The 2020 Delhi riots in February, worst Hindu-Muslim clashes in the national capital in seven decades, killed 53 people leaving 200 gravely injured, thousands displaced and impacted.
In a latest development on Friday, August 14, Amantullah Khan, Chairman of Delhi Assembly's Minorities Welfare Committee held a meeting with officials of the Delhi government and discussed the progress of the cases registered by Delhi police so far on the communal violence, along with the status of compensation paid to the victims. He further directed officials to provide copies of all FIRs registered in connection with the communal violence and asked the principal secretary to raise the complaints of affected people against the police with the Delhi police commissioner.
What had happened?
The riots originated in Jaffrabad, in North East Delhi on Sunday, February 23, where a long going sit-in protest against Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) led by a Muslim women was in progress. These clashes between pro and anti-CAA protesters soon took the form of communal violence spreading to other localities such as such as Maujpur, Babarpur, Yamuna Vihar, Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, and Shiv Vihar amongst others. It got controlled on Wednesday when National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited the affected areas and police along with paramilitary organized peace marches through the impacted localities.
How it happened and what was the impact?
As per reports, provocative speeches by several BJP leaders allegedly encouraged violence against the anti-CAA clan over a period of time. The primary one is by BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who a few hours before the violence spurred, was caught on camera giving Delhi Police an “ultimatum” to clear anti-CAA protesters from Jaffrabad and Chandbagh or face consequences. In a previous instance, Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur in an election rally on January 27 was seen and heard chanting "desh ke gaddaron ko", to which the crowd replied "goli maaro sa***n ko" meaning "shoot down the traitors who betray the country". Similar inflammatory speeches were delivered by Parvesh Verma, son of former Chief Minister of Delhi, Sahib Singh Verma, on January 28; and by BJP politician Abhay Verma, on February 25, which is said to have incited communal disharmony.
On July 13, however, the Delhi police filed an affidavit wherein it seemed to have given a clean-chit to the said leaders on pretext of lack of “actionable evidence”. The affidavit instead indicated that these clashes were ‘pre-planned’ and a result of battles between mobs – those opposed to the CAA, who had conspired the riots (apparently Muslims) versus those who opposed their protest (apparently Hindus). An analysis of this affidavit shows that 77% of those killed were Muslims. The dead also included a policeman, an intelligence officer and over a dozen Hindus while hundreds were injured and shops, houses, temples, mosques burnt or destroyed.
There were disturbing reports of sexual violence and thousands of displaced Muslim men, women and children. As per experts, the riots caused property and business losses of over Rs 1,000 crore, including structural damages worth Rs 250 crore.
Role of Delhi Police
The statements of victims and media investigations reveals biased role of Delhi Police in these communal clashes and criticize it for ineffective handling of the riots despite as many as six intelligence alerts on Sunday itself about the potential violence.
There are two narratives that came out: Hindu victims complained about police shying away from their duties and not being around for help; Muslim residents, however, claimed that the police in many cases participated actively in the violence and were seen guarding Hindu mob.
On July 16, the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC)’s fact-finding committee constituted to investigate the February riots, in a report based on testimonies of affected people, accused the police for allegedly “engaging in direct violence, including physical assault and abuse”, for being either “mute spectators” or, in some cases, even “alleged participants” in the violence, and for its “failure to prevent violence,” which it said, “was a pattern of deliberate inaction over several days.”. The report also criticized the charge sheets filed by Delhi police for being “biased in nature”, for its “shoddy” investigation, during which it allegedly ignored inflammatory statements made by BJP leaders.
Police, however, claims that the majority of the cases were registered on the complaint of people from the minority community and they have formed three Special Investigation Teams (SIT) to probe the cases of murder. Delhi police alleges that it was a calculated move by CAA protestors, mostly Muslim students and youth leaders, and their ultimate objective was to collapse the present union government.
Actions by Delhi Police
Hundreds of people have been arrested or detained in connection with the violence after as per media reports, Union Ministry of Home Affairs “insisted that police must continue making arrests under any circumstances” even amidst coronavirus lockdown. Those arrested, mostly Muslim youth leaders and students of Jamia Milia Islamia University, have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. On August 13, Delhi court granted extension till September 17 to the Delhi Police to complete investigation against 10 people booked in a case related to this communal violence. The court mentioned in its order that the conspiracy was "deep rooted, large scale and multi-layered" and all the different aspects pertaining to different accused persons including inter-linkages are being investigated.
Earlier, On August 2, a Delhi Police SIT claimed that ex-AAP councilor, Tahir Hussain has confessed during an investigation that he was the mastermind behind communal violence. He was aggrieved after the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, Supreme Court ruling in the favor of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and Centre passing Citizenship Amendment Act and wanted to teach Hindus a lesson using his political power and money.
Compensation to Victims
After the communal riots, the Delhi government announced Rs. 10 lakh compensation to each family who lost one of its own in the riots, Rs 20,000 to those injured in the violence, immediate relief of Rs 25,000 for houses that have been burnt, Rs 5 lakh for totally damaged property and subsidized loans to businessmen who lost their livelihood. Delhi government further listed out several peace and rehabilitation measures in the city.
However, months after the gory violence, the ground reality seems to be very different. For instance, eighteen-year-old Salman, who lost his father Ayub Ansari in the communal violence has not been able to claim this compensation so far in the absence of documentary proof to establish his identity and relationship with his father. Many victims still struggle for food and compensation and are trying to put together their shattered livelihoods. “We have been completely ruined and have lost faith”, one of them says.