The bloody communal violence in Northeast Delhi in February left 53 people dead and some 200 others maimed. Most of the dead were Muslims whose shops and houses were also destroyed by rioters. Media reports and viral videos on social media have squarely blamed BJP leaders, mainly Kapil Mishra, for inciting and actively participating in the violence. Yet the Delhi Police have turned on the victims. The grief-stricken family members of the victims recount the horror of their harassment at the hands of the uniformed men even as activists the real culprits seem to get away with murder
Ghazanfar Abbas | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — North-East Delhi witnessed unprecedented communal violence in February. At least 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Several mosques, homes, shops and businesses were looted and destroyed. According to witnesses, violence was unleashed by the RSS and BJP men, along with a section of the Delhi Police, against the Muslim minority in the wake of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Clarion India interviewed family members of the victims and eye-witnesses of violence. Narrating their heart-rending ordeals, they alleged that instead of going after those responsible for the widespread violence, the Delhi Police had turned on the gullible victims, arresting scores of poor, innocent Muslims as the alleged perpetrators.
“O Allah, they (killers) left my sons in torment. I want justice,” uttered a weeping Ashgari (50), who lost her two sons–Hashim Ali (19) and Amir Khan (30).
On February, 26, Hashim and Amir were returning from Ghaziabad where they had gone to see their maternal grandfather. As they reached Ganga Vihar near the Gokulpuri Police station, a few minutes away from their house in Mustafabad, rioters killed them and dumped their bodies into a runnel there.
Their father, Babu Khan, a labourer, said, “They killed my sons brutally with sharp weapons causing serious injuries on both bodies. Killers were so cruel. Everybody knows who incited riots. Political leaders are involved in this violence wherein mostly poor were killed.
‘Police and Administration with rioters‘
Mohammad Rashid, who was handed the burnt and wounded body of his younger brother Mohammad Mehtab (22) in a nearby nursing home, described how the police were supporting and allowing right-wing men to unleash violence.
“Here, the police were present along with RSS men in front of the mosque. The police were allowing RSS men from Brijpuri while nobody was being allowed from Mustafabad. The police were supporting the rioters who brought a trolley of stones with them. Rioters had swords, rods and hockey sticks,” said Rashid.
“There are many witnesses who have been naming the rioters but no action is being taken against them because the police and the administration are with them,” said an anguished Rashid.
Who will listen?
Saleem Kassar (51) saw his elder brother Anwar Kassar (55) being shot at and burnt by the rioters. Rioters also looted and set ablaze his house and their almirah factory in Shiv Vihar.
He narrated the incident, “Three slogans–“Kapil Mishra zindabad”, “Jagdish Pradhan zindabad” and “Jai Sri Ram”–were being raised there. My brother stood with folded hands in front of the rioters. One of them hit my brother with a kendo stick. Another man wearing a helmet shot at my brother’s chest. My brother fell down in torment. As he stood up, another man shot another bullet at my brother. Then they threw my brother in the flaming fire.”
He told Clarion India that despite revealing the names of killers (mostly locals) of his brother, the police didn’t take any action.
“One of the main perpetrators who incited violence is Kapil Mishra who delivered provocative, hateful speeches that, too, in the presence of a DCP. Former BJP MLA Jagdish Pradhan is also involved in this violence. All local RSS men are involved in these riots. They had taken out a procession a day before the riots. The administration is under the BJP government. So who will listen to us?” asked Saleem.
Are Victims Rioters?
Ali Ahmad (60) and his son Ibrahim (25) had their shops a few meters away from their house in Shiv Vihar. Rioters not only set fire to their shops but also looted their house after stone-pelting in between but the father-son duo managed to escape and saved their lives.
“On February 25, stone-pelting started at our house around midnight. We called the brother-in-law of our elder son for help. He came along with the police to rescue my family members. Goods worth Rs 8 lakhs inside the shops were burnt. Ownership documents of the shops and the house were also burnt. We couldn’t take out anything. Now, I have no proof of my property. And the government is not listening,” said Ahmad in a choked voice.
Ahmad’s son Ibrahim said that besides damaging several goods, rioters looted jewellery worth lakhs of rupees, cylinders, a scooty and his bike on which he had painted “No CAA No NRC”.
“We were looted. Now we are being blamed for riots, too. Protests at Shaheen Bagh were going on without any violence for a long time but after Kapil Mishra delivered his speeches, riots erupted just in one day. So, it is obvious who is responsible of the riots,” Ibrahim said.
Random Arrests of Muslims
For one a month, Mansoor Ahmad (82) and Noor Begi (75) have been waiting for their son Aas Mohammad to return home. Aas’s father said that the police came from the Dayalpur police station and asked about Aas showing a photo in which he is seen standing outside his shop during the riots.
“I was at the shop (of Aas Mohammad) when the police came and asked about Aas Mohammad. I replied that he was not available. So, the police barged inside my house, asking my wife to bring my kurta, or, he (policeman) would take me to the police station without kurta. So, they took me with them in their vehicle,” recalled Mansoor.
In his absence, the police first took Mansoor, then let him off as his son reached the police station. Mansoor also said that the police refused to give the concerned FIR, saying that he would get it from court.
Aas’s mother Noor Begi said, “The police are falsely implicating my son. We want our son back. Our son didn’t do anything. He was not indulged in any riot. He was just standing there (outside his shop) wondering whether his shop would also be looted by the rioters. He did not have even a stick in his hand in the photo. Many Muslims have been killed. Now there is no justice.”
In another case, Mohammad Shahid (36) was arrested by the Crime branch during the lockdown in April. His wife Shazia Parween said, “They said that he will not be harmed and he will be released tomorrow after presenting him in court. But the next day, they took him to Mandoli jail. At that time, I saw him for the last time. Since then, three months have passed but we don’t know where he is. We neither get any FIR nor know on which basis they have arrested my husband.”
Role of Home Ministry under Scanner
Clarion India also took observational comments on the Delhi violence case from well-known activists, including Prof. Apoorvananda Jha (Delhi University), Shabnam Hashmi (founder of ANHAD) and Adv. Mahmood Pracha, senior lawyer at the Supreme Court. Commenting on the chronological developments and action by the Delhi police so far, they alleged that it was an anti-Muslim violence unleashed by RSS and BJP men but the Delhi police let off the real culprits and are trying to project a false story as part of pre-planned violence orchestrated at the level of the home ministry.
Farce is Open and Out
“We must be mindful that not a single Hindu temple was touched but mosques were destroyed, viciously destroyed. Hindus were killed in this violence. They also suffered loss of property but the loss of life and property on the side of Muslims was disproportionately high. So, it can be safely called an anti- Muslim violence in which Muslims suffered much more than Hindus. And then, through these FIRs and charge-sheets, the Delhi police are presenting a story that camps for anti-CAA protests were the sites where a conspiracy was hatched to unleash violence in Delhi. The farce is out and open; and it is so brazen,” Prof. Apoorvananda said.
Referring to various media reports, he said that several named complaints were filed against those who were leading the mobs to unleash violence but the police didn’t act on those complaints.
Expressing concern court inaction despite a PIL, Prof. Jha said, “Unfortunately, the court also ignored it. There was a petition filed in the court where it was asked to direct the Delhi police to file an FIR against Kapil Mishra and others who were investigating the violence but the court felt that it was not urgent.”
Delhi Police Acting on behalf of Amit Shah
Eminent human rights defender Shabnam Hashmi said that if secular police officers had been there at the helm of affairs, they would have definitely gone after the real culprits and done a thorough investigation “but the police over the years have also become highly communalized,” she maintained.
She further questioned why nothing was mentioned (in the FIRs) about BJP leaders—Kapil Mishra, Anuragh Thakur and others who had delivered hateful and provocative speeches.
Referring to Amit Shah’s statement appealing people “to press button in such a way that current should be felt in Shaheen Bagh” during the Delhi election in early February, Hashmi said, “It was Amit shah who first started delivering provocative speeches. Nothing is mentioned (in FIR) about them because all is being done on their (BJP leaders) behalf.”
Travesty of justice
Saying that most of the police officers are playing in the hands of their political masters, Adv. Mahmood Pracha said, “We are handling dozens of such cases where Muslim complainants alleged that the police flatly refused to register FIRs on their complaints. The police also warned them that if they continued to name people belonging to the police, the RSS and the BJP, they will register an FIR against them and implicate them in false cases.”
He said that the maximum number of FIRs registered against Muslims were unnamed FIRs, while the maximum number of complaints filed before the police were named against RSS, BJP office bearers and Delhi police officers. “But they have not been converted into an FIR,” Adv. Pracha told.
“Kapil Mishra didn’t just deliver hate speeches, he actually participated in the violence. Witnesses have seen him having a gun in his hands. Another BJP member Ragini Tiwari was also seen by the eyewitnesses shooting at a person with a gun and also delivering hate speeches, instigating people to attack. This entire exercise has been orchestrated at the level of the Home Ministry. So, obviously they are working as a plan to project a picture that it was a Hindu-Muslim riot which is not so. It is a carefully planned attack on Muslims.”
“The police are not investigating for obvious reasons because tomorrow if Kapil Mishra, Ragini Tiwari and other BJP leaders are named in the FIR and arrested, they will definitely name their political masters. This is travesty of justice— nothing can be a bigger crime than this where you let off the real criminals and falsely implicate the innocents to suit a political narrative,” Adv. Pracha said.