanship and in some cases of directly participating in violence against the minority community”. “On the basis of this one sided investigation grave injustice is being done to the democratic right to dissent,” the statement further said.
The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the police to file a copy of an order by Special Commissioner of Police Praveer Ranjan to the heads of teams investigating the Northeast Delhi violence, asking them to be careful while arresting Hindus. In the order, Ranjan told the investigating teams that the arrest of “some Hindu youth” from affected areas had led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community”.
The violence and investigation
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst Delhi saw since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
In multiple chargesheets filed last month, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.