Former Indian Police Service officer Julio Ribeiro on Wednesday told Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava that he had cast doubts on the patriotism of Delhi University professor Apoorvanand and rights activist Harsh Mander. In a letter written on September 12, Ribeiro had said that the Delhi Police had trapped “true patriots” like them in cases related to the large-scale communal violence that took place in February.
“I note in your e-mail to me that you have doubted the patriotism of the three who I named as true patriots,” Ribeiro said in his mail to Shrivastava, which was accessed by Scroll.in. “The three include Harsh Mander, Professor Apoorvanand and me. I have not described one else as such and hence my surmise. Harsh and Apoorvanand are Gandhians. I should have remembered that Gandhians have lost favour with this regime!”
The former officer also told Shrivastava that had he been in his place while investigating February’s communal violence, he would not have “prolonged” the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act cases by arresting people shortly before the deadline for filing the chargesheet expired. He has been pressuring the police for a fair inquiry.
Shrivastava had on Tuesday defended his force and dismissed allegations that their investigation in the case was biased. “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,” he had said.
Ribeiro told Srivastava that certain doubts in his original letter had not been addressed. “I realise that it is difficult, indeed impossible, to justify the licence given to the three B.J.P [Bharatiya Janata Party] stalwarts I named – licence to rant, rave and threaten those who are peacefully protesting perceived wrongs,” he wrote. “If the speakers were Muslims or Leftists the police would have surely taken them in for sedition!”
He added: “After talking to you on the phone and perusing your letter I have decided to put myself in your shoes! I would quickly file the charge-sheets in all the 753 cases, including specially the Conspiracy case registered by your Special Cell and get the evidence authenticated in a Court of law. More pertinently I would not prolong the UAPA case by arresting persons just a day or two before the time limit expires for filing the charge-sheet.”
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The former’s bureaucrat’s response came on the same day the Delhi Police named 15 people as accused in a chargesheet filed in connection with the violence. All of them have been accused under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code and Arms Act.
Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, Jamia Millia Islamia students Asif Iqbal Tanha, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, United Against Hate co-founder Khalid Saifi and former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan are among those named by the police, according to Hindustan Times. Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid’s name was left out.
Ribeiro had first written to Shrivastava on September 12. He had said the police were taking action against “peaceful protestors”, while ignoring the role of BJP leaders in inciting the violence. The former officer added that this “not-so-subtle attempt” by the police to “entangle true patriots” in criminal cases was a matter of huge concern and urged the police to revisit its inquiry.
A day later, eight more former IPS officers wrote to Shrivastava, endorsing Ribeiro’s concerns and called for a re-investigation 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.
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.