NEW DELHI—Citing detailed reports published by HuffPost India and a few other publications, a group of reputed former Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officials, as well as other eminent citizens, signed a letter to the President Ram Nath Kovind demanding that a Commission of Inquiry led by sitting or retired judges of the higher judiciary be set up to probe the Delhi Police’s ongoing investigations into the communal violence that occurred in the national capital in February.
“The Delhi Police has set up three Special Investigation Teams (SITs) led by its officials to conduct a probe into the matter. In addition, the Delhi Police Special Cell is also probing the aspect of conspiracy behind the Delhi riots,” the letter signed by 72 signatories on Friday noted.
“There are, however, serious questions about the role played by the Delhi Police during the violence, with allegations of the police deliberately not preventing violence and in some places, even being complicit in it,” said the letter signed by reputed former IPS officers like Julio Ribeiro, K Saleem Ali, P.G.J Nampoothiri, Vappala Balachandran and reputed former IAS officials like Amitabha Pande, EAS Sarma, Ashok Vajpeyi and others.
The letter listed out what it termed as “instances of police complicity in the violence and facts that reveal bias in the ongoing investigation by the police”. Most of these are reports published in a variety of news media outlets including two detailed investigative reports by journalist Anumeha Yadav for HuffPost India.
One of the two reports by Yadav details the circumstances surrounding the death of 23-year-old Faizan, who was among the Muslim youth who were filmed while being beaten up and forced to sing the national anthem. After speaking with a cross section of people, it concludes that his “untimely and violent demise was a direct consequence of police actions over a three-day period from February 24, when Faizan was first assaulted, to February 26, when he finally succumbed to his many injuries at 11 pm”.
The second report, following up on the status of the police probe into the 23-year-old’s death revealed something further disturbing. “The First Information Report registered by the Bhajanpura Police station makes no mention of the clearly documented video footage of the police assaulting Faizan; contradicts on-record police statements that Faizan was in police custody following his assault, and claims that Faizan died after he went missing from the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital in northeast Delhi,” said Yadav’s report.
Taking note of these facts, the communication sent to the President by the 72 eminent former IAS and IPS officials said, “While the act itself was atrocious, what is even more shocking is that the Delhi Police does not appear to be assigning any urgency to identifying the policemen involved and ensuring that they are brought to book.”
“The investigation cannot be allowed to become a fishing and roving expedition aimed at causing a chilling effect on dissent and protest in the country. We therefore call upon the Government of India to institute an inquiry into this investigation under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, by appointing a sitting/retired judge(s) of the higher judiciary.”
The letter also noted that, “The First Information Report registered by the Bhajanpura Police station makes no mention of the clearly documented video footage of the police assaulting Faizan and the Delhi police has not named any policemen as accused in the case.”
“For any professional law enforcement agency, evidence of involvement of their own personnel in violence should have received the highest priority of the top brass,” the statement, which has been signed by others in the civil society such as well known and respected former Central Information Commissioners Shailesh Gandhi and Wajahat Habibullah, also noted. “Only a thorough investigation to identify and punish the accused would have reassured the public that the investigation was unbiased and the police would act against all, even their own, if found indulging in violence.”
Appealing for a “credible” and “unbiased” probe necessary to “ensure public trust” of the Delhi Police’s investigation of the communal violence, the statement closed by demanding a commission of inquiry, “The investigation cannot be allowed to become a fishing and roving expedition aimed at causing a chilling effect on dissent and protest in the country. We therefore call upon the Government of India to institute an inquiry into this investigation under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, by appointing a sitting/retired judge(s) of the higher judiciary.”
“Further, it must be ensured that officers accused of being complicit in the violence are not involved in the investigation by the Delhi Police.”
Overall, the letter to the President of India Ram Nath Kovind alleged five key issues with the ongoing probe of the Delhi Police into the north-east delhi’s communal violence. Police complicity in violence, custodial torture, no action on complaints against the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, criminalising dissent and protest, and malafides in police questioning. The HuffPost India’s reports have been cited in the section about ‘police complicity in violence’.