Non-governmental organisation Amnesty International said on Friday that no investigation has been carried out yet against the Delhi Police for the alleged active involvement in the violence in February. At least 53 people were killed and hundreds injured in the riots, between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“The Delhi police personnel were complicit and an active participant in the violence that took place in Delhi in February 2020, yet in the last six months not a single investigation has been opened into the human rights violations committed by the Delhi police,” Amnesty International said in its report on the riots. It said that contrary to the assurance given by Union Home Minister Amit Shah that the police had done a “commendable job”, the NGO found that the violence “reveals a pattern of human rights violations and rampant impunity”.
The report is based on the testimony of various victims of the violence. In some cases, the police stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the mobs and pelted stones as well as fired teargas shells, the organisation alleged.
“They were raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” a person called Bhure Khan told Amnesty International. “First they set my car and motorcycle on fire. My brother was hit by a stone. We realised that the police were hand in glove with the rioters so I told my family that it is best to leave everything and run.” Khan’s house was allegedly burnt down.
Both Hindus and Muslims from North East Delhi claimed that the police had failed to respond to their pleas for help. “The mob broke the locks and burnt my house,” Kamlesh Uppal, a survivor, told the NGO. “We were living there for the last 22 years and they didn’t leave anything. We built our home with so much hard work but the people burnt it down. We tried calling the police, we thought they would come and control the law and order situation but it took them more than three days to come to our locality.”
Shabnam, a survivor whose house burnt down, said that when the family called the police, they asked it not to disturb them. Roop Singh, caretaker of DRP Convent School in Shiv Vihar locality, said that he received no help despite several calls to the police, when the school was being attacked.
“I saw two ropes hanging into our compound from Rajdhani School next door and about 40-50 men climbing down,” he said. “They were raising slogans of ‘nara-e-takbeer allah o akbar’ [God is Great]. They opened the gate and more men came in. They fired in my direction with a locally made pistol. They said, ‘There is a Hindu, kill him’.”
Police did not intervene, refused to file complaints
Amnesty International said in its report that it found that the police sometimes did not intervene despite being present at the scene of the violence. Police officers intervened only to arrest anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors, and refused to register complaints of the victims, the NGO said. A common answer to calls for help was “You want Azaadi [freedom], here take your Azaadi now”.
The Amnesty International report also questioned the claim that the violence stopped after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited Northeast Delhi on February 26. An individual, identified as Babu Khan, told the NGO that the next day after Doval left, assuring the people of security, a mob came to his house, made his sons lie down on a motorbike and beat them on their head and face. The two sons were killed in the violence.
The report also said that most private doctors were forced to close down their clinics as the violence escalated. Thus, in many cases, there was no treatment available for injured victims of the violence. The problem was aggravated by rioters who blocked the roads and did not allow ambulances to enter. The police were unable to stop these actions, the NGO said.
“We found that the police were just not responding,” activist Harsh Mander told Amnesty International. “Finally, one of our lawyers had to go knocking at the door of a Delhi High Court judge at midnight. He set up a bench as we know. It was only after he gave orders for the police to ensure safe passage, even for ambulances, that people began to get rescued.”
Torture in police custody
The NGO also said that many persons, most of them Muslims, were subjected to torture in police custody. Athar, a survivor of the alleged torture, told Amnesty International that the police asked him whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim while he was on his way back home. When he said he was a Muslim, he was taken to the police station in a van, in which there were some 25 people.
“They kept saying ‘you want azaadi’ and hitting us,” Athar said. “We were tortured for the next four days. They beat me and others with sticks and belts. Then on 28 February they produced me in the court. I managed to get bail two weeks later.”
Amnesty International’s demands
The NGO demanded that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs initiate a “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials”. It asked for a transparent inquiry to review the Delhi Police’s role in the riots. Amnesty International said all police officers accused by survivors should be suspended pending inquiry.
The NGO also asked for “a comprehensive strategy aimed at preventing hate crimes against minority communities, in consultation with the civil society”. It also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Ministry of External Affairs to unconditionally ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and enact legislation criminalising torture.