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Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*

After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”
Delhi Police’s mentioning of the well-known anti-CAA personalities, the likes of CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh, documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy, langar organiser DS Bindra and certain student activists of the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawharlal Nehru University (JNU), in the context of the February riots, is most baffling. Even the colonial India police would not have linked them with the communal violence that claimed 53 lives the way the Delhi Police have. They have concluded that a momentum to support the protest and a conspiracy to engineer violence are invariably in continuum.
Following a call for Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, non-cooperation movement was launched by Mahatma Gandhi in September 1920 against the British rule. It was called off suddenly in February 1922 when violence broke out at Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur, which led to the death of 3 civilians and 22 policemen.
Neither Gandhi nor any other leading figure of the movement were among the 228 people brought to trial. The indomitable Bhagat Singh, who went to gallows in March 1931 for killing a British police officer, was never charged for reading books by Lenin and Jack London, as the Delhi police have chargesheeted student activists at the protest sites. They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and have been accused of possessing left leaning and Pakistan centric literature!
Police is trained to initially view all people in the ecological zone of crime with suspicion. That being their professional conditioning, it should normally guide them in approaching the investigation with a 360-degree mindset. It should leave little scope for a partisan approach the Delhi police is presently being accused of, while narrowing down suspects from the genuine citizens. 
In their chargesheets, they have conceded space for manipulation at the cost of their own reputation. Yogendra Yadav has asserted that not one sentence from his maiden speech at the protest gathering that could implicate him has been quoted by the police.
Let us take a look at one such FIR wherein, typically, the police themselves are the complainant. The FIR No 60, Police Station Dayalpur, North East district, covering clashes between police and protesters at Chand Bagh on February 24, was registered on February 25 for obstructing police, rioting, religious affront, inflicting life-threatening injuries, firearm assault, looting, murder of Delhi Police Head constable Ratan Lal and causing disappearance of evidence. The chargesheet was prepared by a crime branch inspector on June 7, and filed in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) in the North-East district. 
Interestingly, the 130-page document, with a bulk of supporting annexures, has been countersigned by the assistant commissioner of police (ACP) of crime branch, in the same date. The FIR and chargesheet both contained accusations under the same set of penal sections as if all the threads were known to the police at the time of filing the FIR, leaving little scope of divergence over the three months of investigation. The chargesheet has listed a total of 17 accused, all Muslim males in the age group 18-48, from the Chand Bag area and immediate neighbourhood. Significantly, none of them have any previous criminal record.
However, there are two differently discernible narratives in the chargesheet. The FIR could not have contained an iron clad account of the ongoing riot when the ground situation had continued to be extremely fluid. As the events would subsequently unfold, these cases were hotly contested to the extent that even the Solicitor General of India (SGI) and his Assistant Solicitor Generals (ASGs) have since represented Delhi Police in various courts. This particular FIR, not to miss the anomaly, has been initiated by a beat constable, best placed to know his limited facts and possessing least overview.
The accused have been charged under UAPA, and the charges include possessing Left and Pakistan centric literature
Constable A Sunil was part of a three-member police station beat team, entrusted to cover the Chand Bagh protests regularly. Their statements indicated an uneasy build up at the protest site on February 23 for participating in a march to Rajghat, culminating into spontaneous clashes on February 24 when the police tried to forcibly contain the protesters on the slip road. One of the police witnesses, Najam Ul Hasan, whose statement was recorded before a judicial magistrate under section 164 CrPC, has mentioned that the henchmen of Kapil Mishra had earlier burnt the protest tent.
There appeared several menacing images of outsiders leading to the violence, which demanded deeper probing by investigators but were selectively ignored. However, an overview feeding to a long-term conspiracy theory has been presented through a four-tier chart in the chargesheet. It presupposes a criminal linkage between the alleged masterminds and activists, interfacing with local organisers, and, consequently, binds them to the violent acts of the rioters.
According to the chargesheet, the local organisers are the persons who set up the protest site and the “local protesters/rioters are the people who resided in the locality of Chand Bagh, common man who visited the protest site to support the protest which was being organized by the local organizers and the conspirators. These people were not regular part of the protests. However, they actively participated in rioting on February 24, 2020 after being instigated by the local organizers.”
As the things stand, the citizens’ committee will be handicapped in not having access to many a revealing official document. However, to lend credence to the investigation, the truth should be tested in transparency. Let the Delhi Police incorporate, through additional chargesheets, what they have withheld all along – the reports submitted by their beat teams since December, their own mandatory videos of the violent incidents, the follow ups to the distress calls received by the police and the transcripts of calls among their cutting-edge functionaries during the riot period. Let the investigation lead the police and not the other way round.
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*Former IPS officer

Comments

Anonymous said…
Case will go on. Under trial will be in jail. After 10 years they will be found non guilty. When there would be congress government new enquiries will be set up. New commission. After 15 years Kapil Sharma will be found guilty by commission. New case will be filed. He will get bail because he is from bjp. After another 10 years he will be found non guilty by Supreme Court when ther will be bjp/rss government. And he will be chose for the post of ....p......t. .

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