ADVOCATE MOHD ANWAR, Secretary, APCR Delhi, who is fighting legal battle for the victims of Delhi riots and violence against minorities, completed his B.Com from Delhi University and did LLB from AMU. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, he spoke at length on the developments in Delhi riot cases, saying that the investigation into Delhi riot cases is going the Muzaffarnagar way.
Please tell us how many people were arrested after the Delhi riots, how many of them got bail and what is the current status of all those who are still in jail?
Around 1,850 people were arrested as per the government but I believe there would be more. As per the government’s claim around 50 per cent were arrested from each of the two communities but according to my calculations of all those who have been arrested around 70 per cent were Muslims and 30 per cent non-Muslims. Non-Muslims were granted bail easily. But the Muslims were denied bail even after fulfilling all the conditions thereto. The dilly-dallying tactics was followed and technical loopholes were cited to deny bails to Muslims. The bail process was deliberately lingered on one or the other pretext. In some cases, even after Supreme Court’s order bail was denied for long.
Needless to say due process has not been followed to provide justice for the victims. Around 300 are still in jail and their bails are pending. Of these, 53 are murder cases, 40 Muslims and 13 non-Muslims as accused. This classification was done by the government and it can also be found in the chargesheets. However, in general we have refrained from making any kind of such classification. And based on such classification the chargesheets have been also communalised. Surprisingly, of the total 53 murder cases, the police have not started any investigation into 13 cases.
Are all those who are still in jail getting legal assistance?
Almost all of them have advocates to fight their cases. Some lawyers have been provided by NGOs, both groups of Jamiat and APCR. For some Advocate Mahmood Paracha is fighting cases. There is also provision that if one wants legal services free of cost, he is provided that.
What is your reading from the investigation done so far and what are the loopholes?
Police have done one-sided investigation and there is no doubt about it. It appears it was in their agenda to target people from the marginalised communities, especially Muslims. Around 4,000 youth were picked up. In one case, when I enquired from an Inspector of the Special Cell about some people, he replied, “I also don’t know from where these youths have been brought and in what case.” It was lockdown period and there was no resistance and the police had a free hand to pick up youths. Some were picked up only because their shadow was visible in the video.
Youths were also picked up by citing that their mobiles were traced close to mobile towers. Their presence there was obvious because they used to live close to those towers. The real culprits have been let off and most of the youths who were innocent were picked up, citing bogus reasons. The images of the real culprits have been either toned down or deleted to protect them.
For example, in Kardampuri Pulia case Muslim youths were seen in the video allegedly being assaulted by police officers and forced to sing the national anthem. Later on it was said that cameras were not working. PWD also said their cameras were not working. We can say it is a one-sided and biased investigation.
There is another murder case related to a WhatsApp group. Police have not provided the details of the admin of the WhatsApp group so far. Some 8 to 10 from that WhatsApp group have been made accused and all the stories are being revolved around them. But the fact is there were more than 150 in that WhatsApp group. Police have not made the remaining members of the group as accused. All those who were in that WhatsApp group were indulged in violence. Violence was the main talking point in that group.
There are 752 FIRs but the police have filed chargesheet in only 350 cases which means in around 400 FIRs there has been no investigation done so far. The investigation has so far remained very poor and in around 50 per cent cases there cannot be any kind of charge against them.
What is your reading of the chargesheet filed so far? Is it based on the merit of case or there has been any kind of manipulation?
We find a particular kind of police system. We all know how they are tied with the political system. They work on the direction of others and they rarely do the kind of investigation prescribed in the rule book. Police hardly take care of the demand of the angle of investigation as per the law. For example, there are plenty of videos or footage of channels if they want to collect evidence but they don’t look for that.
Instead of doing proper investigation, the police have terrorised all the 4,000 picked up in the case. The witnesses and the near and dear ones are terrorised not to come forward to give evidence. There is a sense of apprehension. Cases are fought as per the evidence in the case but people are frightened to come forward to speak in the case. The courts eventually will decide the case as per the evidence, statements of the witnesses and the victims and if they are terrorised not to speak then one can understand how difficult it would be to follow the case.
Have the witnesses in the case enough protection so that they can give their statement freely without any fear?
Generally protection is provided on demand. So far no one has demanded any protection. Instead people who can be the real witnesses and the gamechangers in the case are frightened or have their own limitations and are not willing to come forward as witnesses. If the fear remains in the minds, I don’t think real people can be made accused and the cases would be fought accordingly. The real perpetrators who can be made accused are still at large because people are frightened to identity them.
In Muzaffarnagar 450 FIRs were filed. Of these, around 60 were murder cases and around same number of rape cases and others. Of these 450 FIRs, two accused were Muslims who were murdered earlier and the rest were non-Muslims who had indulged in violence. But there too people were terrorised and the victim side could not provide the required evidence. Surprisingly, in two cases Muslims were accused and the deceased were non-Muslims but in both the cases Muslims got life term. In Delhi riots too the situation appears to be going the Muzaffarnagar way. Muslims were punished but the real culprits are still at large and roaming freely.
Are you satisfied with the role of the court in Delhi riots cases?
Be it court or police, the system works as per the law and law is guided by IPC and CRPC. It is very easy for victim or any layman to say that the court was biased or the investigation of police was in wrong direction. But being a legal person we can’t paint everything with the same brush. We have to see whether the provisions of IPC and CRPC were followed or not and due process of law was followed by the court or not, what kind of evidence was provided and so on.
For example, the house of a lawyer was gutted during Delhi riots. We asked him to bring the case to a legal process. We examined the chargesheet, photographs were collected and 24 accused were identified, their names along with videos, certificates, and affidavits were provided to prosecution and to the court. The court asked the police to give report and the police also narrated the story of the identified to the court. The police arrested 12 accused after one year. The first remark of the judge to the sub-inspector was: you brought them so early!
The point is when the victim is not ready to identify and if he is not aware of how to follow his case, it becomes very difficult. Almost one year and a half have passed but the legal perspective of preparing the victims to come out freely and openly has not been worked out and it is the need of the hour. Efforts should be made to boost the morale and confidence of the victims. There has been no homework from the victims’ side and we are not getting the kind of statement required from the victims in the desired manner. All the NGOs and organisations active in this direction will have to work thereon so that victims can come forward to take riot cases to the logical conclusion.
The violence has three parts: One, Muslims are victims and complainant. Two, Muslims are accused because there are allegations that Muslims have also burnt houses, indulged in violence. Three, those 25 who have been charged under UAPA.
The system has tried to put all the blames on the Muslim side as if violence took place because of them, they were indulged in violence and all the houses burnt and people killed are because of them. None of the organisations has challenged it and asserted that Muslims are victims and not the perpetrators of violence. It was in fact a pre-planned and systematic violence.
How do you see the role of the Government of Delhi?
Delhi Assembly constituted a committee headed by Amanatullah (MLA) to record matter related to violence. In this committee there were 7 MLAs, District Magistrates of East Delhi and North East Delhi and seven or 8 SDMs and some other officers also used to participate in the meeting held after 15 days. In this meet DM and police officers were shown videos and other material, including FIRs; and were enquired about the arrests made. They used to share incomplete information and occasionally the meeting was postponed, one after another. In every meeting Delhi Assembly used to ask the police officers to provide them with all the FIRs of Delhi riots but the police did not provide it to the Delhi Assembly. The police turned down their request, saying it is a very sensitive issue and they could not provide all FIRs.