Two Years of Delhi Pogrom, Survival Awaits Justice

Two years is a short span of time when it comes to court cases in our judicial system. But for the victims of the vicious riots of 2020, the wait for justice is a continuance of unbearable trauma and pain. And for the innocent among the hundreds of ‘accused’ lodged in jail awaiting hearings in the Delhi riots cases, precious years of life have already been lost.

Feb. 23 2022, marked the 2nd anniversary of the Delhi pogrom targeting Muslim localities, shops and properties. The northeast Anti Muslim violence broke out in February 2020. Beginning immediately after President Trump left Delhi after a state visit, the pogroms resulted in the deaths of 53 people as an official number. Almost two-thirds of those killed were Muslim.

The Delhi police, under the control of the Central Home Ministry, totally failed to protect the Muslim residents, who were targeted by mobs. Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader had threatened the attacks in advance, in the presence of police.

Two years after the Delhi pogrom in 2020, a people’s tribunal has underscored what everyone knew all along: in spite of adequate intelligence and warning indicators of heightened tensions and threats, the Delhi Police failed to take adequate measures to prevent the spreading of the riots.

Once the violence broke out, Delhi Police allowed the riots to continue for a longer period through acts of omission and commission.

After the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, Delhi saw huge protests against the discriminatory law. These protests, later immortalized as the Shaheen Bagh protests, were mainly led by Muslim women. The attacks cleared peaceful protesters, and on that pretext, many Muslim shops and homes were attacked. A masjid was desecrated, with the saffron flag of the Hindutva elements being placed on its minaret.

The jury maintained that there were widespread instances of the police harassing victims and innocent citizens by various means including large-scale arrests, refusing to arrest and take action against ‘powerful’ people implicated in inciting violence, corruption and attempts at extortion.

The findings of the jury formed by the people’s tribunal were released on February 28. The jury comprised of former Indian ambassador Deb Mukharji, former Home Secretary Gopal Pillai, historian Mridula Mukherjee, senior journalist and researcher Pamela Philipose, and former member of Planning Commission of India and writer Syeda Hameed.

Speaking at the release of the report, Mukherjee underlined that the Delhi Police allowed the rioters to continue with impunity and they followed the policy of omission by commission. This injustice was added to by the AAP-led Delhi government which miserably failed to provide adequate relief to victims of the violence. It has also not been able to prevent harassment and fair investigation of riot-related cases over the last two years.

“People who were holding sticks for self-defence were picked up and called rioters. The best of us are rotting in jails,” said Philipose.

The government has done “precious little to bridge the communal divide between the two communities”, added Mukherjee. The breakdown of friendships across religions that once existed was deeply regretted.

The findings show that unlike in other riots that India has witnessed, the Northeast Delhi violence saw an extremely high number of those injured by bullets. Some were shot in the eye, others in the back, leaving several survivors with grave disabilities today.

The tribunal noted that most legal support provided to survivors of the violence was by young and community-based lawyers. The state has done little to nothing to provide free legal aid to them.

The tribunal wanted a judicial commission of enquiry headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court to be set up immediately to inquire into the riots. The impunity enjoyed by the state and non-state actors can only be challenged through the setting up of such a commission of enquiry with members who have stature and credibility among the affected communities, they pointed out.

Criticising mainstream media, author Arundhati Roy said they don’t bother to report the truth. “They are not pretending anymore. Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi and several wonderful young minds are in jail for a reason,” she added.

While more Muslims were killed during the attacks, ironically more Muslims have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Kapil Mishra remains free.

Source National Herald, Justice for All

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