NEW DELHI: Activists and victims of religious violence that erupted in the Indian capital of New Delhi in February have accused police of filing “false and politically motivated charge sheets” against them instead of going after the real culprits.
“They are trying to frame protesters who were part of the democratic movement against the controversial citizenship law,” Kawalpreet Kaur, a member of the All India Students Association (AISA) and one of the student leaders named in the charge sheets, told Arab News on Thursday.
“They are blaming protestors for (the) riots. There is no relation between protestors and Delhi violence. Nowhere in my protest speeches (have) I said anything that they are blaming me for. The charges are false and motivated,” she continued.
More than 88 charge sheets were filed against political activists, students and civilians by Delhi police for participating in what were essentially religiously motivated clashes in the northeastern capital that claimed more than 50 lives, mostly Muslims.
“The police have entered false stories based on speculation,” Kaur added.
Violence erupted in the Indian capital in February after counter protests were organized by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the ongoing nationwide agitation over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), that grants citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains, but excluding Muslims.
The CAA is part of the government’s proposed program of introducing a National Register of Citizens (NRC). Muslims fear that if they are not included in the NRC they will be declared stateless citizens.
Since December 2019, there has been a nationwide campaign against the CAA. Delhi became the focal point of resistance against the first mass protests against the Narendra Modi government.
Members of the ruling BJP started a campaign against the CAA protestors that led to February’s violent clashes in Delhi.
“The Delhi riots in 2020 were pre-planned and targeted. Police action is also pre-planned. The police blame a certain community which, in fact, was the victim as a vast majority of those killed or injured, or whose property and houses of worship were looted and burned, belonged to one community (Muslims),” the chief of the Delhi Minority Commission, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, told Arab News.
“Those who instigated the riots by their fiery speeches, open threats of violence, bringing in killer mobs and leading them to loot and kill, like BJP leader Kapil Mishra, are yet to even be mentioned in charge sheets,” Khan added.
Students and activists are facing wide-ranging charges, from organizing protests against the citizenship legislation to instigating and participating in religious riots.
“A charge sheet is not — and cannot be — the opinion of a police officer,” Delhi-based lawyer Sarim Naved said. “It represents evidence collected by the police, and is submitted to the court for the latter to apply its mind.”
Delhi police did not respond to Arab News’ request for comment.
Tara Fatima, a student from New Delhi who was one of the participants in the three-month anti-CAA agitation, accused the government of pusing an “agenda of punishing Muslims” for raising their voice.
“The citizenship law is still not implemented but the way the government has started treating Muslims proves (us) right. They want to relegate Muslims to second-class citizens,” Fatima told Arab News.
Rais Ahmad lost all his savings in the Delhi riots when his shop selling battery driven rickshaws was destroyed. He said that those named in his complaint to the police were still at large, and that victims were being targeted.
“Muslims were the real victims of the Delhi violence and they are now the real target of Delhi police,” Ahmad said. “I saw policemen who were part of the Hindu mob but they are not being arrested. It’s the Muslims who are being detained and punished. It’s really sad that the government has become our enemy.”
Political analysts say that the Indian government is fighting an ideological war against Muslims and secular citizens of India.
“This is nothing but a genocidal project by the Indian government. They want to target Muslims and those who stand in the way of establishing India as a majoritarian Hindu state,” Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University told Arab News. “The rights to defense and protest are sacred rights of democracy, and we should not allow them to be taken from us.”