A day after it emerged that a charge sheet related to the north-east Delhi communal riots in February contained a statement by a suspect that accused some political leaders and academicians of instigating the violence, Delhi police came under attack on Sunday for its probe and narrative of what led to the riots.
The charge sheet, filed last month by the police, attached a statement by one of the accused, Gulfisha Khatoon, that mentioned that Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, Delhi University professor Apporvanand, former MLA Chaudhary Mateen and advocate Mehmood Pracha had instigated protestors against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.
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A statement issued on Sunday by the CPI (M) politburo said:” The CPI(M) condemns the obnoxious action by the Delhi police to further the narrative of its political masters and urges the government to detest from such acts of criminalising peaceful political protests… In scripting its own narrative of the organised communal violence, it is amply clear that BJP-RSS has gone about to portray Delhi riots being a deep rooted controversy by anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters.”
Fifty-three people were killed and around 400 injured in the north-east Delhi riots, which pit anti-CAA and pro-CAA activists. According to Khatoon, the people named above had instigated the protestors to fuel “the feeling of discontent” among anti-CAA actvists by portraying the Act and the National Register of Citizen as being anti-Muslim.
Police immediately issued a clarification and said that people named by Khatoon had neither been charged nor named as accused. Police claimed that they had truthfully recorded the statement and submitted it to court without charging anyone.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said: “ ..Delhi police is saying that we have not been named as accused, that we’ve just been named in a disclosure statement of one accused. That’s correct.. As for Delhi Police truthfully recording statement of accused, I am looking for a sack of salt!!”
On Sunday , Yadav again criticised Delhi police for not taking action against “hate speeches” made by “some leaders.”
”Some people who made hate speeches on the road are roaming free. The speeches were made two days before the riots.This Delhi police is unable to find people who broke CCTV cameras or killed Faizan. Is the Delhi police investigating the conspiracy or is this investigation in itself a conspiracy? The Delhi police uniform has a stain of 1984(handling of anti-Sikh riots). I fear police will have another stain.”
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DU professor Apoorvanand also issued a statement criticizing the police and the Centre. Apoorvanand said while “he has not been made accused, the charge sheet’s proclamation that the accused persons were continuously poisoning the minds of common people against CAA/NRC is the government’s political position.” This position, he said, was “surprisingly being parroted in it (charge sheet) as a legal offence.”
“….the investigation seems to have focused on delegitimizing the protests and in trying to make the protestors indirectly responsible for Aman’s case in which the charge sheet was filed) death.”
A 16-year-old northeast Delhi resident, Aman, had died of gunshot injuries on February 25, during the riots. It was at the spot where anti-CAA protests, led by Pinjra Tod members, under the Jafrabad metro station turned violent.
Police had then found 35 empty cartridges at the spot.
Referring to Khatoon and two other members of the woman’s collective, Pinjra Tod, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Apoorvanand said that although the case was registered in connection with the death of Amaan, “it is very surprising that the police should even accuse three young women, without any basis, of having murdered a 17-year-old boy, Amaan. It would seem that the accused women are not directly linked to the murder, but the allegation is that they instigated some unknown shooter. The investigation has not revealed who shot at Amaan, but it insists that whoever it was, was instigated by the anti-CAA stance of the accused individuals.”
Citing Kalita’s bail hearing application in the Delhi high court on September 1, Apoorvanand said the court had categorically held that the police had not been able to offer any evidence of an incendiary speech by her. The court also said that the statements of the witnesses were produced belatedly, as an afterthought by the police, he said.
In their reports before the court, Delhi Police have said that the riots were orchestrated by some leaders of the anti-CAA protests.
Police have in the last six months arrested student activists, local politicians, members of the Jamia Coordination Committee and Pinjra Tod and accused them of instigating people in the name of the CAA.
The arrested persons have denied the charges and accused police of launching a witch-hunt against anti-government voices.
Khatoon’s counsel, advocate Pracha, whose name was also mentioned in her disclosure, has accused the home ministry of misusing the police. Pracha, denying that Khatoon was a member of Pinjra Tod, said her statement was not an admissible evidence in court.
As social media was abuzz with Khatoon’s alleged statement on Sunday too, Delhi police issued a statement that various interest groups were taking out a few lines from the charge-sheet and were creating a controversy by quoting the lines out of context.
“…So far, police has arrested 1,575 persons in the 751 cases. Over 250 charge sheets have been filed in the riots related cases in which 1,153 accused persons(571 Hindus and 582 Muslims) have been chargesheeted. All these cases are pending before the special courts for trial,” the statement read.