“Once the violence broke out, the Delhi Police along with acts of omission and commission, allowed the riots to continue for a longer period,” a people’s tribunal convened on the second year since riots happened in North East Delhi has concluded.
A people’s tribunal hearing survivor families and individuals from Northeast Delhi together with field experts and lawyers two years after the riots in North East Delhi has concluded that the Delhi Police failed to take adequate measures to prevent the spreading of the riots in spite of adequate intelligence and warning indicators of heightened tensions and threats.
“Once the violence broke out, the Delhi Police along with acts of omission and commission, allowed the riots to continue for a longer period,” the tribunal said in its report released to the media today.
The 2020 Delhi riots, or North East Delhi riots saw multiple waves of bloodshed, destruction of property and rioting. The riots began on 23 February 2020 and left 53 people killed.
Further elaborating on the role of the Delhi Police, the tribunal said in its findings that the police took no action against the mobs perpetrating the violence and let the victims fend for themselves. “More often than not, this only resulted in larger casualties, more suffering and harassment and greater property damages.”
Adverse judicial comments
The people’s tribunal was organised to mark the completion of two years since the carnage, and take forward the much-needed discourse on the lives of the victims. It comprised of the National Federation of Indian Women, All India Democratic Women’s Association, the Constitutional Conduct Group, People’s Union of Civil Liberties, United Against Hate, and Karwan -e –Mohabbat.
The day-long, closed-door event saw a series of discussions on key themes, including the impact of State apathy in North East Delhi, gathering the testimonies of affected families, an examination of medical cases and State response, the investigation of the Delhi Police into the Riots and the issue of access to compensation. The jury comprised former Indian ambassador Deb Mukharji, former union home secretary Gopal Pillai, historian Mridula Mukharji, senior journalist and researcher Pamela Philipose and former member of Planning Commission of India and writer Syeda Hameed.
The riots were followed by apprehensions about the role of the police and media reports cited instances of police inaction. “There has been a lack of proper and transparent investigation, and a biased approach leading to lack of credibility in the overall investigative process,” the people’s tribunal has said. “These were also brought out by innumerable adverse comments of the Courts during this period.” Hundreds of innocent people, including victims, have been in jail on what seem to be completely trumped-up charges, the Tribunal says in its report.
Need for judicial commission
The people’s tribunal noted widespread instances of police misconduct – from 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; misusing of technology to frame people, to biased and unjust chargesheets.
“The police have been even more complicit in the violence. And this has not been highlighted by the media – especially those mainstream – over the past two years,” its statement reads.
It has recommended the setting up of a judicial commission of enquiry headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. It has argued that the impunity enjoyed by the state and non-state actors can only be challenged through setting up of such a commission of enquiry with members who have stature and credibility among the affected communities.
It has said that the Delhi government must set up an empowered group to look into all cases of inadequate and delayed compensation.
It has suggested bringing predictive policing under a regulatory framework. “A sharp rise in the use of predictive policing including facial recognition technology which was used by the Delhi Police to round up those they framed as instigators of violence is based on a fallacious assumption that the algorithms ensured bias-free investigations,” the tribunal said in its statement released to the press.