Reading the riot act

It will be a travesty of the process of justice to drive the investigation to fit in with a pre-written script

AuthorPublished: 15th Sep 2020  12:00 amUpdated: 14th Sep 2020  7:18 pm

The handling of the police investigation into the riots that ripped through Delhi in February has been hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons, inviting charges of bias and even mala fide intentions. By naming CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Swaraj Abhiyan’s Yogendra Yadav, economist Jayati Ghosh, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand and documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy in a supplementary charge sheet, the police have further muddied the waters and exposed themselves to the charge of witch-hunting. The entire exercise appears to be aimed at dragging all anti-CAA protesters into the circle of conspirators. The opposition parties and social activists have termed the move as a classic case of misuse of state power. From the beginning, the police investigation has been focused on linking the riots, the worst since the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage, to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). As a result, a large number of protestors and prominent activists have been implicated in the case. There has been a perceived bias against Muslim victims of the riots while the local politicians who incited mobs were allowed to go scot-free. It would be a travesty of the process of justice to drive the investigation and prosecution in a particular direction to fit in with a pre-written script. The Delhi Police come under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and is at odds with the Delhi government. An investigation coming under a cloud is a huge disservice and severely dents the image of a professional force.

The traumatic aftermath of Delhi riots, which claimed 53 lives, highlights the need for greater sensitisation of the police force to help prevent apathy in the future. The police training must focus on dealing with hate crimes and communal violence with fairness and sensitivity to protect people against discrimination. The laws governing the police at the State and Central level need to be amended so that the grounds on the basis of which the police can investigate communal violence and detain persons are made more stringent, and discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity and political opinion is explicitly prohibited. It is disquieting to note that an Amnesty India field investigation has documented several instances of human rights violations by the Delhi police during riots. They include police officers indulging in violence with rioters, custodial torture and using excessive force on protestors. The report concluded that the Delhi Police continues to enjoy immunity, despite evidence of human rights violations. Another report of the fact-finding committee of the Delhi Minorities Commission , a statutory body, has also brought to light several instances of omission and commission of the police, lending weight to criticism that the law and order machinery has not been impartial.

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