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20/07/2020 10:22 AM IST | Updated 20/07/2020 11:23 AM IST

Delhi Riots: Investigate Allegation Of 'Sexual Violence' Against Police, Minority Commission Says

The fact finding report concluded that “the violence followed an organised and systematic pattern” against Muslims and their properties.

Yawar Nazir via Getty Images
Indian Muslim women riot survivor recite holy Quran as they seek shelter in a makeshift camp, in a riot-affected area on March 01, 2020 in New Delhi. 

NEW DELHI — The Delhi Minorities Commission, an independent statutory body of the Delhi government, has called for an investigation into an allegation of “sexual violence” against the Delhi Police, raised by a riot survivor, cited in its fact-finding report released last week. 

The commission was set up by the Delhi government in 1999 to protect the interest of minorities in the national capital.

The report cites a complaint of a woman from Dayalpur, describing the Delhi Police busting a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Chand Bagh, which alleges, “Police pulled their pants down and pointed their genitals towards the women stating that they wanted ‘freedom’ and they were there to give them ‘freedom’ and that this was their ‘freedom.’” 

The same complaint alleges the Delhi Police dragged a 12-13 year-old girl at the protest. 

“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 protesters,” the report said. 

Citing other complaints, testimonies  and media reports, the report says that while rioters sexually assaulted Muslim women and attacked them with acid, the Delhi Police did not respond to calls begging them for help.  

The report also cites testimony of a woman from Khajuri Khas, who said that some women jumped off an 8 to 10 feet wall to save themselves. 

“The testimonies suggest that Muslim women were attacked on the basis of their religious identity; their hijabs and burqas were pulled off,” it said.

The nine-member fact finding committee recommends establishing “the full extent of the complicity and abdication of duty by the Delhi Police” in the the violence, and “engaging in direct acts of violence including sexual violence.”

It also recommends establishing a team of 5-10 trial lawyers, who, in collaboration with the Delhi State Legal Services, could assist women file complaints of sexual violence against private individuals and public officials and help them get effective legal representation. 

DMC report 

The Delhi Minorities Commission’s report, released five months after more than 50 people were killed in the riots in northeast Delhi, said that the violence “was seemingly planned and directed to teach a lesson to a certain community which dared to protest against a discriminatory law.” 

A foreword written by M.R. Shamshad, a Supreme Court advocate and the chairperson of the fact finding team, said that a “biased” and “partisan” Delhi Police was purposefully pinning the riots on the anti-CAA protesters and misdirecting the investigation to support this narrative. 

The report questions why the Delhi Police, which reports to Home Minister Amit Shah, is not investigating the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra who was captured on video making an inflammatory speech in northeast Delhi a few hours before the violence started on the night of 23 February. 

The Delhi Police in June said that it was carrying out an impartial investigation based on forensic evidence, and had arrested around 620 Hindus and 683 Muslims, but it is yet to explain why it has neither registered an FIR against Mishra — despite a Delhi High Court directive to do so — nor investigated police personnel whose complicity in some of the violence has been witnessed and captured on video. 

Furthermore, in the chargesheets it has filed, the Delhi Police has laid out a narrative linking the riots to the anti-CAA protests. One FIR, FIR 59, which has come to be known as the “conspiracy FIR,” has invoked India’s anti-terrorism law against anti-CAA protestors who the police accuse of masterminding the riots.

The Narendra Modi government’s CAA, its critics say, alters the secular nature of the Indian constitution by making religion the basis for granting citizenship to asylum seekers.

Reacting to the DMC report, Public Relations Officer Anil Mehta said the Delhi Police was carrying out a professional investigation, and over 400 of the 752 FIRs lodged were based on complaints of the minority community. 

There have been at least ten other fact finding report on the riots in February, produced by the lawyers, doctors, human rights activists, and one by a group of “intellectual and academicians” who pinned the riots on the “Urban Naxal Jihadi network” and submitted it to Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Delhi Minority Commission’s report is the only one produced by a quasi judicial body possessing some powers of a civil court. 

On Saturday, The Tribune reported that the DMC’s chairman Zafrul Islam Khan had submitted its report to the Delhi Government. Citing sources, the Chandigarh-based newspaper reported that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, “may consider some of the recommendations of the committee.” 

Khan, who was appointed by the Aam Aadmi Party government in 2017, was booked for sedition and promoting enmity over a social media post thanking Kuwait for sticking up for Indian Muslims, posted on 28 April. The 72-year-old man later apologised for it. The Delhi High Court has granted him protection against arrest. Last week, two days before the report was released on Thursday, the Delhi Police issued a notice asking him to join the investigation.  

Report says pogrom 

In his forward, Shamshad, chairperson of the fact finding committee, says the Delhi Police has changed the narrative to communal violence on both sides, but what actually happened in the last week February was a pogrom. 

A pogrom refers to the organised killing of a group of people because of their race or religion.

This is a serious issue of changing public perception by attributing the riots to CAA protestors in general and Muslims in particular. This reflects injustice and partisan bias in the system which is neither good for a democratic system nor for our nation as whole,” he wrote.

The widely cited death toll, including by the Delhi Police in its chargesheets, is 53. In April, HuffPost India reported that the Delhi Police had informed the Home Ministry of 52 deaths. This fact-finding report names 55 dead people. 

In March, of the 52 names of the deceased published by Polis Project, 39 or 75% are Muslim. In the list compiled by the Delhi Minorities Commission, at least 65% are Muslim. 

This fact-finding report identifies 17 religious places, including 11 mosques, four madrassas, one shrine and one cemetery, which were attacked during the riots. The Delhi Waqf Board says 19 mosques were damaged.  A Right To Information reply from the Delhi Police, published by the Quint, says eleven places of worship including eight mosques, two shrines and one madrassa, were damaged. This report says the fact-finding team visited seven Hindu temples in Muslim dominated localities and found them untouched. The Delhi Police’s RTI reply said two temples were damaged. 

The fact finding report concluded that “the violence followed an organised and systematic pattern” against Muslims and their properties, and the “police were also complicit and abetted the attack.”

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