Police complicit, active participant in Delhi riots, states Amnesty report

Amnesty International has demanded that MHA initiate a “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials”

PTI Photo (File)
PTI Photo (File)
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NH Web Desk

Delhi Police was ‘complicit and an active participant’ in the pogrom in north-east Delhi in which 54 persons, mostly Muslims, were killed, according to a report released by Amnesty International India.

“These violations include Delhi Police officers indulging in violence with the rioters; torturing in custody; using excessive force on protesters; dismantling protest sites used by peaceful protesters and being mute bystanders as rioters wreaked havoc,” stated the report released on Friday. It was based on investigations undertaken by Amnesty India.

Titled "Six Months Since Delhi Riots, Delhi Police Continue To Enjoy Impunity Despite Evidence Of Human Rights Violations”, the report states that the investigation revealed a disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi Police during the riots. Amnesty spoke to witnesses, riot survivors, human rights activists and retired police officers for the report.

According to the report, in the build-up to Delhi Legislative Assembly elections, which were held on February 8, 2020, several political leaders made hateful speeches against anti-CAA protesters demonising them as ‘anti-nationals’ and inciting violence against them in their election rallies. These speeches were followed by violence on university campuses against those protesting against the CAA. Even after the Delhi elections, the hate speeches continued followed by widespread violence in the north-east district of Delhi.

The report states that contrary to the assurance given by Union Home Minister Amit Shah that the police had done a “commendable job”, Amnesty investigations had found that the violence “revealed a pattern of human rights violations and rampant impunity”.

“First they (the mob) set my car and motorcycle on fire. My brother was hit by a stone. We realised that the police were hand in glove with the rioters so I told my family that it is best to leave everything and run,” a person named Bhure Khan told Amnesty. “They were raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” he added. Khan’s house was burnt down.

Both Hindus and Muslims from North East Delhi claimed that the police had failed to respond to their pleas for help. “The mob broke the locks and burnt my house,” said Kamlesh Uppal, a riot survivor. “We were living there for the last 22 years and they didn’t leave anything. We built our home with so much hard work but the people burnt it down. We tried calling the police, we thought they would come and control the law and order situation, but it took them more than three days to come to our locality.”

“We called the 100-emergency number so many times but not even once did anyone answer,” said Shahida to Amnesty. Amnesty International said in its report that they had found that the police did not intervene despite being present at the scene of the violence. Instead, they intervened only to arrest anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors, and refused to register complaints of the victims, stated the report. Calls for help were met with responses such as “You want Azaadi [freedom], here take your Azaadi now”.

The Amnesty International report also questioned the claim that the violence stopped after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited northeast Delhi on February 26. Babu Khan told Amnesty International, that the day after Doval had gone to north-east Delhi, a mob came to his house and killed his two sons. His sons were made to lie down on a motorbike and beaten on their head and face.

“The riot that seemed far from spontaneous saw almost three times the number of Muslim casualties compared to Hindus. Muslims also bore the brunt of loss of business and property. The percentage may be lower but establishments and homes owned by Hindus were not left completely untouched,” stated the report.

"This ongoing state-sponsored impunity sends the message that the law enforcement officials can commit grave human rights violations and evade accountability. That they are a law unto themselves," said Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement.

The Delhi Police did not respond to Amnesty's request for a comment on the investigation.

The NGO’s investigations found that Muslims were tortured in custody. A young man Athar was on his way home when the police stopped him to ask if he were a Hindu or a Muslim. When he said that he was a Muslim, he was taken to the police station in a van, which already had more than 25 others.

“They kept hitting us. We were tortured for the next four days. They beat me and others with sticks and belts. Then on February 28, they produced me in the court. I managed to get bail two weeks later,” said Athar.

Amnesty International has demanded that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs initiate a “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by law enforcement officials”. It has asked for a transparent inquiry to review the Delhi Police’s role in the riots. Amnesty International said all police officers accused by survivors should be suspended pending inquiry.

It has requested for “a comprehensive strategy aimed at preventing hate crimes against minority communities, in consultation with the civil society”.

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Published: 28 Aug 2020, 9:05 PM