Opposition leaders on Thursday met President Ram Nath Kovind to raise concerns about the Delhi Police’s investigation into the violence that engulfed parts of the city in February.
“The leaders impressed upon the President of India that instead of conducting an investigation into the communal violence in which 53 lives were lost and instigating which hate speeches calling for violence were made by senior ruling party leaders including a cabinet minister, the Delhi Police under the direction of the Union Home Minister is orchestrating a script that is linking peaceful anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protests to this violence,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
Congress Party MP Ahmed Patel, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India General Secretary D Raja, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and MP Kanimozhi, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha were among those who submitted the memorandum to the president.
“Consequently, many innocent activists, well known intellectuals and political leaders are being targeted,” the statement further noted. “Such a manufacturing of conspiracy by the Delhi Police is a diversion from identifying and punishing the perpetrators of this communal violence. The victims of this violence are being arrested while the perpetrators are let scot free.”
Kovind accepted the memorandum and said that he will have it examined. The CPI(M), in a statement, said that they followed Covid-19 protocol and therefore only five members visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Hence other opposition party leaders who agree with this memorandum could not be part of the delegation,” the statement read.
The leaders also noted publicly documented accounts and videos of police being complicit in the violence. “During the violence, disturbing video emerged showing uniformed policemen assaulting young men lying injured on the road and forcing them sing the national anthem while repeatedly beating them with lathis,” the joint memorandum noted.
It mentioned the “notable silence” in the chargesheets on the role of politicians associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, adding that no action had been taken against them. “Since December 2019, there are publicly documented speeches by leaders of the ruling party instigating and provoking violence against those involved in the anti-CAA protests, including that of a minister raising slogans to ‘shoot the traitors’,” it said.
The joint memorandum raising concern over the police’s inquiry said that it was “criminalising the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and portraying them as a conspiracy which resulted in the riots in Delhi”.
“The Police has also been maliciously leaking disclosure statements (which have no evidentiary value) of those arrested about the role of various activists and civil society leaders in the ‘conspiracy’ in an attempt to influence public opinion and malign them,” the statement added.
Kanimozhi said that the representation was submitted to the president and appealed for a fair investigation. “The Delhi riots are being linked with the CAA protests,” she told ANI. “Politicians, activists, economists, the general public and students are being targeted.”
The Delhi Police have also named Yechury, economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy, as people who had “encouraged” the anti-CAA protestors as part of a plan.
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.
Thursday’s statement came a day after 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. Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid’s name was left out.