Delhi Riots: Former Judges Demand Probe into Police Complicity, Govt Failures

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Calling the government’s response to the riots “wholly inadequate”, a report by The Citizen Committee pointed to several failures of the Union Home Ministry

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A report by the Citizen Committee comprising former Judges, including former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, on the Delhi riots 2020 has demanded an impartial probe into the police complicity and Central government’s failures in handling the communal violence.

“The Committee has obtained a limited, but credible mass of information indicating abject police failures, including apparent police complicity, of varying degrees in the violence. This requires investigation through an independent process, possibly a court-monitored investigation,” noted the report released by The Citizen Committee this week.

Justice Madan B Lokur, former Judge of the Supreme Court (Chairperson), Justice A P Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts and former Chairman, Law Commission, Justice R.S. Sodhi, former Judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Anjana Prakash, former Judge of the Patna High Court, and G.K. Pillai, IAS (Retd.), former home secretary were part of the committee which authored the report titled “Uncertain Justice: A Citizens Committee Report on the North East Delhi Violence 2020”.

The Committee noted that the Central government’s failure to respond to the violence demands a serious examination. “A comprehensive, independent review of the body of known intelligence, total police and other security force strength, and sequence of deployment across affected areas during the days of violence, is urgently required,” it said.

Calling the government’s response to the riots “wholly inadequate”, the Committee pointed to several failures of the Union Home Ministry.

“Despite having command over both the Delhi Police and the Central paramilitary forces, the MHA failed to take effective steps to stem the spread of communal violence. Repeated assurances on February 24 and 25 by police top brass and government officials that the situation was under control did not match the visibility of violence on the ground,” noted the Committee.

The strength of the police personnel was not increased on 24-25 February, even though the maximum number of distress calls were received by the police stations in North East Delhi on these days, said the report.

The report referred to the provocative speeches made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra on 23 February and hateful remarks made by Hindtuva figures Yati Narsinganand and Ragini Tiwari as an “immediate trigger” for the communal violence,.

“It becomes clear that the hateful content purveyed on 22-23 February was designed to incite, exhort and provoke actions of violence and these calls, thereby, appear to have acted as an immediate trigger to the break-out,” said the report.

It also pointed to the role of the mainstream media which fuelled hate against Muslims through its communal and biased coverage.

The Committee conducted an empirical analysis of the messaging of sections of the television media around the CAA and the protests. This focused on episodes aired in December 2019-February 2020 of primetime shows of the six most viewed television news channels. These were Republic and Times Now (English), and Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV, and Republic Bharat (Hindi).

“We also examined relevant posts on various social media platforms. The analysis reveals that the channels’ reportage of events surrounding the CAA framed the issues as “Hindus versus Muslims” with prejudice and suspicion against the Muslim community. These channels concentrated on vilifying anti-CAA protests, fanning unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and calling for their forcible shutdown,” it said.

The Committee found that the anti-Muslim hate at the root of the pre-violence build-up carried over. While mobs clashed and caused damage to each other, Muslim identity, ranging from individuals to homes, businesses, and places of worship, was targeted. It also criticised the investigations conducted by the Delhi Police into the communal violence. With regard to the investigation conducted by the Delhi police in the conspiracy case of Delhi riots, the report pointed to “contradictions” and “inconsistencies”.

“The Committee finds that the foundation of the prosecution case – the allegation of an overarching premeditated conspiracy aimed at orchestrating communal riots – is based on unexplained, belated statements which are inherently unreliable in law. A comparison of the investigation in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) FIRs with the investigation into the same allegations in FIR 59 reveals a number of contradictions and inconsistencies. This further cast a shadow on the claims made in the first chargesheet. It is the Committee’s view that if the core of the prosecution case bears the taint of tutoring and fabrication, this taint looms large over the entire investigation,” concluded the report. 

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