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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Reminded of Mumbai riots: Ex-judge on Feb violence

Justice Srikrishna had presided over a commission of inquiry appointed in January 1993 to look into causes of the communal riots that engulfed Mumbai, which claimed about 900 lives, and to find if any group of individuals or organisation was responsible.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Mumbai | October 6, 2020 4:25:53 am
Reminded of Mumbai riots: Ex-judge on Feb violenceThe report took three months to prepare. (Express Archive)

In a 227-page report titled Delhi Riots of 2020: Causes, Fallout and Aftermath, released by Citizen and Lawyers Initiative — a group of concerned citizens, lawyers and students — Justice (retd) B N Srikrishna, who wrote the prologue to the report, has stated that it reminded him of the Mumbai riots of December 1992-January 1993.

Justice Srikrishna had presided over a commission of inquiry appointed in January 1993 to look into causes of the communal riots that engulfed Mumbai, which claimed about 900 lives, and to find if any group of individuals or organisation was responsible. In the prologue to the report, Justice Srikrishna wrote, “With the heart rending experience gathered during the Commission of Inquiry that went into the riots and violent incidents in Mumbai during December 1992-January 1993, and the sense of apathy towards the victims of such riots that was clearly discernible there, I could not but get a feeling of deja vu while reading this report. It is time that the State machinery and Constitutional functionaries display greater seriousness in investigation of the causes of such riots and take appropriate steps to prevent their recurrence.”

“When the State’s version of incidents becomes suspect and unacceptable due to trust deficit, it is imperative that an alternative version of the facts observed by the populace is also presented and publicized. This report is the culmination of such a collective effort. As to whether the material presented in this report represents facts, or mere perspective vision of the events, is for the reader to judge.”

“This report is an effort to traverse published reportage on the Delhi violence to piece together multiple pieces of evidence into a credible narrative of the events… An effort was made to gather information solely from unimpeachable and publicly available news sources,” said senior advocate Chander Uday Singh, who edited it. The report cites several Indian and international media reports, including many by The Indian Express.

The report stated that prior to the riots, there was ‘creation of a facilitative environment of violence’. “The introduction and passage of the CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) and the nation-wide protests that it engendered also gave rise to exclusionary counter-narratives and hate speech that incited and stoked the flames of communal violence. This culminated in the communally charged Delhi election campaign…,” the report states. The report also makes the claim that a delayed police response “until February 26 allowed the violence to continue unabated which resulted in mounting loss of lives”.

Among its recommendations, the report stated, “Given the high degree of political parallelism in the…investigation and complaints and reports of police inaction, complicity, and impunity — there is an urgent need to form a multistakeholder accountability team for impartial review of evidence, investigation process, damage assessment, receipt of compensation, and citizen complaints.”

It also recommended that bottlenecks in relief and rehabilitation of victims must be cleared, and suggested adequate rehabilitation packages including enhanced compensation.

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