Eight more former Indian Police Service officers on Monday joined retired senior policeman Julio Ribeiro in questioning the flawed investigation into the communal violence in Delhi and demanded an unbiased inquiry. The retired officers warned that the Delhi Police’s “majoritarian attitude” would lead to a “travesty of justice” and disproportionately impact members of minority communities.
On Saturday, Ribeiro wrote to Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava, questioning the police’s approach to the February violence. He said the police were taking action against “peaceful protestors”, while the role of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in inciting and threatening violence against the protesters has so far gone uninvestigated. Ribeiro said this “not-so-subtle attempt” by the police to “entangle true patriots” in criminal cases was a matter of huge concern and urged the Delhi Police to revisit its inquiry.
In a statement issued on Monday, the eight former police officers endorsed Ribeiro’s concerns and called for a reinvestigation of all riot cases fairly and without any bias, based on sound principles of criminal investigations. “We would like to say that it indeed is a sad day in the history of Indian police that investigations and challans submitted in the court by Delhi Police in connection with riots of this year are widely believed to be partisan and politically motivated,” the statement added.
The IPS officers referred to Delhi Police Special Commissioner Praveer Ranjan’s attempt to influence investigations by asking its personnel to exercise “due care and precaution”, claiming resentment among Hindus over the arrest of some rioters belonging to their community. “Such a majoritarian attitude in the police leadership leads to a travesty of justice for the victims of violence and their family members belonging to minority communities,” they said. “This would further mean that real culprits of the violence belonging to majority community are likely to go scot free.”
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.
But in multiple chargesheets, the Delhi Police have claimed that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the façade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges, with former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid being the latest.
“What pains us more is implicating all those who spoke and joined protests against Citizenship Amendment Act,” the IPS officers said. “They were simply exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of speech and peaceful protests as guaranteed by the Constitution.”
The statement added that basing investigations on “disclosures” without concrete evidence violated all principles of fair investigation. “While implicating leaders and activists, who expressed their views against CAA, all those who instigated violence and are associated with the ruling party have been let off the hook,” the retired officers said.
On Saturday, the police named Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand and filmmaker Rahul Roy in a supplementary chargesheet in another riots related case. The chargesheet primarily relied on identical “disclosure statements” made by three students – Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Gulfish Fatima – who have been in custody in connection with the violence for more than three months.
The retired police officers said that such statements raise doubts about its veracity and would only make “people lose faith in democracy, justice, fairness and the Constitution”. “A dangerous thought that may ultimately shake the pillars of an orderly society and lead to breakdown of law and order,” they added.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties also writes to Delhi Police
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has also written to Delhi Police Commissioner SN Srivastava, condemning the “motivated and malicious” investigation of the Delhi Police into the February violence.
The rights group said the Delhi Police’s conspiracy angle into the riots under FIR59/2020 showed a “clear line of investigation – every activity which was part of the peaceful anti-CAA protest is now being made suspect”.
“It is a matter of great concern that statements which the persons in police remand denied making, have been made the basis to implicate more law abiding citizens, with the clear motive to target eminent academics and University professors, writers, film makers, civil society activists, political party leaders and also MLAs as being the instigators, mobilisers of roadblocks and motivators of dharnas, in order to build a baseless case,” the group said in a statement.
It added that even though there was hardly any circumstantial or electronic evidence to even show any involvement, the police were brazenly filing chargesheets on the basis of fabricated evidence and false and coerced confessions to build a larger case of being conspirators of the violence.
“We are constrained to point out that the Delhi police seem to be abdicating its constitutional duty to conduct independent, fair and objective investigation,” the group said. “The fact that the police is not investigating the role played by BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra and others in actually instigating and promoting the violence, despite so much electronic evidence of speeches, social media posts being available only deepens our concern.”
The rights group also condemned Khalid’s arrest and described him as “a promising young scholar, who believes in the power of Gandhian non-violent, peaceful means for bringing about communal harmony”.
“It is pertinent to point out that he is a law abiding citizen and that he has always voluntarily appeared before the police whenever summons were issued for his presence…There is absolutely no legal necessity to justify his arrest,” it added. “This only underscores our concern about the Delhi police engaging in arbitrary arrest and conducting a partial, biased and politically motivated investigation.”
This story first appeared on September 14, 2020 in ‘Scroll’ here.