After the riots, the coverup

- June 5, 2020
| By : Sashikala VP |

Amid widespread concern that the chargesheets lean too heavily on one community, the Special Investigation Team has added some Hindu names. But the chances of a free and fair trial seem dim The communal riots which took place on 23 -26 February in Delhi’s North-east district saw 53 killed. The 51 identified casualties were 34 […]

NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 26: Mourners at a funeral of a man, who died in the riots following clashes between people supporting and opposing a amendment to India's citizenship law, in riot-affected North-East Delhi, India on February 26, 2020. (Photo by Cheena Kapoor/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Amid widespread concern that the chargesheets lean too heavily on one community, the Special Investigation Team has added some Hindu names. But the chances of a free and fair trial seem dim

The communal riots which took place on 23 -26 February in Delhi’s North-east district saw 53 killed. The 51 identified casualties were 34 Muslims and 16 Hindus, showing which community had lost more lives, yet the chargesheets filed since the two SIT-teams of the Delhi Police were formed – one led by DCP (crime) Joy Tirkey and the other by DCP Rajesh Deo – named only Muslims as the accused.

On 4 June, DCP Rajesh Deo’s team changed that statistic with their chargesheet against 20 Hindus accused of killing four Muslims and dumping their bodies in a drain in Gokulpuri. DCP Deo, speaking to Patriot a day before the chargesheet was filed, said they were working hard on chargesheets, ones which will not give benefit of a twist for statutory bail. Our focus is to put good chargesheets with available evidence, with available accused and arrests will continue.”

There is concern that the investigation is one-sided. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana of the Patiala House Court made an observation during a hearing on the custody of Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha that “Perusal of the case diary reveals a disturbing fact. The investigation seems to be targeted only towards one end.” 

DCP Deo said it was for the people to decide. “They (the chargesheets) will be in the public domain…what can I say. Everyone can read and see what we have done.” And with Thursday’s filing, the playing field is starting to level out.  

There is still a lot more to be done. Aaqib Khan, a Supreme Court advocate affiliated with the Waqf Board’s legal team, says there are over 300 medico legal cases (MLCs) registered with them. “Till now nothing has moved forward in these cases. Our team has been helping out since the first day till March 22 with the police commissioner’s team. But since the lockdown, everything stopped. It’s all under the Home Ministry, our members are completely out of the range.”

The Delhi Minorities Commission had found that the riots were “one-sided” with “extensive damage to Muslim houses, shops and workshops”. But the Commission chairman Zafarul-Islam Khan has since then been charged with sedition for social media posts thanking Kuwait for “standing with Indian Muslims”. 

In his Twitter post, he also warned that Indian Muslims should not be pushed to reaching out to the Arab and the Muslim world. Those resisting the thought that the attack disproportionately hurt the minority community would have fodder to call the Minority Commission’s report of little use.

The riots began as mobs attacked the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests in Jafrabad on the day when BJP leader Kapil Mishra called for Delhi Police to clear the roads on which sit-in protests were taking place, or see matters taken into the people’s hands.

Moving forward, the first chargesheet which was filed was against Shahrukh Pathan. A Muslim man whose picture holding a gun facing a Hindu mob, circulated widely. Police personnel standing in front asked him to lower his weapon but instead he fired shots.  

Conspiracy to tilt balance

On 3 June, DCP Tirkey’s team filed a chargesheet in court on two cases. One relates to the murder of Ankit Sharma, an Intelligence Bureau official. This case grabbed headlines for the reported brutality and the accused, a councillor of the Aam Aadmi Party, Tahir Hussain. The chargesheet states, the body which was dumped in a drain had 51 sharp and blunt injuries. It calls the murder a “deep-rooted conspiracy” which occurred after Sharma was “specifically targeted by a mob led by Tahir Hussain”.

It goes on to say that “Tahir Hussain is the main person who had been instigating the mob, both on 24th and 25th February in the Chand Bagh area. The chargesheet against him, in another riot case of 24 February, was filed on 2 June by the Crime Branch.”

The second chargesheet filed on 3 June was against Faisal Farooque, owner of Rajdhani Public School, Shiv Vihar. “The case was registered on the complaint of the owner and manager of DRP Convent Public School, which is adjacent to the Rajdhani School in Shiv Vihar,” the chargesheet states, adding “The rioters had used ropes to climb down from the terrace of Rajdhani School into the compound of DRP Convent School and then the mob had set the school on fire.”

After the riots ended, Patriot met the guard of the DRP school who lived with his family in a room on the roof of the building. He showed the destruction, the charred remains of classrooms and their home, where rioters left nothing. They showed the rope and made the same accusation of rioters using the adjacent school to enter. 

Paramilitary soldiers stand guard near burnt houses at Shiv Vihar // IMAGE: SASHIKALA VP

“Eighteen persons, including Faisal Farooque, who is the owner of Rajdhani School, have been arrested in this case. During investigation it has been found that Faisal Farooque had hatched a conspiracy to precipitate and aggravate riots, in and around Rajdhani School,” says the chargesheet now.

It further goes on to use his call details to “prominent members of Popular Front of India, Pinjra Tod group, Jamia Coordination Committee, Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz and some other fundamental Muslim clerics including Deoband” as part of their narrative of the “depth of the conspiracy.”

We spoke with Allama Bunai Hasani, who is the National General Secretary of All India Ulama Board – a board of Sunni Muslims whose president Maulana Niyaz Ahmad Qasmi, is a product of the Darul Uloom Deoband. “The school is situated in the border of a Hindu-Muslim neighbourhood, so how will Muslim go and attack that? Secondly, the Darul Uloom is with the government. They did nothing about the CAA, they kept agreeing with the Centre. But they are putting this organisation’s name down as it then implicates all the Muslims. This is a way of giving a message to Hindutva people that Muslims are against you, and say that Hindus are in danger. When the Mughals were around for centuries, Hindus were never in danger. Then when the British ruled, the Hindus were never in danger. And today when there is a Hindutva government, they say Hindus are in danger”.

He further goes on to call it a political motive to brand the anti-CAA movement and its organisers as conspirators. “Who instigated the riots and carried it out, the entire world saw, but nothing happened to them. The CAA which is against the Indian Constitution, was opposed and protests were led by Muslim women, with Muslim organisations taking a backseat. This (the riots) was a conspiracy to twist the movement and to oppress minorities and now after instigating the riot, they keep torturing the people. During the pandemic we have seen that they are letting go of prisoners (to decongest prisons) but are making false cases and arresting the people of the anti-CAA movement.”

But the chargesheet against the Muslim owner of Rajdhani school further implicates him by pointing to “evidence of conspiracy” of an attack on 24 February “as many children from Muslim families left the school early, along with their parents, during the half time recess itself”. It should be mentioned here that during our meeting with the guard and his family, they told us how families had been called and asked to take their wards (from their school) early as the situation around the area had become grim.

While this is a matter of investigation, another matter that is of concern for advocate Khan is the detaining of young men. He says that in their team’s knowledge, 14-15 Muslim boys were detained without any notice by the police. “They were threatened that ‘Give us a statement or information about this person else we will put a case on you’. We also have 2-3 registered complaints that the persons are being continuously asked to join the investigation, but no information is given as to in what connection. Some have even asked to give Rs 50,000 else they’ll put a case against them. They (the victims) have been pushed into a well of injustice.”

Before the lockdown, when we had visited Mustafabad, we had been met with similar accusations by many residents there and also some persons who had filed their MLCs. Now Advocate Khan says, people who are more “active” in their area are being “picked up”.  “What camera they have, I don’t know. Those who are educated or active in their area are being targeted. I don’t know who gives the information. We get calls for four days that the cops have been calling us and then when on the 5th day we call them we are told they have been detained.”

(Cover: Mourners at a funeral of a man, who died in the riots //  IMAGE: GETTY)