In recent times, it appears to have become extremely fashionable for a certain section of former IPS officers to come out of the closet and criticise Delhi Police for its investigation into the riots that occurred in Delhi in the month of February. There appears to be a concerted campaign to prevent the law from taking its own course with regards to the charges against some favoured ‘activists’ among the ‘intellectual’ elite such as Umar Khalid.
There are five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The defenders of Umar Khalid and others currently appear to have reached the third stage after ranting and raving against their arrest. Now, they appear willing to at least concede that the charges against the JNU ‘scholar’ are in the grey zone and require judicial adjudication.
Yashovardhan Azad, former IPS officer and Central Information Commissioner, made such comments in an article for the Hindustan Times on Thursday. He conceded that electronic data and statement by witnesses have added “heft” to the charges. He said, “While social activists maintain that Umar Khalid and company are mere dissenters and protesters of CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Delhi Police maintain that they have unimpeachable evidence against them regarding well-planned sit-ins and blocking of roads, collection of acid and incendiary devices, funding through the Popular Front of India (PFI) and confrontation with the state law and order machinery.”
“For the case to succeed, the prosecutors have to convince the judge that the acts of the accused extended beyond sit-ins and protest speeches which come under the ambit of democratic dissent, to the instigation of riots and confrontation with the state leading to the killing of two policemen and injuring 108 others. Hence, this issue is in a grey area awaiting a judicial verdict,” he added.
We receive some clarity regarding the motivations behind this unexpected concession in the succeeding paragraphs. The ex-IPS officer appears to be extremely sad that no action has been taken against Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Pravesh Sharma. He declares mournfully, “When history looks back at the worst communal riot since Partition in Delhi, it is the failure to hold to account rabble-rousers from the ruling dispensation which will torment the sentinels of democracy.”
Thus, we clearly see the bargaining tactics at work here. Since ‘civil society’ and other activists want a ‘safe exit’ from the ruckus, where they can still claim some sort of a moral victory, it is their fervent desire that the three BJP leaders mentioned be sacrificed to satisfy their ego. They are even willing to concede that Umar Khalid and others may be guilty. But they only wish that the Delhi Police also extend their courtesies by taking action against Kapil Mishra and the rest. Yep, it is definitely the third stage of grief.
The former IPS officer quoted Julio Ribeiro to bolster his own argument regarding ‘reservations’ surrounding the Delhi Riots investigation. Although, he disagreed much with what Ribeiro had said himself. Open-Letter specialist Ribeiro is still in the second stage of grief (anger), thus, the approach of Azad is bound to be different.
Unlike Ribeiro, Azad conceded that one should wait for a judicial verdict on the matter of Umar Khalid. Furthermore, he has complimented Delhi Police for the stellar work they have done thus far. He also appears to discard the notion that Delhi Police has been persecuting a particular community selectively when he mentions that 1,575 individuals, including 776 Hindus and 799 Muslims, have been arrested.
However, the objective of all such praise appears to be strengthening their hand at the bargaining table. It is extremely unlikely that it will work, the Delhi Police appears to be well aware of the task at hand and is unlikely to fall for such tactics. Furthermore, they appear unwilling to let activists teach them how to perform their own job.
The title of Azad’s article on Hindustan Times was ‘How the Delhi riots probe polarised society‘. It is a rather inaccurate description of what exactly happened. In fact, it is a complete inversion of the truth. The truth of the matter is, Indian society is extremely polarised at the moment as it is. Thus, it was not that the investigation into the Delhi Riots polarised society, it was that society was extremely polarised and therefore, formed their opinions on the investigation based on their personal political inclinations.
It is a sign of our times that former IPS officers are coming forward to deliberately undermine their successors out of a misplaced sense of moral superiority. The inevitable consequence of it will be a great distrust among the public regarding the institutions of the Republic. There are other arguments that were thrown in a very matter-of-fact tone as if these are established facts and not mere assumptions.
Towards the beginning of the article, in the first paragraph itself, the author says, “The police dithered for a considerable time before taking firm action when they should have crushed the violence right away. Soon, the riots spread like wildfire across the smoke-grey skyline of the Capital, engulfing new areas and snuffing out more and more innocent lives.” Once again, the former IPS officer appears far more willing to blame the police than the actual instigators of the violence.
In December, the Police actually acted proactively after riots broke out to put an end to the violence. They entered the Jamia Milia University to flush out the rioters. And we are well aware how ‘civil society’ reacted to that. It was portrayed as a crackdown on ‘dissent’ despite all evidence to the contrary. In this particular incident as well, the Police did try initially to prevent the situation from escalating, however, they terribly miscalculated the monstrosity of the anti-CAA protesters.
Two police officers had actually gone to converse with the mob of anti-CAA protesters and ask them to convey their grievances to the ACP. But then, they were held hostage by the mob and they managed to escape with great difficulty. This was before constable Ratan Lal was lynched to death by the Islamist mob. Thus, to claim that the Delhi Police made no effort at preventing their riots is preposterous. Furthermore, all of us score 10/10 on hindsight but the fact of the matter is, when a great many people are hell bent on unleashing chaos on the streets, the streets generally tend to witness anarchy.
And that is precisely what happened. The Delhi Police deserves credit for the fact that the spree of violence was brought under control in 36 hours. While the article condemns the Police for not taking action, it has hardly any of it to offer for the individuals who organised a conspiracy to unleash violence in the streets. Tahir Hussain and Khalid Saifi, for instance, believed to be key conspirators in the matter, do not find a single mention in the article.
The use of molotov cocktails, stone-pelting and other means to maximise the violence also ensured that the Delhi Police could not effectively curb the violence straightaway. The former IPS officer also demands action against Kapil Mishra and others. But what did they do exactly? They raised slogans that were considered problematic by the ‘intellectual’ elite. That is the only thing they are accused of.
They did not pelt stones, they did not organise mobs, they did not throw molotov cocktails. It appears that ‘civil society’ wants them punished merely to uphold ‘secularism’, even if they did not contribute to the violence in any shape or form. The chargesheets filed in the Delhi Riots case reveal that a lot of planning had gone into instigating the riots and Kapil Mishra was involved with none of it. And yet, they want him to be punished anyway.
Quite clearly, former IPS officers seek action against Kapil Mishra and others solely for the sake of their own political biases as a consequence of which they have already deemed him guilty of crimes he did not commit. A judicial verdict is necessary to prove the guilt of Umar Khalid and others, the article says, but the author has already judged Mishra guilty. And nothing could convince them otherwise. It only further illustrates the fact that it is not the Delhi Riots investigation that polarised the public, in reality, it is due to the political polarisation among ‘civil society’ that the investigation is being questioned.