One Year of Delhi Riots: Online Media Outlets Do Commendable Job of Investigation

In this Feb. 27, 2020 photo, a photojournalist takes photographs of Indian paramilitary soldiers patrolling a street vandalized in violence in New Delhi. -AP

They expose bias of the Delhi Police and establish the fact that the riots were indeed a result of the planned conspiracy by Hindutva activists

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Last week Caravan magazine’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal, while speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, launched a scathing attack on corporate-driven media for siding with the Bharatiya Janata Party government in its coverage of the Delhi riots.

He slammed the media for denigrating the victims of violence and blaming anti-CAA activists for violence while shielding the leaders of the BJP and their supporters who are accused of triggering the riots that consumed 53 lives, majority of them Muslims.

Bal had a point. Last week marked the first year of riots. Naturally the stories about the victims and their struggle or recollecting the carnage should have dominated the headlines but large sections of the mainstream media chose to look the other way. Barring a few usual exceptions, the TV air time and newspaper pages were filled with all news but riots.

Again it was the online independent media outlets who took it upon themselves to cover one year of the riots despite the fact that the same week the central government came up with the new rules to regulate social media and online news. The experts say the new rules will fundamentally alter the way Indians consume the internet and news on the internet as it is likely to enable greater levels of government intervention and consequently censorship.

The Wire, one of the most respected online news websites in India, published the first part of the investigative reportage that tears apart the narrative of the Delhi Police which hold Anti-CAA activists responsible for riots arguing that they hatched a conspiracy that led to violence.

The Wire investigation, painstakingly conducted over a period of several months, establishes that the riots were indeed a result of the planned conspiracy by Hindutva activists who have ties with the mainstream right-wing parties including the BJP.

In its report, The Wire says the rioters who were involved in the conspiracy and the actual violence have been deliberately hidden from public view by the Delhi Police’s refusal to investigate them or even speak about them.

“The police have deliberately chosen not to investigate an influential group of men and women who had – since the third week of December 2019 – been openly advocating the use of violence to end the peaceful anti-CAA protests,” The Wire states in the first part of the investigation. “The reason the police have refused to investigate this group is because they are all part of the same Hindutva ecosystem which stretches from openly criminal elements – on what is sometimes wrongly called the ‘fringe’ – all the way to BJP politicians and ministers in the Modi government.”

The part of the investigation published so far names two characters Deepak Singh Hindu, founder of the extremist ‘Hindu Force’ and associated with Bajrang Dal; and Ankit Tiwari, BJP volunteer and RSS member from Kondli, Delhi.

When Kapil Mishra made that infamous incendiary speech against anti-CAA protestors on February 23 last year, Deepak Singh came on Facebook and exhorted crowds to violence. In his address, he appealed to his supporters to join him in religious war”. “It is better to die as men and I, Deepak Singh Hindu, will take this war to its conclusion. Please come to Maujpur Chowk at 2:30 pm because if Deepak Singh Hindu goes there alone, it will be a moment for you to die of shame. My appeal to you is that you reach Maujpur Chowk in large numbers”.

The Wire investigation found the claim of Delhi Police that calls for road block by anti-CAA protestors at Maujpur was the trigger for the violence collapses as Deepak had warned of his plans to unleash violence on anti-CAA protestors in Shaheen Bagh.

Similarly, The Wire says, Ankit Tiwari was a willing footsoldier who not only can be seen engaging in violence but is happy to openly boast on social media about having killed Muslims.

His social media posts show him openly inciting and indulging in violence.

According to the report, Tiwari claimed that some members of the RSS, Bajrang Dal and ABVP activists organised themselves into joint teams. “In another Instagram story, Tiwari claims to have killed many “mullahs” and “katuas””.

Apart from The Wire, Caravan magazine has done multiple investigative reports exposing the partisan role of Delhi Police in both violence on streets and the subsequent investigations which baselessly implicate the anti-CAA Muslim and progressive activists. In its current issue, the magazine has published a series of investigative reports showing the role of BJP and RSS leaders in inciting violence against anti-CAA protestors by invoking Hindu identity in the election campaign that preceded the riots.

Similarly, other independent outlets like News Laundry, Scroll and The Quint have done a number of stories in the past one year that not only give a platform to the voice of victims but also expose how Delhi Police was jailing innocent men while shielding or going soft on the real culprits behind the violence.


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