In North East Delhi, there were many surges of bloodshed, damage to property, and riots from 23rd February 2020. These resulted in tussles between anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters and pro-CAA protesters. It became communal, generating the deaths of 53 individuals within ten days. This article discusses the events and the responses from the Government officials and the Judiciary concerning the riots. The article provides a possible course of action for the same.
Events leading up to the Delhi riots of 2020
The CAA, enacted in 2019, created some special provisions for the citizenship of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. This faced criticism for being against the secular nature of the nation. Staging of demonstrations across the country to protest against the Act began from December 2019. It was more concentrated in the NCR region. Sit-in protests, i.e. people occupying an area and refusing to leave until fulfilling their demands, became very common.
A sit-in protest against the CAA took place near the Jaffrabad metro station in North-East Delhi. This rendered part of the Seelampur-Jaffrabad-Maujpur road as well as the metro station itself.
On 23rd February 2020, BJP leader Kapil Mishra posted a tweet inviting people to join him in Maujpur Chowk at 3 pm. As per the tweet, it was in retaliation of Jaffrabad. He also issued a three-day ultimatum to the police to clear the streets of Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh.
What happened through the course of the riots?
After the issuance of Mr Mishra’s statements, violence commenced between pro-CAA protesters and anti-CAA protesters in Karawal Nagar and Maujpur Chowk.
Clashes continued the next day with signs of property damage showing. It spread to several areas of North-East Delhi, including Gokalpuri and Kardampuri. Both temples and mosques were burnt down. One man opened fire on the police, and later the police arrested him. People attacked petrol pumps in Bhajanpura, carrying petrol bombs, and sticks. Shops and houses of the Hindu community were burnt by a Muslim mob where bodies were later discovered. Subsequently, a crowd chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ burned down a Muslim-owned tyre market.
Response from the Police and the Government
Two people filed complaints against BJP leader Kapil Mishra on 23rd February itself for inciting violence using inflammatory speech.
At the first signs of conflict, the police lathi-charged the fighting crowds and used tear gas on them as well. Delhi Police Head Constable Ratan Lal lost his life while trying to control the masses. They imposed Section 144 in the 10 locations in North-East Delhi, which were riot-hit areas, but it was not of much use.
On 25th February, they deployed massive police force in the more sensitive areas like Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Gokulpuri, Johri Enclave and Shiv Vihar.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and AAP leaders visited violence-affected areas on 26th February. Three days after the violence broke out, PM Modi tweeted and asked people to maintain peace and brotherhood.
The rioters allegedly used the house of Tahir Hussain, an AAP councillor and later arrested him for murder. However, the investigation is still pending
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal declared free treatment for injured persons on 27th February. The government made arrangements to supply food in curfew-imposed areas. They set up shelters with the help of NGOs. They also announced a compensation amount of 10 lakh rupees to affected people, 1 lakh rupees in exemplary damages, and 5 lakh rupees in the case of deaths of minors. For people whose houses were burnt entirely, they announced immediate aid of 25,000 rupees.
They created 2 Special Investigation Teams (SIT) to investigate the matter. Up until 6th March 2020, the Delhi police lodged 654 cases and detained 1,820 cases.
The response of the Judiciary
The Delhi High Court constituted four new Courts for hearing the cases on 15th June. According to the orders issued by the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court, 9 Judicial Officers were transferred to Sessions and Magisterial Courts.
Future possible course of action
Accountability is essential in a situation like this. So is the awareness that we cannot tolerate something like this.
Statements condemning this incident need to be issued. India is a country that completely shut down a peaceful movement (Non-cooperation Movement) for its independence because of one bloody incident (Chauri-Chaura incident). It goes to show that there are many ways to achieve any means, and not all are ethical.
Yes, India has a long and bloody history of riots and religious violence. It does not mean it can or should continue. As far as accountability goes, the Supreme Court is already making strides towards this by setting up Trial Courts. However, they must ensure to take strict action towards anybody who has contributed to this starting from instigation to actual participation.
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