Delhi Riots Revisited

The targeted communal violence in North East Delhi took place in February. Nearly six months have passed since then.

What new facts have emerged since February, about the perpetrators of the violence, and the motives for it?

What course has the Delhi Police investigation taken? What action is the Delhi Police taking on the available evidence? What evidence is there to back the Delhi Police theory that the violence was a result of a conspiracy by those who were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act?

Delhi Police Speaks BJP's Language, Calls Protest 'Secession'

Several petitions have been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking action against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma for hate speeches that incited violence in the city. Responding to these petitions, the Delhi Police submitted an affidavit claiming that they had yet to find any “actionable evidence” against these leaders of the ruling BJP, who had given speeches and raised slogans calling anti-CAA protestors “traitors” and calling for people to “shoot the traitors.” Instead, the Delhi Police claimed that it was the anti-CAA protestors who had conspired to incite violence.

In their affidavit, the Delhi Police claimed that the “motive and the idea behind this conspiracy,” was that the anti-CAA protestors wanted to “to go to any extent possible, be it a small scuffle with the police during blockade or instigation of riots between two communities or to advocate and execute a secessionist movement in the country by propagating an armed rebellion against the lawfully constituted government of the day.”

We may recall here that the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and all over the country, were peaceful sit-ins led by Muslim women, as well as demonstrations by students. The protestors had pointed out that the Citizenship Amendment Act, together with the all India NRC (National Register of Citizens) and NPR (National Population Register), went against the founding principles of India’s Constitution, seeking to strip millions of Indians of citizenship, and to exclude Muslims from the right to reclaim citizenship. The protests, thus, took the form of embracing the Constitution and asserting citizenship and belonging to India. Protestors read out the Preamble to the Constitution, declared that the Government had no right to cherry-pick and select citizens and voters or divide them based on religious identity, and vowed that they would not display documents to prove citizenship. The protests, then, were distinguished by the opening words of the Indian Constitution, and by the slogans of “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai, Ham Sab Hain Samvidhan Ke Sipahi” (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, we are all soldiers of the Constitution) and “Ham Kaagaz Nahin Dikhayenge” (We won’t display papers).

The Delhi Police, through their affidavit, is telling the world that in their view, it is not an actionable crime, let alone a conspiracy to divide the nation, for BJP leaders to brand Muslims and protesting citizens as “traitors” and incite people to “shoot the traitors”. Instead, the Delhi Police is actually speaking the language of the same BJP leaders, and branding protestors as “secessionist” traitors. In the view of the ruling BJP, and the Delhi Police which is acting like the BJP’s private army, it is not a crime to call for violence, but if you are publicly reading the Constitution of India holding the Government and Parliament accountable to the Constitution, you are a “secessionist”, a “traitor”.

The Delhi Police answers directly to the Home Minister of India, PM Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah, who is also President of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party. The Delhi Police “investigation” is following the BJP and RSS script which brands the Constitution as “anti-national”, while seeing anti-Muslim and anti-democratic violence as “nationalism”.

Gaping Holes In The Police Story

The Delhi Police, in the chargesheet related to the murder of an Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma, claims that Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain and student activist Umar Khalid met at Shaheen Bagh on January 8, where they conspired “to have a big blast so that the Central Govt could be shaken on the issue of CAA/NRC and so as to defame the country in the international arena...These riots were planned to occur during or prior to the visit of US President Donald Trump in the month of February, 2020.”

But, as a detailed fact-finding report of the Delhi Minorities Commission observes, “Almost all the North East Delhi violence-related cases that Police are investigating are based on the premise that riots were planned by anti-CAA protesters to coincide with the US President Donald Trump’s visit to India in the third week of February. The first reference to the forthcoming Trump visit was published in India on 13 January while the alleged meeting of the “conspirators” is claimed by police to have been held on 8 January 2020.” How did Tahir Hussain and Umar Khalid have knowledge on 8 January that Trump would be visiting India, when the first media reports about this visit appeared only on 13 January? Is it the Delhi Police’s case that Trump’s White House personally informed Umar Khalid before anyone else knew?

In three of the chargesheets filed by them, the Delhi Police relies on confession statements purportedly made to the police by the accused. But these “confession statements” (which are not admissible as evidence because they were not recorded before a magistrate) are word-for-word, line-for-line, identical. Likewise, seven disclosure statements in chargesheet 60/20 are identical, ten disclosure statements in chargesheet 50/20 are identical, and four in chargesheet 65/20 are identical. How can different persons use the exact same phrases and wording? Clearly, the author of the statements is the police itself, which has lazily copy-pasted the same fictitious “confession” attributed to separate persons! This would be a joke – except that people are being jailed during a pandemic, their lives placed in danger, based on such nonsense.

Two of the supposed “confession statements”, recorded in the main conspiracy case FIR 59/20, have been imported into another chargesheet, pertaining to the Constable Ratan Lal murder. This is a legally untenable move.

One of these “confessions” is attributed to one Shadab Ahmed, a young Muslim man accused in the constable’s murder. Ahmed’s “confession” says that activists Yogendra Yadav, Kavita Krishnan, and Anjali Bhardwaj delivered “provocative speeches” at the protest sites in Delhi.

The other “confession” is attributed to Safoora Zargar, the Jamia Millia Islamia student activist. Beneath the typed script, one can see the hand-scribbled words, “Refuse to sign.” Clearly, Safoora Zargar did not succumb to the pressure to sign the statement scripted for her by the police.

The chargesheet in the Constable Ratan Lal murder case names several well-known activists of Delhi as “conspirators” whom they claim created a false sense of threat among Delhi’s Muslims to instigate them to riot. These activists include lawyers DS Bindra (who organised a langar to help feed the protestors at Shaheen Bagh) and Mehmood Pracha; Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan; Jamia Millia Islamia students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar; MBA graduate Gulfisha Fatima; Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal; filmmaker Rahul Roy; Khalid Saifi of United Against Hate; and AISA activist Kawalpreet Kaur. In other chargesheets, the names of other activists have been included, including former IAS officer and activist Harsh Mander, CPIML politburo member Kavita Krishnan, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India party, and RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj. The police chargesheets till now have not shown even an ounce of evidence to back these claims of a “conspiracy”. The whole cock-and-bull story is just a shabbily written script, an excuse to implicate and arrest a whole range of activists and dissenting voices, and jail them without a trial using draconian laws like UAPA. This is the same model that was followed in the Bhima Koregaon case.

A letter by former civil servants to the President of India has raised concerns that “The Police has been calling several young people who were part of public protests for interrogation. Many of them have shared that during the interrogation there is an attempt to intimidate them and offer them “deals” in exchange for giving statements against activists and those involved in the protests.” The letter has also pointed out that the police is persistently questioning people involved in platforms called “Hum Bharat ke Log” (We the People of India) and “Delhi Protests Support Group”, though it is abundantly clear that members of these groups were involved in peaceful dissent and protest, and not in any remotely illegal or even secretive activity.   

No Action Against Crimes By Police Personnel

There is ample evidence that the Delhi Police itself was an active participant in the targeted violence against the Muslim community in NE Delhi. The letter by former civil servants (cited above) expressed concerns that “There are  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. We highlight below some instances of police complicity in the violence and facts that reveal bias in the ongoing investigation by the police.”

In a blatant expression of bias in the investigation, the Special CP (Crime & Economic Offences Wing) Praveer Ranjan gave a written order dated July 8 to senior officers heading probe teams, saying that arrests of “some Hindu youth” from riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi has led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community” and “due care and precaution” must be taken while making arrests.  



The letter reminds of the video of “uniformed policemen assaulting injured youth lying on the road...forcing the young men to sing the national anthem and repeatedly beating them with lathis and picking up and hitting a young man’s head against the road....taunting the men about the ‘Azaadi’ slogan, which was oft-used at the protests and sit-ins against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). One of the men, 23 year-old Faizan succumbed to his injuries a few days later.” The civil servants note, “While the act itself was atrocious, what is even more shocking is that the Delhi Police does not appear to be assigning any urgency to identifying the policemen involved and ensuring that they are brought to book. The First Information Report registered by the Bhajanpura Police station makes no mention of the clearly documented video footage of the police assaulting Faizan and the Delhi police has not named any policemen as accused in the case.”   

The letter also cites video evidence of police involvement in stone pelting, violence, breaking CCTVs, and adds, “To our knowledge, no enquiry or investigation has been set up by the Delhi Police to probe the role of the policemen, despite these videos being publicly available and also being highlighted by the media.”  

The civil servants cite reports that “At least one deputy commissioner, two additional commissioners and two station house officers of the Delhi Police participated in criminal intimidation, unprovoked firing, arson and looting during the violence that swept northeast Delhi in late February, according to complaints filed by eyewitnesses.” Yet, they note, “Despite the passage of more than 4 months, no FIR has been registered. In fact the Delhi Police appears to have not even acted against the DCP who mutely stood next to a BJP leader who was instigating violence against the protestors warning them that if they did not vacate the area, he would do it himself.”

The letter notes that there is no investigation into evidence of custodial torture of activist Khalid Saifi; and that “the Delhi Police has refused to put nearly 700 FIRs registered by it in the public domain... has not even made a summary of the FIRs available to citizens. 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.”

Implicating The Victims, Protecting Perpetrators

In other cases relating to the killing of Muslims, the Delhi Police has falsified evidence to frame other Muslim men. To do this, the Delhi Police tampered with witness statements and added names of Muslims to statements that only named Hindus. They also used photographs of Muslim men seen trying to dispel the mobs, to claim these as proof that they were “instigating violence.”

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police is ignoring the huge body of evidence against the real conspirators and instigators, who openly called for violence. These include a host of BJP and RSS leaders.

The Delhi Minorities Commission Fact Finding team noted that

“5.12. Violence started in different pockets almost immediately after the short speech of Shri Kapil Mishra on 23 February 2020 at Maujpur in which he openly called for forcefully removing the protestors at Jafrabad in North East Delhi.99 He clearly said that he and his supporters will take matters into their own hands, alluding to extralegal vigilante tactics, in saying: “But after that we will not listen to the Police if roads are not cleared after three days...” The open admission of “not listening” to the police and extralegal tactics should have been seen by the authorities present as inciting violence.

“5.1.3. Deputy Commissioner of Police North East district, Shri Ved Prakash Surya, was standing right next to Shri Kapil Mishra when he said “after that we will not listen to the police...”. At this point, the police failed to apprehend and arrest Kapil Mishra and all those gathered to hear and cheered his speech. This indicates that they failed to take the first and most immediate preventive step needed to avoid violence from arising and protect life and property.100

“5.1.4. Following the speech, different groups/mobs quickly fanned out to the local areas, openly carrying various weapons and arms like petrol bottles/bombs, iron rods, gas cylinders, stones and even firearms. Despite the open display of weapons and firearms, sufficient actions were not taken by the district administration or police to protect life and property.”  

Yet, Kapil Mishra is not named by the police in any of the chargesheets.   

The Delhi Police has not acted on complaints by NE Delhi residents saying they witnessed BJP councillor Kanhaiya Lal in Northeast Delhi’s Bhagirathi Vihar, asking a mob to “wipe out the Muslims”.

In a Facebook video, one Ragini Tiwari openly asked Hindus to “Die or Kill”. Her exact words: “Bahut hua sanatan par vaar, ab nahi sahenge vaar. Sanataniyo baahar aao. Maro ya maar daalo. Baad mein dekhi jayegi. Bahut hua. Ab jiska khoon na khaula, khoon nahi wo paani hai (Enough attacks on Hinduism. We won't tolerate such attacks anymore. Hindus, come out. Die or kill. Rest shall be seen later. If your blood hasn't boiled even now, it's not blood but it is water).” Why has the Delhi Police yet to name Ragini Tiwari in an FIR based on her own video?

In the same video, Tiwari says, “Bhimti hai kya? Kaat daalo, jo bhi hai, kaat daalo... (Is he a Bhimti – abusive term referring to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s supporters? Cut him up, whoever it is, cut him up.)

There are also statements recorded in police complaints, by eyewitness who saw Ragini Tiwari accompany and instigate gun-toting mobs: “At around 9 PM (on 23 February) I saw Ragini Tiwari come in a car with some people. The people accompanying were carrying big guns and she began giving her speech. Often while making people chant slogans, she would fire bullets in the air, after which the mob began losing control.”

An eyewitness also claims to have seen Ragini Tiwari herself fire at a head of a young boy, while leading a mob that was chanting the slogan popularised by Kapil Mishra, “Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko (shoot the traitors)".

The police has arrested some Hindu persons accused of involvement in the killing of nine Muslims in Gokulpuri in Delhi. These arrests have been made on the basis of a “Kattar Hindu” (fanatic Hindu) WhatsApp group. The transcripts of conversations in this group, show the members of far-right Hindutva mobs boasting that the police was their ally, their “fellow Hindu brothers”; that police had advised them to cover their tracks and delete videos of their colleagues committing violence; boasting of using guns and bullets, killing Muslims and burning down mosques; planning killings of Muslims; praising Modi and repeatedly mentioning the RSS and its outfits like Bajrang Dal. One message says, “Brothers, RSS members have come to our support in Beijpuri [Brijpuri] and killed nine Muslims.” Another message shared in the group was, “Hindus, support and join the RSS, VHP, Bajrang, Hindu Sena. When Hindus are in trouble, these will be the first people to fight for you.”

The question is: based on these WhatsApp groups, why is the Delhi Police not investigating the role of the RSS outfits mentioned in the group? The Delhi Police is claiming that Pinjra Tod, AISA, Jamia Coordination Committee, and United Against Hate that were exhorting people to embrace the Constitution, and were organising relief for victims of the violence, are “secessionists” determined to destroy India. Why are the RSS outfits that are clearly allies of those boasting of killing Muslims, not seen as wanting to destroy India and India’s secular Constitution and society?

The Delhi Police’s own words and actions reflect the fact that the Modi regime’s Home Ministry itself is out to protect the real perpetrators and instigators of the violence, and punish the activists defending the Constitution, and blame the Muslim victims for the violence.


Excerpts from Report of the Fact-Finding Committee on the North-East Delhi Riots of February 2020

Prepared for Delhi Minorities Commission by the Fact-Finding Committee
headed by Mr. M.R. Shamshad Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India

5.2. Systematic Violence

5.2.1. The violence followed an organised and systematic pattern. Different mobs numbering anywhere between 100-1000 people, chanting common slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’, and even “Har Har Modi”, “Modiji, kaat do in Mullon ko [Modi, cut these Muslims into pieces]”, “Aaj tumhe aAzadi denge [Today, we will give you freedom]”, selectively attacked Muslim individuals, houses, shops, vehicles, mosques and other property.

5.2.2. The victims have repeatedly stated that though they could recognize some of the perpetrators as belonging to their residential locality, they also saw that outsiders were present. They recounted that some of these persons had made their way into their areas prior to the violence and even threatened them.

5.2.3. The perpetrators positioned themselves strategically in the residential areas. This points to no “spontaneity” as in the case of a riot. The testimonies reveal that the violence was planned and targeted. As stated above, the perpetrators were armed with lathis, iron rods, tear gas bombs, cylinders, and firearms.

5.2.4. The attacks were selectively targeted towards the Muslim population of the area. In some instances, victims were asked to show their ID cards and then targeted on the basis of their faith.

5.2.5. In response to the targeted attacks, Muslim youth pelted stones on the mobs in some places to defend community and family members. Barring one incident, there have not been reports of Muslims being armed with weapons other than stones.

5.2.6. Destruction of property: In many areas of North East Delhi, properties owned by Muslims were destroyed while those owned by Hindus, even though standing adjacent to the targeted properties, remained unscathed. In some instances, where the owners were Hindus but the property had been rented to Muslims, the building was not damaged but the moveable property was looted or burnt outside the premises. In some instances, shops belonging to Muslims were looted and burnt, while adjoining shops owned by Hindus, and even adjoining ATMs, were left untouched.

5.2.7. Religious symbols destroyed: Mobs specifically vandalised Muslim places of worship, namely mosques and madrasas as well as religious symbols like copies of the Holy Quran.105 Police officials were either mute spectators or, in some cases, even alleged participants. In most of the cases, CCTV cameras on the premises, from which footage could have been gathered to aid identification of perpetrators, were destroyed. Religious places of worship of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority areas were largely left untouched, and in some cases were protected by the local Muslim residents.

5.3.4. Police complicity: Police were also complicit and abetted the attacks. Where police did act, victims state that police stopped their colleagues when they attempted to disperse the crowd (“do not stop them”). In some cases, they merely stood as onlookers while the mobs engaged in violence.116 In others, they explicitly gave a go-ahead to the perpetrators to continue with their rampage (“do what you want”). A few accounts state how the police and paramilitary officials even escorted the mobs safely out of the area once the attack was over.

5.3.5. In some testimonies, clear allegations of engaging in direct violence, including physical assault and abuse, have been made against police officers. In one incident, five Muslim boys were surrounded by 6-7 police officers and brutally beaten up while being asked to chant “Jana gana mana”. One of them died some days later. The FIR registered does not name any accused.
5.3.6. Implicating victims: In some cases victims themselves have been arrested, especially where they filed complaints against named individuals.

5.3.7. In some instances victims have said that they are being asked to ‘compromise’ with the accused persons named by them in their complaints. Police have been visiting them for inquiries without sporting name tags, which is not only a violation of criminal procedure but also adds to the general climate of fear and distrust prevalent after the violence.

5.3.8. Muslim complainants are reluctant to visit police stations to pursue their complaints due to fear of being falsely implicated in cases. Victims who witnessed police involvement or inaction during the violence are especially averse to approach the police for any remedy.

5.3.9. There are many diarised complaints which have been tagged with registered FIRs relating to different complaints. In some instances, complaints naming the accused have been tagged with FIRs of general nature in which the accused are not named.

5.3.10. The police’s failure to register FIRs pertaining to complaints in which the accused are named raise serious doubts regarding the credibility of the entire investigation process. Submission of chargesheets without proper investigation into complaints with named accused further creates doubts about the impartiality and objectivity of the investigation as well as the overall narrative being put forward by Delhi Police.

5.3.11. Crucial aspects of the entire chain of events are missing from most of the chargesheets that have been filed till date and which could be accessed by the Fact-finding Committee. Almost all the North East Delhi violence-related cases that Police are investigating are based on the premise that riots were planned by anti-CAA protesters to coincide with the US President Donald Trump’s visit to India in the third week of February. The first reference to the forthcoming Trump visit was published in India on 13 January while the alleged meeting of the “conspirators” is claimed by police to have been held on 8 January 2020. The speech of Kapil Mishra made on 23 February 2020 as well as other speeches and statements inciting violence against anti-CAA protesters have been ignored.

5.3.12. The Delhi Police’s refusal to disclose the names of the persons arrested/detained as stated in its status report submitted to the High Court of Delhi in the matter of Brinda Karat vs. Government of NCT of Delhi and Others (dated 17 June 2020) contravenes and violates Section 41C CrPC which mandates that the names and addresses of all arrested persons, along with the names and designations of arresting officers, are to be displayed on the notice board of every district Police Control Room. The Control Room at Police headquarters is to maintain a public database of arrested persons and the offences charged.

5.5.2. While the slogans of ‘Azadi’ (a cry for freedom from the discriminatory laws and practices) were used by the protesters, the police used the same chants of ‘Azadi’ to sexually harass women and attack them, including at least one incident of a police officer flashing his genitals in front of women protestors.128 The nature of verbal abuses was also sexual and communal in nature.

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