Citizens of Delhi have written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, demanding an independent probe under a retired Judge of suitable stature into the communal violence that rocked parts of North East Delhi earlier this year, killing over 50 and injuring hundreds.

Over 270 signatories expressed their concern over the “unfair, unjust, one sided and manufactured “investigation” by the Delhi police, the crime branch and the special police” and highlighted six grounds for setting up such an inquiry. Signatories to the letter include retired government officers, political leaders and activists, academicians, artists, authors, senior media personnel, various trade unions, women’s organisations and students.

The letter states that the report released by the Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) described a version of events which was “in total contrast” to the claims made by the Delhi Police. The Commission too, recommended the setting up of an independent inquiry.

“There is a clear conflict of interest between getting to the truth and defending the leaders of the ruling party at the centre,” reads the letter. Many leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Kapil Mishra had made hate speeches but no FIR was filed, it added.

The DMC report too stated, “An incendiary public speech by BJP leader and former MLA Kapil Mishra on 23 February 2020 clearly incited violence in words and intent.” Calling out the “double standards of the police”, signatories wrote that while the Delhi Police officially declared such speeches were not “cognizable offences”, at the same time selective excerpts of activists’ speeches have been used to name them in charge sheets.

They further claimed that the Delhi Police have issued an official letter to officers, warning them to be cautious of arresting individuals from the Hindu community as “complaints” had been received from community leaders. While the police claimed they were “even handed” in terms of the number of arrests made of those belonging to both communities, the letter highlights that as per the Delhi Police’s figures itself, the damage and losses have been overwhelmingly borne by the minority community.

“These double standards show that the Delhi police seeks to implement a political agenda--which is to conceal the role played by BJP leaders in the communal violence,” wrote the signatories.

The DMC report too stated that the Police had not registered many complaints of Muslim victims. “In most cases, chargesheets have been filed by Police first against Muslim accused and the entire narrative has been changed to one of violence on both sides rather than a pogrom that was in fact carried out,” wrote MR Shamshad, Chairperson of the DMC Fact-Finding Committee in his foreword to the report.

Even though the Delhi Police is itself accused in cases of “dereliction of duty, connivance and partisanship”, and in certain cases of “directly participating in violence against the minority community”, in rejoinders to several petitions in court, they have said that they found no evidence against the police.

This, despite the fact that many videos and press reports are available which reveal the complicity of the police, including in the case of injured young Muslim men, who were beaten and forced to sing the National Anthem by uniformed officers—a video of which began doing the rounds on social media soon after the incident. These individuals were then arrested, after which one of them succumbed to his injuries.

Highlighting the importance of an independent inquiry, the signatories state, “Clearly no inquiry into the role of the police can have credibility if it is conducted by the police themselves. In this case the accused and the investigators belong to the same team.”

Further, they claimed that the chronology of events as put forth by the police shows an attempt to link the communal violence in February to the peaceful anti-CAA protests that began in December 2019. Activists who participated in and helped organise these protests have been linked to the violence, with many being charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and also denied bail.

Meanwhile, others are being harassed by the police while local youth belonging to the minority community are being picked up on “flimsy grounds”, states the letter to the CM.

Emphasising how independent inquiries have often been set up in the past by State Governments to look into such violence, the signatories urged Delhi CM Kejriwal to institute an independent and time bound inquiry which would “go a long way in restoring the confidence that justice will be done.”

Signatories to the letter include:

Air Vice Marshal (Retd) N.I. Razzaqui (AVSM); Muchkund Dubey, (Former Foreign Secretary); Wajahat Habibullah, (IAS retd. Former Chairperson, National Commission for Minorirites and first Chief Commissioner RTI); Brinda Karat, (Polit Bureau member, CPI(M)); Harsh Mander, (Social Activist, Author and Columnist); H.K. Dua, (Senior Journalist); Mrinal Pande, (Senior Journalist & Author); Dr. Sayeda Hameed, (Former Member Planning Commission); Shyam Menon (former VC Ambedkar University, Delhi); Githa Hariharan (Author); Swami Agnivesh; Prabhat Patnaik (Professor Emeritus, JNU) & Jayati Ghosh (Professor, CESP, JNU).

Cover photograph AFP