Contrary to the chronology provided by the Delhi Police, the fact-finding report by the Delhi Minority commission takes into account the Delhi elections, incendiary speeches by BJP leaders, two shooting attempts at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia Islamia, to provide context of the events that led to the northeast Delhi riots.
The riots that began with stone-pelting over a few hours between Jafrabad and Maujpur area of northeast Delhi on 23 February, eventually spread across the district over the next few days. At least 53 people died and property, including homes, shops and places of worship worth crores were destroyed.
In the series of stories that The Quint has been publishing on the aftermath of it, we bring you details of the minority panel's report that were made public on 16 July. This report includes details right from the passage of CAA to Kapil Mishra’s speech on 23 February.
Going Back to CAA and Protests that Followed
The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament on 12 December.
The report reads: "It amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 to lay down that persons belonging to minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31st December, 2014 shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act.”
Relying on statements made by constitutional lawyers, the report argues that the CAA was discriminatory. Dr Rajeev Dhavan, the report states that the CAA is outright discriminatory. “The CAA is perhaps the modern world’s first ‘refugee legislation’ to be subsumed by hate and discrimination,” the report says, quoting Dhavan.
Soon after the government had announced their intentions to implement the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC).
Eventually this led to serious fears among Muslims that they will be subject to a double exclusion and anyone deemed an ‘illegal migrant’ will have no recourse, leaving a large number of people from the minority community acutely vulnerable once their very citizenship is stripped off, the report reads.
As the law was passed on 12 February, protests broke out across India, led by ordinary women and students, as per the report.
The report describes the Shaheen Bagh protests as peaceful and a spontaneous reaction to the police violence meted out to the students of Jamia Milia Islamia on 15 December.
Protests were also organised in several parts of Delhi, including multiple sites in Northeast Delhi, like Jafrabad, Chand Bagh, Khajuri Khas, Old Mustafabad, Seelampur, Turkman Gate, Kardam Puri, Sundar Nagari, and Lal Bagh, and Inderlok (Northwest district), Nizammudin, Hauz Rani (South district) and Sadar Bazar (North Delhi district).
Delhi Polls 2020: Fanning Communal Sentiments
As the anti-CAA protests continue and grew in number in Delhi, the stage was set for campaigning ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections scheduled for 8 February 2020.
"By January 2020, openly communal statements were being made by politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with reference to people protesting against the CAA, and often in the midst of ‘pro-CAA’ rallies which had risen in a counter to the anti-CAA protests," the report reads.
The elections or the speeches made by BJP leaders have found no mention in the Delhi Police chronology of events leading to the riots.
Riots Clearly Preceded by Speeches by BJP Leaders
The report says the violence which broke out in Northeast Delhi was clearly preceded by speeches by BJP where they maligned anti-CAA protesters and questioned their motives without basis, made derogatory remarks with communal undertones, and openly threatened violence.
The report reads that at this point, efforts were initiated to cast the Shaheen Bagh protests in a negative light to build an “anti-Shaheen Bagh” narrative.
“It must be noted that none of these political leaders had ever visited the anti-NRC protest sites and thereby had no first-hand information of the kind of speeches and messages being promoted at these sites,” the report reads.
Excerpts from Prominent Speeches
The report lays down excerpts from speeches made by BJP leaders that may be seen as incendiary.
Member of Parliament and Minister of State Anurag Thakur raised a slogan in an election rally in Delhi on the 20 January 2020.
“‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaron saalon ko’ (Shoot down the rascals/the traitors of the country). This amounted to asking an entire election rally to fire bullets at the country’s ‘traitors’ within the oblique but not unmasked reference to a particular minority community.”Minority Panel Report
Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah addressed an election rally saying that people should press the EVM button on 8 February with such anger that the protesters in Shaheen Bagh should “feel the current” on 27 January 2020.
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath addressed an election rally in Delhi on 2 February 2020 where he also alluded to violent actions, the report states.
“(Arvind) Kejriwal and his mandali (clique) are trying to fan unrest and anarchy by tacitly supporting the Shaheen Bagh protests. These protests are nothing but a way for a section of people to show heir objections against the scrapping of Article 370 and the construction of Lord Ram’s grand temple in Ayodhya.”Minority Panel Report
He asked voters to install a BJP government in Delhi, which would promote all religions, but added that where “boli” (words) don’t work, “goli” (bullet) does.
Member of Parliament Parvesh Verma in West Delhi publicly threatened to demolish all mosques in his constituency if the BJP win power.
“If in Delhi BJP comes to power, then after 11th give me one month, how many ever masjids have been built on government land in my Lok Sabha constituency, I won’t leave even one of them standing”.Minority Panel Report
The Election Commission had also taken action against Thakur. "On 29 January 2020, the Election Commission of India ordered the removal of Union Minister of State Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Parvesh Verma from the BJP’s list of star campaigners for the Delhi Assembly Elections after finding that they made statements/speeches contents of which were in violation of the letter and spirit of the various provisions of the Model Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates,” the report reads.
2 Shooting Attempts by 'Hindu Right-Wing Groups'
These include two shooting attempts at protesters, in full public view, the report states.
The first one from 30 January 2020, where Rambhakt Gopal fired his gun, in full view of Delhi Police personnel, at protesters at the gates of Jamia Millia University.
On 1 February 2020, Kapil Gurjar entered the Shaheen Bagh protest site with a gun and opened fire.
There was also an attempt by the Hindu Sena group to 'remove' protesters from Shaheen Bagh on 2 February 2020. However due to police intervention, the move was called off.
'Kapil Mishra's Speech Incited Violence in Words and Intent'
An incendiary public speech by BJP leader and former MLA Kapil Mishra on 23 February 2020 clearly incited violence in words and intent, the report reads.
“This is what they wanted. This is why they blocked the roads. That’s why a riot-like situation has been created. From our side not a single stone has been pelted. DCP is standing beside us. On behalf of all of you, I am saying that till the time [US President] Trump goes back [from India], we are going to go forward peacefully. But after that, we will not listen to the Police if roads are not cleared after three days. By the time Trump goes, we request the Police to clear out Jafrabad and Chaand Bagh. After that, we will have to come on the roads. Bharat mata ki jai! Vande Mataram!” the report quoted Mishra as saying.