Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava on Tuesday defended his force as he responded to former bureaucrat Julio Ribeiro’s letter seeking an unflawed investigation into the February communal violence. Shrivastava said the police force did not differentiate a complainant on the basis of caste or religion and claimed that a false narrative of “bias and insensitivity” was being weaved by certain groups with vested interests.
“While we do not differentiate a complainant on the basis of caste or religion, it may be mentioned solely for the purpose of clearing any doubt in the minds of people questioning our probe, that more than 410 FIRs were registered on the complaints of minority community,” Shrivastava said. “The other community accounted for over 190 FIRs.”
On September 12, Ribeiro wrote to Shrivastava, questioning the police’s approach to the February violence. He said the police were taking action against “peaceful protestors”, while the role of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in inciting and threatening violence against the protestors has so far gone uninvestigated. Ribeiro said this “not-so-subtle attempt” by the police to “entangle true patriots” in criminal cases was a matter of huge concern and urged the Delhi Police to revisit its inquiry.
A day later, eight more former Indian Police Service officers also wrote to Shrivastava, endorsing Ribeiro’s concerns and called for a reinvestigation of all riot cases fairly and without any bias. The retired officers warned that the Delhi Police’s “majoritarian attitude” would lead to a “travesty of justice” and disproportionately impact members of minority communities.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Shrivastava spoke about the “independence, honesty and courage ” of officers of the Delhi Police conducting and supervising these investigations. Srivastava told Ribeiro that the police’s investigation in criminal cases were guided by facts and evidence, not by “reputations and personalities”.
“I assure you that we in Delhi Police are serving the oath and the Constitution with conviction, integrity and sensitivity, without fear of any self-proclaimed “true patriots” or favour towards any class, creed or community,” the commissioner added.
“Delhi Police has examined a large majority of persons who either have a role in North East Delhi Riots or have information that will help arrive at the truth,” the letter said. “It has questioned persons without regard to their religion and party affiliation. It has collected documentary evidence, including scientific evidence, to support its case... It has arrested 1571 persons irrespective of their caste or religion.”
Shrivastava added that those arrested were “almost equally distributed” between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities. “Almost all the accused persons arrested in heinous offences have been remanded to judicial custody by Courts of law and not admitted to bail,” he said. “Chargesheets in many cases have been filed while investigation is continuing in many others.”
The Delhi police commissioner said the very fact that the police have registered a massive number – 715 FIRs – in connection with the investigation into the violence “signals our intention of fair dealing”.
Shrivastava further told Rebeiro that the Delhi Police has been “rather reticent” about most of the details of its investigation except portions that are part of chargesheets and status reports filed in the court, as the inquiry into the matter was still underway. “As a highly experienced police officer, you [Rebeiro] would agree that one may not come to a correct conclusion in view of the limited information available in public domain,” he added.
“There are several entities who have their reasons to weave a web of deception and to push a false narrative of bias and insensitivity on the part of the police,” Shrivastava said. “It is best that the criminal justice system, with its inherent checks and balances may be allowed work lest lending one’s name inadvertently imparts a false aura of credibility and authenticity to these concocted and motivated stories.”
The police commissioner added that anyone who is unhappy with the police’s approach to the investigation could also seek judicial remedy.
The CAA and the violence
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act 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.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.