President of India Urged to Order Judicial Probe into Delhi Riots

Brinda Karat meeting people affected by Delhi violence. Photo: CPI(M)
Brinda Karat meeting people affected by Delhi violence. Photo: CPI(M)

By RMN News Service

A group of 72 prominent citizens including IAS officers has urged the President of India Ram Nath Kovind to order a fair investigation into the communal riots that took place in Delhi in February.

In their letter dated July 17, they have sought a commission of inquiry into the manner of investigation of communal violence in North-East Delhi between the 23rd and 26th of February, 2020 in which 53 people lost their lives.

“To ensure that justice is done and those who instigated and caused the violence are prosecuted, it is critical that the investigation be free and fair,” the letter states.

The Delhi Police has set up three Special Investigation Teams (SITs) led by its officials to conduct a probe into the matter. In addition, the Delhi Police Special Cell is also probing the aspect of conspiracy behind the Delhi riots.

“There are, however, serious questions about the role played by the Delhi Police during the violence, with allegations of the police deliberately not preventing violence and in some places, even being complicit in it,” the letter contends.

It has highlighted instances of police complicity in the violence and facts that reveal bias in the ongoing investigation by the police.

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With the help of media reports, the letter argues that no action on complaints against leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was taken, adding that BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Satya Pal Singh, Jagdish Pradhan, Nand Kishore Gujjar, and Mohan Singh Bisht allegedly participated or orchestrated the violence.

But despite the passage of several months, the Delhi Police had not pursued the complaints against BJP leaders. As per the provisions of the law, also reiterated by the Supreme Court, the police is obligated to register an FIR upon receipt of a complaint of commission of a cognizable offence.

However, as per information in the public domain and also based on a perusal of the rejoinder of the Delhi police to the piece in The Caravan, it appears the police have not issued FIRs on these complaints.

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It is extremely concerning that the Delhi Police has refused to put nearly 700 FIRs registered by it in the public domain. In fact, it has not even made a summary of the FIRs available to citizens.

According to the letter, this creates an asymmetry of information and thwarts all attempts at public scrutiny as only the police knows which complaints and allegations are being pursued and which continue to languish.

While the BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma openly made inflammatory speeches that led to Delhi violence, it was falsely claimed in the court that there is no evidence to indicate their role in Delhi riots.

The letter says that the probe by the Delhi Police appears to be pursuing a line of inquiry criminalizing the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and portraying them as a conspiracy which resulted in the riots in Delhi.

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The chronology described by the Police in the charge sheets, which are publicly available, chronicle the various sit-ins in Delhi and speeches by social activists as though each of these was a build up towards the riots.

However, the protests in Delhi were exemplary in their adoption of Gandhian means of non-violent action and were recognized for their peaceful nature not only across the nation, but also globally.

The protests in the form of 24-hour sit-ins were legitimate, within the framework of the Indian Constitution and were an expression of those aggrieved by the CAA, NPR, and NRC.

The blocking of roads or chakka jam has a long history in India as an instrument of protest and has been adopted by various movements and even political parties at different points in time.

Therefore, the criminalization of this act and presenting it as part of a conspiracy by the Delhi Police is completely unwarranted.

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The ongoing probe by the Delhi police, therefore, does not inspire confidence, the letter says. With serious allegations against several senior police officials, of being complicit in the violence or assisting the mobs or standing mutely and watching the violence, there is bound to be a perception that the agency is shielding its own.

The group of citizens demands a credible and unbiased probe which is crucial to ensure public trust. They say in their letter to the President that the investigation cannot be allowed to become a fishing and roving expedition aimed at causing a chilling effect on dissent and protest in the country.

“We therefore call upon the Government of India to institute an inquiry into this investigation under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, by appointing sitting/retired judge(s) of the higher judiciary,” they demand.

Further, according to their letter, it must be ensured that officers accused of being complicit in the violence are not involved in the investigation by the Delhi Police.

“Considering the overwhelming public interest in ensuring that a thorough and objective investigation is done in the violence which took 53 lives in Delhi, we urge you to take cognizance of the issues raised in this letter,” the signatories urged the President.

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Rakesh Raman