The report of the fact-finding committee appointed by the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC), a statutory body of the Delhi government, is the first by an agency authorised by the government on the February violence, the first instance of large-scale rioting in the national capital since the killing of Sikhs in 1984. By all accounts, rioters had a free run of some parts of the city for five days — at least 53 persons were killed and many homes and business establishments attacked.
The DMC report records several acts of omission and commission of the Delhi Police, lending weight to criticism that the police force has not been impartial, while the violence raged and then in investigating it later. Speeches by BJP leaders during the Delhi assembly election campaign, the report says, may have incited violence against anti-CAA protesters. Violence broke out in different pockets in North East Delhi almost immediately after “the instigating speech of Kapil Mishra” at Maujpur on February 23 — however, the Delhi Police told the court on Monday that, “during the investigations conducted so far” in connection with the riots, “no actionable evidence has surfaced yet indicating any role being played by” any prominent political leader. The panel recorded testimonies that point to police inaction during the riots, and in some cases, complicity of police personnel in the violence itself. The report has recorded that in a few cases, “victims themselves have been arrested, especially where they filed or attempted to file complaints against named individuals”. The panel says chargesheets were submitted without proper investigation. This newspaper has reported that confession statements of nine among the 12 accused of murdering a 20-year-old were near identical. And that amid the ongoing investigation, arrests and prosecution by the Delhi Police in a slew of riot cases, the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) issued a written order to senior officers that they must “suitably” guide investigating officers in light of “resentment among the Hindu community” over arrest of “some Hindu youth”.
The DMC report is yet another reminder of the need for justice to be done, and to be seen to be done, in the case of the Delhi violence earlier this year. For that to happen, all steps must be taken to ensure a free and fair investigation.