During the recent anti-Muslim violence in Delhi that has consumed dozens of people, the role of Delhi Police has repeatedly come under the scanner. Not only did the law enforcement agency that is tasked with the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the capital fail to fulfill its duty, there are also accusations and many video evidences, showing that it sided with rioters in many cases and supported attacks on Muslim houses and business establishments.
The image of Delhi Police seems to have been permanently sullied by its indifference, lack of professionalism and its apathy towards people whose security was its responsibility. Not only did it not show professionalism, but many of its officials have also sounded rather very insensitive towards Muslims. A number of riot victims have revealed how they continued to make distress calls to police even as the rioters were attacking them. Reports suggest that during the five days of rioting beginning February 24, as many as 15,000 PCR calls were made. It is no surprise that in most of the cases police failed to reach the victims on time or even assuage their feelings.
The communal overtone of the Delhi Police was visible on many occasions during the riots. On many occasions police officials clearly spoke in partisan manner and made it apparently clear they wouldn’t go to a particular area for the rescue of the victims if they belonged to a certain religion. Special Commissioner of Police (CP) (Law and Order) Satish Golcha while leading the force during the riots told a reporter when asked why he did not employ equal force in Bhajanpura from where repeated cases of stone pelting was reported, he replied, “Those people are the aggressors. I saw it myself last night. The people on the other side (Bhajanpura) are carrying weapons for self-defence. I know they will not attack me when I speak to them, but I can’t say the same when dealing with the other side.”
This happened at a time when it was known to almost everyone that Muslims were victims of an organized assault. There are a number of video, pictorial and audio evidences of police complicity during the riots. They were seen throwing stones at Muslims along with rioters and giving them a free hand to indulge in arson and destruction of businesses and properties belonging to Muslims.
The courts too passed strictures against the police force’s poor handling of riot cases and, in particular, the inability of the police force to take action against the BJP leaders. The Delhi High Court bench consisting of justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh observed that the national capital had seen too much violence. The court also wondered as to why no FIRs have been filed against BJP leaders including Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, and Kapil Mishra for hate speeches.
The high court justices went on to add, "Why are you not showing alacrity when it comes to registration of FIR in these cases? We want peace to prevail. We do not want the city to witness another 1984 riots. This city has seen enough violence and anguish. Let it not repeat 1984.” But the police is yet to take any action against the trio. On the other hand, Justice Muralidhar who had acted tough against the Delhi Police, was issued his transfer orders the very same night. He was not even given the usual 14 days time that is allotted to judges on transfer.
The Supreme Court, which has failed to come to the rescue of the riot victims till now has passed verbal strictures against the Delhi Police. Justice Joseph, while orally observing in the court said, “Lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem here. If you had not allowed people to get away after inflammatory remarks, all this would not have happened. If you act the way law requires to act, you will see the difference.”
Justice Joseph went on to add, “Unless you get the police to act, there will be no difference. Look at how police acts in the U.K. Do they require somebody’s nod? If somebody makes an inflammatory remark, police swings into action immediately.”
However, despite rebukes from both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the police haven’t taken any action against the people who made inflammatory speeches over the past few weeks, including Kapil Mishra whose venomous speeches are said to have triggered the violence. On the contrary, Delhi Police has tried to change the narrative and is also presenting itself as a victim of violence. “One of my constables has died. My DCP is injured. He is on ventilator. Let us not demoralise the police by saying anything now. We don’t know what the situation on the ground is,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to the Supreme Court on behalf of Delhi Police.
There is no denying that police over the past many decades have been used as an instrument of oppression in the country. The people in power have been using them in whatever manner they deem fit.
Some six decades ago, Justice AN Mulla of the Allahabad High Court, in one of his judgments, called the police force the most lawless group in the country. He went on to add, “There is not a single lawless group whose record of crime comes anywhere near the record of that organized unit, which is known as the Indian police.”
Kirpal Dhillon, a former Joint Director of CBI, while writing in his book, “Police and Politics in India: Colonial Concepts, Democratic Compulsions: Indian Police, 1947-2002 says, “It needs to be emphasized that the process of degeneration and decay, afflicting the Indian criminal justice system, will slowly engulf all areas of governance and soon negate all national endeavors and undermine the very roots of civil society … The way the police is being employed to protect wayward and corrupt political elements and to keep them in power leaves little scope for the police to ever develop into a citizen supportive and accountable institutions. It is clear that, if left unchecked, the current trends are bound to critically hurt the police and their ability for law enforcement.”
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Despite muted denials, NRC will target Muslims
Bhagwat, Madani meet: End of the maddening divide
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
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Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October