A fact-finding report released by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday held Union Home Minister Amit Shah responsible for the violence that broke out in North East Delhi in February, reported The Telegraph.

“The role of the home ministry under Mr Amit Shah was in substantial measure responsible for the escalation of violence,” the report, titled Communal Violence in North East Delhi, February 2020, said. “It is incorrect to describe the communal violence as Delhi riots. ‘Riots’ describe a situation where both sides are equally participatory.... However, the offensive was from the Hindutva mobs while the other side, in the main, was desperately trying to save themselves from such attacks.... In almost all areas, there is video evidence of the police siding with the Hindutva mobs.”

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 Delhi Police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.

In the report, the party noted that on March 11, Shah informed Parliament that he was in constant contact with top police officers during the violence, and was monitoring the situation. The CPI(M)’s report questioned the reason curfew was not put in place from February 24, when violence escalated. “Why was the Army not deployed?” the report said. “Even the additional deployment of Delhi police and Rapid Action Force personnel was not only grossly inadequate, but also extremely delayed.”

CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat and the party’s Secretary KM Tewari oversaw the report’s preparation. The party’s relief and rehabilitation solidarity panel had interviewed 400 people, according to The Telegraph.

The report also said that Shah dismissed the speeches made by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, calling for shooting of “traitors” of the country. In the run-up to the Delhi elections, Union minister Anurag Thakur had exhorted a crowd at a rally to shout “shoot the bloody traitors”. The Election Commission had barred him from campaigning for three days for making the remarks. The commission had also ordered the BJP to remove him as a star campaigner.

The CPI(M)’s report also noted many specific incidents of violence that went against the Delhi Police’s version of events. “Before any investigation was done, the home minister laid down its findings (in the Lok Sabha on March 11),” it said, according to The Wire. “The subsequent investigation was only to substantiate and validate this narrative...then he went on to describe what he thought were the real hate speeches.”

The party said that Shah highlighted speeches made by Congress leaders in December, and therefore backed the perception that the Opposition had provoked violence. “But more significantly, he blamed the minority community for the violence.”

Delhi Police investigation

The Delhi Police claim the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the façade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.

Two chargesheets have been filed so far in connection with the violence. In September, a case of rioting was registered at the Khajuri Khas Police Station in which 15 people, including suspended Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain, were arrested. All the 15 have been accused under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code and Arms Act. The 17,000-page chargesheet was filed at Karkardooma court.

On November 22, the Delhi Police filed a supplementary chargesheet against former student leader Umar Khalid and two other Jawaharlal Nehru University student activists Sharjeel Imam and Faizan Khan in the case. In the 200-page chargesheet, the police claimed that Khalid had “remotely controlled” the violence. The former JNU student was accused of orchestrating the violence during United States President Donald Trump’s visit to Delhi.