A government-appointed commission promoting the rights of India’s religious minorities said police failed to protect Muslims campaigning against a new citizenship law during violent riots in Delhi state this year.
At least 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and more than 200 were injured in the worst communal violence in the Indian capital since more than 3,000 people of the Sikh minority community were killed in 1984.
The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) said on Thursday that Muslim homes, shops and vehicles were selectively targeted during days of rioting that coincided with US President Donald Trump’s trip to India.
Release of Delhi Minorities Commission’s Fact-Finding Report on Delhi Riots
From Left to Right:
Shri Gurminder Singh Matharu,
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan,
M R Shamshad Adv,
Prof Haseena Hashia,
Abu Bakr Sabbaq Adv pic.twitter.com/KxRGanGto5
— Zafarul-Islam Khan (@khan_zafarul) July 16, 2020
The violence erupted in February after the leaders from the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their supporters attacked peaceful sit-ins in northeast Delhi organised against the new citizenship law.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December by the Indian Parliament fast-tracked the path to citizenship for religious minorities from neighbouring countries except for Muslims. Critics said the law was against the spirit of the country’s secular constitution.
The law, which the United Nations called “fundamentally discriminatory”, triggered nationwide protests, mostly led by Muslim women and posed the biggest political challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he took over in 2014.
In all, 11 mosques, five madrasas or religious schools, a Muslim shrine and a graveyard were attacked and damaged, a fact-finding team from the commission said in its report released on Thursday.
Recommendations made in the commission’s report to safeguard minority rights are not binding.
“Seemingly, to crush the protests, with support of the administration and police, a retaliatory plan of pro-CAA protesters was worked out to trigger violence at a large scale,” it said.
The commission said police had charged Muslims for the violence even though they were the worst victims.
Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal rejected the allegation of bias and said police had acted fairly.
“We have filed 752 first information reports, over 200 chargesheets, arrested over 1,400 people in connection with the riots. We have also formed three special investigation teams and are still open to receiving complaints,” Mittal said.
Critics of Prime Minister Modi’s BJP government say it has been promoting a Hindu-first India and that the citizenship law aimed to further marginalise the country’s 170 million Muslims.
The BJP has denied any bias but says it is opposed to the “appeasement” of any community. But critics say BJP’s charges of “Muslim appeasement” does not hold water, as a government commission report in 2006 said the minority community is at the bottom of the most development indices.
The DMC report also alleged some senior BJP leaders like former member of Delhi legislative assembly Kapil Mishra of fuelling the February 23 violence, but a party spokesman said there was no basis of such allegations.
“When Delhi police has already stated in court that there is no role proved of Kapil Mishra, then on what grounds DMC is saying this,” BJP spokesman Harish Khurana said.
The minorities commission said witnesses spoke of police failure to intervene in the rioting.
“Multiple testimonies collected by this Fact-Finding Committee recount reports of police inaction even as violence unfolded before them, or of police not arriving despite being called repeatedly,” it said.