A year has passed since the anti-Muslim riots was unleashed in the national capital’s North East region. The violent mobs went on a rampage for close to five days starting on February 23, 2020, with over 53 deaths in six days of continued violence across Jafrabad, Khajuri Khas, Shiv Vihar, Mustafabad, among other areas.
The riots left a long-lasting impact on the lives of minorities in the national capital, while many continue to face harassment and arrests.
The police have arrested 1,825 people so far, accusing students, such as Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, activist Umar Khalid and several others of “a well-calculated conspiracy”, that was executed “meticulously by the key conspirators”.
While 755 FIRs were registered in the communal riots, victims continue their struggle for compensation and legal support,
Following a comprehensive analysis of the riot-affected areas as families continue to await court dates, facing intimidation and ongoing threats, a press conference was organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on February 23, 2021.
Mumtaz, a victim from Khajuri Khas area, said, “Our complaints were not taken, I saw my entire restaurant and my home in Sherpur burnt down. The police outrightly ignored my complaint. This happened even though we had seen the involvement of the BJP leadership (in the incidents leading to the break out of the violence) and were witness to the violence that they, along with the leaders of the Gujjar community, unleashed. I was even told that if I wanted compensation I would have to register a complaint against unknown persons and not BJP members.”
She added, “To me that was a shock, the mob even pointed a loaded pistol at me. These were the same people I had worked with and campaigned for.”
Speaking at the press conference, Brinda Karat, a politburo member of the CPI(M), said, “These statements are crucial because what is expected out of civil government and a fair judiciary has not happened. Instead, they have failed to provide any relief to the victims, leading to the subversion of justice and allowing for the violence to go on unabated, as investigations remain pending in several cases, with many not even getting complete compensation.”
As victims of the violence struggle to get legal justice and compensation besides a deep sense of personal loss, BJP leader Kapil Mishra who has been accused of inciting mobs has openly stated that he “ would do it all over again, if he could.”
Also read: Delhi Riots: A Year Later Bail Orders Puncture BJP Narrative?
Mishra had led a pro-Citizenship Amendment Act rally in North East Delhi last year and had warned police to clear the anti-CAA protesters from the area, failing which they would take to the streets.
Meanwhile, the victims stated at the press conference that their statements were not even recorded by the police, instead those who had sought to extend help to the victims were being intimidated and restricted.
Malaika, another victim who lost her husband to the violence, said, “My husband was dragged out of the house and set ablaze. I could not save him and later his body was dumped in the drain. All the while, my children and I locked ourselves on the terrace to witness what had happened with him.”
Despite being a prima facie witness to the violence that had transpired, her statement was not recorded by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) overseeing the cases pertaining to the violence. She said, “They have not even visited me once. For us there is very little hope for any form of justice.”
The victims have demanded that a free and independent investigation is initiated in the cases pertaining to the violence, as the ongoing investigation is aimed at concealing the truth and protecting those who had given hate speeches against the Muslims and the anti-CAA protestErs, leading up to the violence.
While the Delhi government claims that it has provided a package of Rs. 26 crore in compensation for those who lost their lives, the claim on the ground does not hold up. Moreover, questions of restarting one’s life and initiating new sources of income still remain.
Ram Sugarat’s 15 year-old-son Nitin was perhaps one of the youngest victims of the violence. But he has been paid compensation only in half so far, amounting to Rs. 5 lakh. Sugrat said, “The police claim he (Nitin) had fallen and died, but in reality a tear gas shell had hit him in the head, resulting in his death. A year has passed since the violence and we have been able to get a copy of the post mortem report only now.”
Similarly, for many others, the delays by the legal system and the impunity that the perpetrators enjoy has led to a complete crumbling of the faith in the idea of justice.
Karat stated, “The fight to get justice will be one which needs supports and all sorts of help from all quarters, and the testimonies of the victims are crucial to remember the subversion of justice and protection of those in power.”
Also read: Have We Seen the Last of Conspiracies?