No riot is possible beyond a few hours, except with the connivance of the police. This is because the rioter is, by his very nature, a coward. This is true about all the riots that happened in the country, including the February riots in Northeast Delhi where 53 people were killed. A majority of the victims were Muslims.
They suffered the most, in terms of not only lives but also property and worship centres. The modus operandi was as clear as daylight. Bring in rioters from other places, arm them with gas cylinders and instigate them to indulge in arson, looting and killing.
The whole operation involved identifying the houses, shops and other business establishments that needed to be put to the torch. That is what I witnessed when I toured the worst riot-hit areas to meet the children who lost everything except their innocence.
I had seen many video clips and photographs, published on social media, which showed the police gloriously gazing at a distance when right behind them men masking their faces were pelting stones or indulging in violence.
Over three decades ago, I had personally witnessed policemen turning a blind eye to the looting of shops owned by the Sikhs in Patna in 1984. I saw the phenomenon repeating a few years later at Hazaribagh, now in Jharkhand, where the victims were Muslims.
All this has confirmed my belief that without police patronage, no prolonged riot, as in Gujarat and Delhi, is possible.
I understand that the chargesheet in a Delhi riot case against 15 runs into 17,000 pages, when Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace had only 1225 pages when it was first published. The size is a reflection of poor sleuthing, not efficient policing.
How did the police prepare such a large chargesheet, when Albert Einstein needed only a few pages for his thesis, E=mc2? Einstein wanted fellow scientists and the common people to read and understand his dissertation on “a new determination of molecular dimensions”, while the Delhi Police do not expect even the judge hearing the case to read the voluminous rubbish.
The judge should not be faulted if he finds the task of reading the chargesheet beyond human endurance. The police have a task like the task of the 16-member — purely upper caste, north Indian male — committee to study the culture of India over the last 12,000 years.
The Delhi Police also seem to have a task on hand — prove that the riots were a part of the nationwide protest against the citizenship laws that discriminated against the Muslims. One only has to recall how the Delhi Police and their political masters tried to fix the blame on the Muslims for spreading Coronavirus!
When they realised that the charge would not hold when even the second most powerful person in the country, Amit Shah, who threatened to obliterate the termites, had to get admitted to Dr Naresh Trehan’s Medanta hospital in Gurugram, ostensibly to fight Covid-19, they dropped the campaign.
The Delhi Police are determined to prove that the riots were to denigrate India, particularly when US president Donald Trump was on Indian soil for no other purpose than to wean some American voters of Indian origin away from the Democratic camp.
A BJP spokesperson with a Muslim name (Shazia Ilmi) even went to the extent of suggesting on television that the Muslims virtually killed themselves to blame the Hindus and the government for the riots.
It was the most atrocious argument I have heard about the Delhi riots. I would have missed it, had my friend Nalini Ranjan Mohanty not done a post on it on his Facebook Timeline. Let me quote him, “That the Muslims conspired to set off the conflagration, that one of their strategies was to die in large number so that the Hindus could be blamed and Modi's India could be besmirched in the international media”.
It is in the context of proving the police theory that the riot was an extension of the massive protests that the country witnessed over the Citizenship Amendment Act that the Delhi police have included, among others, the names of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, Prof Apoorvanand and political and social activist Yogendra Yadav in the chargesheet.
But BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra and Union minister Anurag Thakur who shouted “Goli maro s… ko” and thereby instigated the riots are nowhere in the picture as they move about with police protection. What kind of police investigation is this, when the victim is hounded and the assailants have the last laugh?
On September 17, the court granted bail to Natasha Narwal, arrested in connection with the riots at Jafrabad because the police’s claim that she instigated the riots was found to be as hollow as the brains of those in uniform who booked her.
Alas, the poor girl cannot come out of the jail in the near future, as the police have filed a case under the dreaded Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Who will compensate her and her family for the trauma they have been undergoing for the last six months?
Last week, Umar Khalid was arrested, again, under the UAPA. He is one person who swears by the Constitution, perhaps, in the mistaken belief that it will set him free. He and others of his ilk forget what Dr BR Ambedkar had famously said, the Constitution was as good as the people who implemented it.
Earlier, during the JNU agitation, this man was accused of sedition without a shred of evidence. He will now be in jail, God alone knows, for how long? What is the real charge against him? It is that he took part in the agitation against the CAA. Under Modi’s dispensation, dissent has become as big a crime as sedition.
In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Adityanath is busy constituting a new police force which will be answerable only to itself. It can search anyone’s premises and arrest anyone without a warrant. Of course, the victims will, certainly, have the freedom to hire the best advocates and file a case in the Supreme Court!
Under Amit Shah, the Delhi Police have already started functioning like an authoritarian force that pays scant regard to established norms of maintaining law and order. Small wonder that ace policeman Julio Ribeiro finds unacceptable everything about the Delhi riot investigation.
What’s worse, Kapil Mishra had the cheeks to demand death by hanging for Umar Khalid. It is a measure of the standards of justice and equity in India that his statement became a hit with those who tweet and forward tweets on Twitter. Elsewhere in the world, a character like him would not have been roaming around.
Recently, Kesavananda Bharati, the seer of a mutt in Kerala, passed away in old age. It was he who filed a case against the land reforms in Kerala under which the Mutt’s property was acquired by the government.
When Nani Palkhivala accepted Bharati’s brief and questioned the law in the Supreme Court, it resulted in the famous Kesavananda Bharati verdict in which the Supreme Court said that the basic structure of the Constitution was as inviolable as the Himalayas.
When the Supreme Court has judges like Arun Mishra, who can order removal of all human habitation near railway tracks and prevent even high courts from hearing petitions related to such eviction, has not the basic structure collapsed already like the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992?
If the custodians of law and order are themselves suspect and have their own political agenda, aligned with that of the ruling party, what fairness can be expected from them? M Nageswara Rao is an IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked to head the CBI.
We knew what kind of a man he is when he issued a statement on the death of Swami Agnivesh, who was born in Andhra but whose karmabhoomi was North India.
This is what he tweeted: “GOOD RIDDANCE @swamiagnivesh. You were an Anti-Hindu donning saffron clothes. You did enormous damage to Hinduism. I am ashamed that you were born as a Telugu Brahmin. Lion in sheep clothes. My grievance against Yamaraj is why did he wait this long!”
I have never in my life heard anyone saying anything like this about a dead person. In our culture, it is considered sacrilegious to speak ill of a dead person. Why? Because after his death, he is answerable to God for whatever he did on earth. Also, a dead person cannot defend himself, which is a Constitutional right every citizen enjoys.
Come to think of it, Rao was once the Director of the CBI, the police agency which many think is the most efficient in the country. Modi and Co. did not condemn him for his tweet, though an embarrassed Twitter removed it from its archive.
When we have jackals like him in “sheep’s clothes” the Narwals and Umer Khalids can only waste their lives in jails. For all you know, Nageswara Rao may even be chosen for a gubernatorial post in the Northeast.
I hope readers have not forgotten what happened to Justice Muralidhar, who was summarily transferred from Delhi to the Punjab and Haryana High Court for ordering investigation against those who shouted “goli maro s… ko”.
It is simple logic that if more Hindus are killed or attacked, more Muslims will be in jail facing trial. Ditto if more Muslims are killed or attacked, more Hindus will be in jail facing trial. Is that true in the case of the Delhi riots?
Is it any wonder that many retired police officers like Julio Ribeiro have come forward picking holes in the investigation carried out by the Delhi Police so far.
When George Floyd was killed, rather asphyxiated, by the rogue police in Texas in the US, there was protest all over the world against the brutal killing. Many might have thought that everything was hunky-dory in India. Is that so?
“India too has a rogue police force that is emboldened by its impunity, and is particularly brutal in dealing with the weaker sections of the population, notably women, Dalits, Adivasis, religious minorities and people from marginalised communities”.
Just in 2017-18, there were 1674 custodial deaths in India — about five people killed every day, usually after torture at the hands of policemen.
Remember Jayaraj and Bennicks, the father-son duo, who were arrested by the police in Tamil Nadu for keeping their mobile phone shop open after the curfew hours. They were tortured so badly in the police lockup that they succumbed to the injuries in their private parts two days after the arrest.
As encounter killings increasingly become the norm, rather than the exception, can anyone mention a single case of a policeman hanged to death for killing an innocent person in police custody?
It is not that the ruling party does not react to instances of injustice. When Kangana Ranaut’s illegal construction was demolished in Mumbai, the Maharashtra Governor received her with great warmth to hear her in person. I do not know why she likened Mumbai to the capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which I found has resemblance to a town like Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh.
She was rewarded with Y-plus security. This is the kind of country that India has been reduced to. I do not know whether Tagore could have imagined that India would come to this pass after writing those stirring lines:
“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action; Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake ”.
It is pointless to expect the Delhi Police to change its style of functioning when it looks up to the Home minister for direction. It will be a gross miscarriage of justice if the innocent are punished just because they had the courage of conviction to fight against the CAA which many of us did not have.
What is the alternative? Appointment of a judicial commission, as demanded by some Opposition leaders? When there is no respect for the rule of law, and when the fence is ready to devour the crop, there are no easy solutions. Therein lies the tragedy the country is beset with.
(Published on 21 st September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 39)