August 02, 2020

DELHI: Set up Independent Probe: Citizens Demand

CITIZENS of Delhi on July 28, from all walks of life, have in a letter to chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal demanded an independent probe under a retired judge into the communal violence in Delhi. The totally one sided and politically motivated reports of the Delhi police regarding the communal violence is also in sharp contrast to the report and recommendations of the Delhi Minority Commission. This makes the setting up of such a probe all the more urgent. It will bring confidence to the people of Delhi and take forward the necessity to punish those guilty and to bring justice to the victims. The letter lists six grounds for setting up such an inquiry.

The signatories include professionals, retired officers of the government, academicians, cultural artists, authors, senior media personnel, political leaders and activists from various mass organisations like trade unions, women’s organisations and students.

Air Vice Marshal (retired) N I Razzaqui (AVSM); Muchkund Dubey, (former foreign secretary); Wajahat Habibullah, (IAS retired, former chairperson, National Commission for Minorities 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 and author);  Sayeda Hameed, (former member Planning Commission); Shyam Menon (former VC Ambedkar University, Delhi); Githa Hariharan (author); Swami Agnivesh; Prabhat Patnaik (professor emeritus, JNU) and Jayati Ghosh (professor, CESP, JNU) are among the over 270 signatories.

Text of letter:

We,  citizens of the national capital, belonging to various walks of life write to you to express our grave disquiet and concern about the unfair, unjust, one sided and manufactured “investigation” by the Delhi police, the crime branch and the special police into the communal violence in north east Delhi. We write to request you to order an independent investigation under a retired judge of suitable stature with a time bound mandate. The terms of reference should include various aspects of the violence. We are committed to ensure punishment to those guilty of the violence and we believe an independent inquiry will help such a process. Since this letter is digitally endorsed please consider it signed by all of us whose names are given below.
The grounds are as under:

1. The Delhi Minority Commission (DMC) in its detailed report released recently has described a version of events, which is in total contrast and variance with the claims made by the Delhi police. The commission has recommended the setting up of an independent inquiry. The state government should accept this recommendation.

2. The Delhi police functions directly under the union home ministry. The home minister himself had led the highly communal election campaign in Delhi which was a prelude to the violence and in fact his speech has been quoted in the DMC report. There is a clear conflict of interest between getting to the truth and defending the leaders of the ruling party at the centre. Several BJP leaders including ministers in the central government, MPs and other leaders like Kapil Mishra had made hate speeches but not a single FIR has been filed. On the contrary the Delhi police has officially declared that such speeches which sow enmity between two communities and incite violence are not “cognizable offences.” However selective excerpts of speeches made by activists are used to name them in charge sheets. Such are the double standards of the police. An independent inquiry would help to pin down the role of different political functionaries.

3. The Delhi police have declared that they are “even handed” in the number of arrests of accused belonging to both communities. However their own figures show that the losses and damage are overwhelmingly borne by the minority community. In such a scenario “even handed” means to whitewash the facts. Moreover, the Delhi police has issued a formal letter to police officers asking them to be cautious in arresting ‘Hindus’ since “complaints” have been received of arrests from community leaders. It is therefore clear that the pressure not to arrest those accused of violence even if they have been named is accepted by the Delhi police. This is a shocking exposure of being “not even handed.” These double standards show that the Delhi police seek to implement a political agenda: to conceal the role played by BJP leaders in the communal violence; thus the importance of an independent inquiry.

4. The Delhi police are anchoring the current investigations under the three SITs which have been formed by them. However the Delhi police, notwithstanding their report that over 100 police personnel were injured in the violence, are itself accused in several cases of dereliction of duty, connivance and partisanship and in some cases of directly participating in violence against the minority community. Much of this is in the public domain through videos and press reports including the infamous incident in which injured young Muslim men were beaten, forced to sing the national anthem by uniformed policemen and then arrested leading to the death of one of them.  Yet in their written rejoinders to several petitions in court, the Delhi police have said that they have so far found no evidence against the police. 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.

5. On the basis of this one sided investigation grave injustice is being done to the democratic right to dissent. The entire chronology concocted by the Delhi police is to somehow link the communal violence in the third week of February to the anti-CAA movement starting in December and in particular the incidents in Jamia University. Activists who were part of the anti-CAA movement, which was in the main a historic peaceful protest, are being egregiously linked to the communal violence. Many have been booked under the draconian UAPA and are denied bail. Others are being harassed by different wings of the police. In addition local youth of the minority community are being harassed and picked up on flimsy grounds. This is all based on the false chronology of events being manufactured by the Delhi police at the behest of their political masters. Therefore an independent inquiry will also help defend and strengthen the democratic rights enshrined in our constitution.

6. In such cases in the past there have usually been independent inquiries set up by the state government concerned. It is true that in Delhi because of the various constraints imposed by the present centralised structure under the lieutenant governor answerable to the central government, there are problems faced by the state government. However, under the present constitutional framework the state government has every right and the powers to institute such an inquiry.

Therefore we reiterate and urge you to set up an independent and time bound inquiry into the communal violence in north east Delhi. This will go a long way in restoring the confidence that justice will be done.