Syed Khalique Ahmed & Anwarulhaq Beg
NEW DELHI, AUGUST 23—Alleging that the “Delhi police is complicit in the violence in February 2020 violence”, a report titled “Manufacturing Evidence: How the Police is framing and arresting constitutional rights defenders in India” prepared by Polis Project, an international NGO, has said that the Delhi police’s investigations were compromised by “Islamophobic behaviour and language during investigations”.
The report, that begins with former IPS officer V N Rai’s famous quote that “No riot can last for more than 24 hours without consent of the state”, says that the “Delhi police is creating a baseless narrative about a “conspiracy” that implicates Muslim victims of violence and activists protesting erosion of constitutional rights of citizens, and erases actions of Hindu nationalist provocations”.
The report prepared with inputs from human rights defenders and concerned citizens of India, presents evidence of “abuse of power, violations of due process, and attempts at manufacturing evidence by the Delhi police in order to weave a “conspiracy” about the involvement of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protesters in the violence”.
It also documents “dereliction of duty on the part of the Delhi police” during the violence.
The report accuses the Delhi police of having compromised its investigations by “suppressing evidence related to violence by Hindu nationalists”, “blaming the victims for engineering violence that has injured and killed them”, “selective use of evidence while filing charges” and “manufacturing false evidence using threats and intimidation”.
According to the report, the “police are interrogating many young Muslim men and junior activists with a view to preparing evidence for the arrest of senior activists whom the police have accused of masterminding the conspiracy”.
“The significance of the focus on the arrest of senior activists who protested against CAA and NRC”, the report says, is to “create a climate of fear that silences citizens by criminalising dissent”.
“This is the larger context of growing authoritarianism in India”, it goes on to say.
Police complicity in the violence
Alleging police complicity in the riots, the report says that the violence broke out after incendiary speech given by BJP leader Kapil Mishra in presence of an IPS officer at Jafrabad. According to the report, Kapil Mishra asked the policemen to remove the anti-CAA protesters failing which he and his men would themselves take the law in their own hands. What followed after Mishra’s speech was large scale violence in which 53 persons were killed, several hundred of others injured, hundreds of people displaced and properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees, mostly belonging to Muslims, destroyed. Yet, the police have failed to register an FIR against the BJP leader.
Participation of police in the violence
Alleging police’s direct participation in the violence, the report gives example of five young Muslim men surrounded by police personnel and being beaten up severely and asking them to sing national anthem. “This aggressive demand that Muslims perform their loyalty comes out of the Hindu nationalist narrative that deems Muslims to be unpatriotic”, points out the report.
Compares Faizan’s death with murder of George Floyd in US
It compares the death of a young boy Faizan from beatings during police custody with the death of George Floyd at Minneapolis in US at the hands of policeman while both Faizan and Floyd were unarmed. But the difference between the two cases, the report says, is that while the police officer who killed Floyd was charged of murder within three days and he and three of his colleagues were dismissed from service, in case of Faizan the policemen have not even been charged.
The report has also quoted Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, former chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, who indicted the Delhi police alleging that : “They [Delhi Police] have not saved anything, they allowed properties and people to be burned, allowed the rioters to damage houses and even to blast them… The Police will have to answer for its acts – there are no two ways about this.”
Chargesheets based on “presumptions”, not evidence
The report further says that the Delhi police chargesheet in the riots is based on “presumptions”, not on “evidence”. It says that the police accusations in the chargesheet that “The riots were part of a well-designed conspiracy crafted during CAA/NRC protests”, is not backed by any evidence.
“The sweeping presumptions made, with no trace of evidence as yet, begs the question about the motives underlying the police narrative. Is there an attempt, in keeping with the Hindu nationalist targeting of protests as being anti-national, to criminalize the very right to dissent?”, points out the Polis Project report.
It says, “The police seem to be pursuing a dogged line of presenting anti-CAA protesters and protest organisers as the accused without even prima facie evidence to support the allegations levelled against them”.
Suppressing evidence of violence by Hindu nationalists
Accusing the police of suppressing the evidence of violence by Hindu nationalists, the report highlights the failure of the police to register FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma for making incendiary speeches that allegedly incited violence. The report also includes the statements of Justice Muralidhar of the Delhi high court who questioned the police on the lack of acknowledgement of speeches as crimes. The report says that admission of Hindu activists on a Whatsapp group, Kattar Hindu Ekta, of 125 persons is an evidence of involvement of Hindu nationalists in incitement and abetment of violence in contrast to the unsubstantiated allegations about the anti-CAA/NRC protesters causing violence. Yet, the police are blaming the anti-CAA protesters as conspirators of the violence.