A resident of Khajuri Khas told the fact-finding committee that the police, when approached for help, told him on the phone: “aazadi chahiye, aazadi le lo” (you want freedom, take it). His wife said the police told her in another phone call that “hum majboor hain” (we are helpless)
NEW DELHI – The just-released fact-finding report of the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) on the February-end North-East Delhi riots has made a number of startling observations regarding the role of the police during the riots that had left 53 people dead and some 200 injured.
These observations are made on the basis of eye-witness accounts and testimonies of victims of the bloody violence. There are more than 30 testimonies recorded in the report. The following six testimonies highlight the dubious role of the police during the riots:
Statement of a Muslim man from Karawal Nagar
The report documents how a resident of Karawal Nagar was shot by an unknown person while trying to escape on the night of 24 February with his family of three kids and wife. The ambulance services told them that they could not reach the spot but would be able to come only till Shanbagh Puliya and that they had to try to reach that place somehow. The ambulance drivers were scared that their vehicle could be attacked.
“Thereafter, his friends and his brother who were present there, put him on a vegetable cart and pushed him to the site where ambulance vehicle asked him to reach…He told the fact-finding committee that Police did not take any action against the goons who were roaming around freely with arms, and in large groups.
He stated that the police who were in blue uniforms (RAF personnel) just stood there and did nothing as the shops were being looted and burnt. Police did not take any action against individuals who were part of the mob. He said that he saw about 40-50 policemen there and more than 200 rioters.
Police, he said, were not helping the people who were trying to escape the mob. In his own case, his brother and friends had to push him on a vegetable cart till the place where the ambulance came. He called the police on multiple occasions but they did not come for help. After 15-16 days of the incident, he went to the Police Station along with a lawyer and only then his FIR was registered.”
Statement of a Muslim husband and wife, residents of Khajuri Khas
The following is from the testimony of a Muslim husband and wife from Khajuri Khas whose house was surrounded by a mob of 50-60 residents on the 25 February. The mob was throwing stones and petrol bombs into the gali and houses of Muslims, and a petrol bomb also fell into his house, causing substantial damage.
“Both the husband and wife tried to call the police several times, but the police did not arrive. The husband told the fact-finding committee that the police told him on the phone: “aazadi chahiye, aazadi le lo” (you want freedom, take it). In another call to the police, the wife said that the police told her that “hum majboor hain” (we are helpless).
Since one of their neighbours happened to be working in the Border Security Force, he was able to make some arrangement for them to leave their house…The couple informed the fact-finding committee that the police did not take any action against the goons who were wielding arms and walking in large groups. They just walked beside them as if they were escorting the mob. The Police did not arrest any of the perpetrators; they just made way for the couple to escape while the mob stood there with sticks and weapons in their hands.
The police, instead of helping them, fired tear gas shells on the people who were not part of the mob and were only trying to get to safety. The husband says that when he went to file complaint against the attackers, the Police told him that they would register the FIR only if he removed the names of the accused from his complaint, thereby implying that they wanted him to compromise with his attackers.”
Complaint submitted to SHO Dayalpur
The report mentions a complaint addressed to SHO of Dayalpur in which the events from the protest site at Chand Bagh are mentioned. It states that on 25 February, women resumed the protest holding a photograph of Dr. Ambedkar and at around 1 PM the owner of Mohan Nursing Home and a few others started firing and stone pelting from the roof of the nursing home.
“At this point, SHO Dayalpur, started pushing the women protesters and abusing them in filthy language. Police removed Ambedkar’s portrait and started beating women. Thereafter, the complainant states in his complaint: he got to know that Shri Chawla of Brijpuri along with other people, Mr Jagdish Pradhan and Mohan Singh, etc., along with the police attacked people and killed many.
He further states that the attack on Farooqia Masjid that happened the next day was also carried out by these people. He also stated that police took DVR of CCTV cameras, and the SHO told him that he better tell the residents to leave the area, otherwise they shall be killed.
Thereafter, the mob set the Madarsa on fire and left. The said complaint was submitted with Eidgah Police Camp and also sent to the Delhi Commissioner of Police, NHRC and Lt. Governor through his lawyer. Only NHRC has acknowledged his complaint. No FIR has been registered till date.” [Pg 75 of the report]
Complaint of a resident of Bhagirathi Vihar
Another case is of a resident of Bhaghirathi Vihar who had a house with adjoining shop in the area. He had to flee on 25 February when a mob broke into his shop which is on the ground floor of his house. He could recognise a few people in the mob of around 200 who had been rioting in the area since 24 February.
“When he tried to lodge a complaint with the police, they refused outright saying that they would lodge the complaint only if he did not name anyone in it. Otherwise, they would fabricate false charges against him and then register a case.”
Arrest of a complainant from Shiv Vihar
“A resident of Shiv Vihar has stated in his complaint that his house was looted at around 3 pm on 25 February 2020. He named three persons as culprits in his complaint… He stated that these people stay nearby. When asked by a member of the fact-finding committee, he stated that he was approaching the police for lodging his complaint from 26 February onwards but it could not be lodged because he had named persons in his complaint. After great difficulty, the complaint was lodged on 1 March 2020 by giving it diary no. 42 at P.S. Karawal Nagar.
He was subsequently informed that his complaint had been attached with another FIR (FIR No. 72/20 dated 28 February 2020) and a copy of the complaint attached with the FIR was supplied to him after a long time. On 4 April, 2020, he was called to the police station and arrested on the basis of the same FIR in which his own complaint had been attached. He was in custody from 5 April to 18 May, 2020 when he was released on bail.”
Five Muslim men beaten up by Police in Kardam Puri
This testimony is regarding the case of five Muslim men who were beaten by the police and asked to sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’. One of the victims, Faizan, later succumbed to his injuries.
“… the complainant has stated that he had gone to the Kardam Puri Pulia area in search of his son on 24 February 2020. There he was surrounded by 6-7 policemen who beat him with their boots and sticks on his head, legs and whole body. Thereafter, the police dragged him to Mohalla Clinic on the main road. Three young men who were severely injured were already lying there and bleeding. The policemen threw him at that place.
After some time, police brought one more person and threw him near them. Policemen kept beating all five of them with sticks and boots. Police told them to sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and directed one Kausar to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. While beating them, the policemen were saying, “You want Azadi?, take this Azadi!” One policeman told them that even if they died, nothing would happen to the police officers.
The policemen present there kept abusing them. Later, a policeman asked the other officers not to beat them. After sometime, a police car came and took them to GTB Hospital. The doctor performed an X-ray of the complainant. He stated that the doctor told him that his X-ray will be available after two hours because he was a Muslim.
He received stitches on his injured head and bandage on his legs. After that the doctor told the complainant that he could go. He was not given his X-Ray report. He was not given medicines or any medical reports either. Next day, he went to LNJP Hospital where he was denied admission as GTB hospital had not earlier given him any reports. Thereafter, he was admitted to St. Stephen’s Hospital with the help of an NGO.
There, the doctors found that he had fractures in his ribs, right arm, fingers and right leg. He was discharged from St. Stephen’should Hospital on 13.03.2020. Later, he saw a video of the incident which was circulating and identified that out of five, one was Faizan who died. He told members of the Fact-Finding Committee that on 24 February 2020, police had also beaten Faizan along with him. Police had taken Faizan and three others, besides himself, to GTB hospital in a Gypsy car.”
Some of the important findings of the fact-finding report:
—Failure to protect life and property: The report recounts how police remained unresponsive or ‘mute spectator’ even as violence unfolded before them. In many cases police did not arrive despite being called repeatedly, and where police were present and asked for help by the victims, they refused saying they had no orders to act. According to the report, this suggests that “the failure to prevent violence was not due to individual or sporadic breaches, but was a pattern of deliberate inaction over several days”.
—Police complicity: Some police officers abetted the attacks. Victims state that in one case police actually stopped their colleagues when they attempted to disperse the violent mob (“do not stop them”). In others, they explicitly gave a go-ahead to the perpetrators to continue with their rampage (“do what you want”). A few accounts state how the police and paramilitary officials even escorted the mobs safely out of the area once the attack was over.
—Police involvement in the violence: In some testimonies, clear allegations of engaging in direct violence, including physical assault and abuse, have been made against police officers. In one incident, five Muslim boys were surrounded by 6-7 police officers and brutally beaten up while being asked to chant “jana gana mana”.
—Refusal or delay in registering FIRs: FIRs have either been delayed or have not been acted upon. In some cases police refused to register an FIR unless the complainant omitted the names of the accused.
—Implicating victims: In some cases, victims themselves have been arrested, especially where they filed complaints against named individuals.