‘World came crashing down’: Delhi violence victims await justice

Six months after city’s worst religious riots in decades, rights groups and families call for investigation and action.

New Delhi, India – Brothers Amir and Hashem were on their way home from their grandparents’ house in India’s capital, New Delhi, when they were stopped by a group of Hindus, and beaten to death because they were Muslims, their family said. 

The two men were among the 53 people killed in February in the worst religious violence seen in the city in decades. 

Their father Babu Khan recalled when he had to identify his sons’ bodies.

“When they showed us the photos, our world came crashing down,” Khan told Al Jazeera, sobbing.

“Our throats went dry. I can’t even describe their injuries. They were hit so many times, on the head, their throats were slit, knife or sword injuries on the head.”

Deadly violence broke out after weeks-long peaceful sit-in protests by Muslims in northeast Delhi against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) were targeted by Hindu nationalist mobs.

More than 500 people were also injured in three days of violence, according to the government.

In a new report on Friday, rights group Amnesty International said Delhi police personnel were “complicit and an active participant in the violence” that killed 40 Muslims.

Amnesty said it spoke to riot survivors, witnesses, human rights activists and retired police officers and analysed several user-generated videos for the investigation that reveals a “disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi police during the riots”.

“One of the things that we found that the police officers actually either did not intervene in the riots, despite being present, or intervened only to disproportionately arrest or attack anti-CAA protesters. So there was differential treatment of assemblies,” said Mrinal Sharma, policy adviser at Amnesty International India.

‘Atmosphere of fear’

In a 135-page report, the Delhi Minorities Commission said not only were Delhi police complicit, but their investigation was also biased. An official fact-finding committee has also found the police were involved in the unrest.

Delhi police did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for an interview, but the main governing party dismissed Amnesty’s investigation, saying the rights group has an agenda against it. 

“The allegations are unfounded completely,” said Sudhanshu Mittal, a spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “There are people who are aggrieved on both sides, saying police has been unfair to them.”

Amnesty International and victims’ lawyers have also accused the police of falsely implicating Muslims in the violence.

“There are a number of examples where Muslims have been shot dead and they’ve made Muslims the accused, various examples, so that is the kind of atmosphere of fear Delhi police has actually created,” lawyer Mehmood Pracha told Al Jazeera.

Rights groups are now calling for action against the Hindu nationalist leaders who threatened violence against protesters before the riots broke out, and for an investigation into the role of police officials. 

Six months after his son’s deaths, Khan says he only wants justice for his family, especially for his granddaughters, who still have not been told that their father and uncle are dead.

So far, 12 people have been arrested over his son’s murders, he said.

“Even I called the police and informed them about how people of one community were being targeted and killed, but they didn’t do anything.”

Source: Al Jazeera