At least 54 people lost their lives in the Delhi Pogroms of February 2020, two-third of them being Muslims. Shops, workshops and businesses of Muslims were looted and burnt while those of their Hindu counterparts in the same area and street remained unscathed. Muslim homes were marked, vandalised and burnt. While Northeast Delhi burnt, ambulances and fire-fighting vehicles were prevented from reaching affected areas. Police failed to prevent the violence against Muslims despite repeated threats against the anti-CAA protestors.
The carnage lasted three days. Delhi Police forced a group of injured men to sing the national anthem between beatings. One of them, Faizan (aged 23), was illegally detained by the police for nearly 36 hours and refused medical attention, despite his injuries. He later succumbed to his injuries. None of the policemen involved in the incident have been brought to account for his cold-blooded murder. Two years on, justice remains elusive.
Eighteen Muslim activists, largely students, are falsely framed for instigating violence against their own community. On 26 February 2022, politician Ishrat Jahan and businessman Khalid Saifi completed two years in prison, while those who openly exhorted violence against anti-CAA protestors remain untouched to this day. Not even an FIR has been registered against them. This raises serious questions on the increasingly kafkasque nature of the criminal justice system.
Twenty years after the Gujarat genocide, the struggle for justice has not ended. There is no retribution. In fact, there is a concerted effort to erase Muslim massacres from public memory and whitewash the historical bloodshed of the Muslims in the country. Popular narrative strategically, systematically and objectively obviates the truth under the garb of upholding secularism. The Delhi pogrom, popularly referred to as the ‘Delhi riots’, in its most truthful form was actually an attempt towards large-scale massacre of Muslims, which was consciously allowed to go on for more than three days in the national capital. It is time to set the narrative straight, rectify selective and collective public amnesia and retell the unpopular truth till all lies and propaganda are defeated.
In his opening remarks, Aasif Mujtaba, while moderating the event here at the Press Club of India on 1 March 2022, said that, “It’s important to remember what occurred in Northeast Delhi two years ago. The Muslim community was at the receiving end of the violence but we see that majority of the cases have been registered against Muslims themselves.” Malika, wife of deceased Musharraf broke down while narrating her ordeal. “They were chanting slogans of Jai Shree Ram. They had weapons. They came with swords and rods. I hid my husband inside the room and locked the gate. But they broke the lock. Then they pierced my husband with a rod. He screamed,” she narrated with choked voice. With tears rolling her cheeks she continued, “My husband told them I’m your brother. They said you’re a Muslim, you are not our brother. And then they attacked him repeatedly…My children still ask about their father. They stole their father from my children. Now I am forced to work as a domestic help to sustain my family. How will I raise my children now and educate them?” she questioned. Imrana, wife of deceased Mudassir, also addressed the public meeting. She said, “I’ve eight daughters. It is difficult for me to provide for my children. The government gave us ten lakh rupees as compensation. No amount can ever compensate the loss of my husband.” In the struggle of raising her eight daughters, the struggle for justice for Mudassir is a daunting task.
“It would be wrong to call this a riot. This was a pogrom. Police has filed more than 1100 FIRs in the Delhi riots. What happened in Northeast Delhi two years ago was a targeted attack against the Muslim community and the people leading this are elected leaders of the BJP,” said Fawaz Shaheen, a member of Quill Foundation, while speaking at the event. He further added, “They tried to incite violence at Jamia Millia and later at Shaheen Bagh. When they failed to achieve their goals, they tried this in Northeast Delhi. It is no coincidence that the violence broke out only after Kapil Mishra gave an incendiary speech on 23 February while Delhi Police DCP stood by his side. See which community faced the maximum brunt of the violence? Nineteen masjids and five madrasas were attacked, vandalised and burnt during these riots. We won’t believe the lies of the Delhi Police. The truth will be remembered,” he said.
Vakil, a resident of Northeast Delhi who lost vision due to acid attack, narrated his ordeal: “We went to masjid in desperation seeking refuge. They threw acid on my face. It burnt my eyes. We called everyone. No one came to help us.” The collective feeling of abandonment, of nobody coming to their rescue in a locality they had called their home for years, is irreconcilable. Muslims of Northeast Delhi feel betrayed. A betrayal that is impossible to reconcile with.
Sameer, another victim of the Delhi riots said, “I was shot in the spine. At the hospital, all I could do was cry all the time. Doctors told me that the bullet that hit me had pellets in it which have damaged a nerve near the spine. I was fit and healthy but in minutes my life was totally ruined.” Sameer, a man in his twenties, is now paralysed in his lower body. He doesn’t feel he has a chance in life. He added, “I was in class 9 at the time. My education has been ruined. My family had to sell our plot in our hometown as well as in Delhi for paying the hospital bills for my treatment. The government only gave us two lakh rupees as “compensation”. What will I do with it? My life has been ruined. I won’t be able to work and earn all my life.” He is now dependent on his family.
Closing the first session of the event, Aasif Mujtaba said, “There are 755 FIRs in the Northeast Delhi violence. There is one specific FIR called FIR 59 that talks about a ‘conspiracy’ to instigate riots by Muslims. I call this a conspiracy in conspiracy by the Delhi Police to harass and criminalise Muslims.”
The second session was moderated by Banojyotsna Lahiri who said, “Delhi Police is doing a biased investigation. Police didn’t file an FIR against Ragini Tiwari who was making live calls for violence at that time.”
Nargis Saifi, wife of incarcerated Khalid Saifi, said, “I’m blank after listening to the stories of those who lost their family members during the Delhi riots. There should be an investigation against Delhi Police for torturing Khalid. She added, “Police isn’t investigating, rather it is cooking up stories. Media channels like Aaj Tak and others presented Khalid as a criminal and terrorist. Khalid was only trying to help injured people get treated at Al-Hind Hospital. But he was arrested. On the other hand Kapil Mishra, who publicly instigated the riots, is out and free.”
Prabhjit Singh, journalist with Caravan India, said “The government was afraid that the anti-CAA movement wasn’t getting communal. The government was afraid that people were talking about Constitution. I must say that the Delhi Government also failed to stop the city from burning and failed in protecting lives. There is no accountability for the police.”
Ishrat Jahan’s close friend, Sabahat, said “Ishrat is a very bold and dynamic person. It has been almost two years now since Ishrat was sent to jail. She has been discriminated in the jail. She was sent to jail for standing up for her community and protecting the Constitution. And for this she was sent to jail.”
Sumedha Pal, a journalist with The Wire, said, “The mainstream media has been aiding the majority in their attack against the Muslims. They helped the government in demonising the Muslims who were protesting for their right to equal citizenship. They presented rights activists as terrorists. Each day, the hateful prime time debates of mainstream media remind us that there is an impeding genocide.” She added, “There is a need to show the real situation and what people are going through in Northeast Delhi with sensitivity. The onus lies on us to report the truth and to report is without any bias.”
Kawalpreet Kaur, an advocate, said “The central government submitted an affidavit in the court saying that they are not accountable for the riots. This is the condition. These two years have been painful and difficult for people who lost their family members in the violence and whose loved ones are in jail.”
Zafarul-Islam Khan, former Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, who chaired the event, said, “there should be a proper judicial enquiry to probe the Delhi riots. There must be an investigation against people like Kapil Mishra, Ragini Tiwari and others who incited the violence. And if we fail to speak on such matters, injustices will keep on happening.” He added, “The intentions of this government are not good. People need to speak out the truth.”
Disclaimer: Two-years On Delhi Pogroms: Retelling the ‘Unpopular’ Truth - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view