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9 convicted in Delhi anti-Hindu riots: The arduous process, the lacking ecosystem and how we owe a debt of gratitude to a few good men

If we as a collective let the memory of Delhi anti-Hindu riots fade and if we as a collective get swayed by the daily outrage cycle, they will win. They will get away with murder. They will walk free - free to orchestrate another pogrom. This time, they could not wash away the memory of those we lost. The question is - will they get away with it simply because we have been conditioned to forget our own persecution.

In July 2020, OpIndia published an elaborate report that traced how violence was carefully incited and executed since December 2019, leading up to the Delhi anti-Hindu riots. Since 2019 January, Assam had seen sporadic violence against Citizenship Amendment Bill. This violence was carefully extrapolated by Congress, AAP, Islamists and assorted leftists to spark violence in India.

What was lost in the shrill cacophony of the intolerant minority, however, was that the context of the Assam protests was completely different. The people of Assam were in essence, not protesting against the exclusion of Muslims from CAB, they were, in essence, not even protesting against giving Citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring Islamic nations like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. What they were protesting was the settlement of any refugee in the state of Assam which even included Hindus – to preserve Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

The coverage of OpIndia traced the misinformation being spread and the violence being fomented right from the 1st of December 2019, when a Congress politician stood up in the Parliament and labelled Amit Shah and Narendra Modi as illegal immigrants. Jairam Ramesh had added at the time that Congress will form an alliance with like-minded parties and entities to oppose CAB and NRC (there was, and still is not, any draft of a guideline issued for nationwide NRC).

Thereafter, from Assaduddin Owaisi calling it the Nuremberg laws to Sonia Gandhi delivering a speech saying the fight against CAA is an ‘aar ya paar ki ladai’, asking people to come out on the streets, politicians played with fire. Simultaneously, emboldened by Congress’ rhetoric, Islamists started organising themselves. The chargesheet filed in the larger conspiracy case traces Islamists (Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and others) and protestors for hire like Yogendra Yadav, conspiring to foment violence ever since the 4th of December 2019.

Throughout December, January and even February, before the anti-Hindu riots, OpIndia documented widespread violence against Hindus from various parts of the country. Along with the violence, several speeches were delivered that exhorted Muslims to take to the streets and inflamed passions with misinformation, half-truths and whole lies.

Finally, on the 23rd of February, the Delhi anti-Hindu riots broke out, with several people losing their lives. We reported tales of horror – of Ankit Sharma being brutally stabbed multiple times, of Dilbar Negi’s limbs being chopped off and the rest of him being burnt alive, of women from Chand Bagh saying their daughters were stripped and sent home amidst sexual taunts from Muslim rioters and Muslim owned schools being used as terror launch pads.

The narrative that was peddled, however, to everyone’s utter shock, was that the violence and hate that was being unleashed against Hindus since the beginning of December, culminating into planned violence in February 2020, was an ‘anti-Muslim pogrom’. There was hardly any proof for it except the surface-level, facetious argument about body count in the February violence.

The charge sheet, the on-record speeches, the evidence of planning of the violence, the footage of the violence – everything was simply discarded by the global ecosystem – Muslims were the victims, Hindus were the aggressors, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

By the time the cases were to be tried in the court of law, the chips were already stacked against the prosecutors, who were met with the arduous task of not only arguing the chargesheets, tediously put together, but also the constant onslaught by the defence lawyers, the judiciary and the global ecosystem – an ecosystem that had created such a mountain of lies that it was a battle just to chip away at it with the truth.

Despite the evidence collected and a meticulously put-together conspiracy chargesheet, the first conviction in the case was that of a Hindu – Dinesh Yadav. It was a flimsy conviction most likely to be overturned in High Court on appeal. Almost immediately, the narrative that was being built for months, of the Delhi Riots being an anti-Muslim pogrom was rekindled with renewed vigour.

No legal website or media house bothered to analyse just how fallacious the conviction was. There was absolutely no evidence to tie him to any violence, the witnesses in the case (the supposed victims) changed their story and turned hostile, there was nothing incrementing that was found on his person or his residence, yet, he was sent to jail for 5 years simply because he was Hindu. An analysis of that case can be read here.

With the judiciary throwing caution (and sometimes the law) to the wind, the prosecutors had their task cut out for them. In riot cases, often, the police lose interest since the cases drag on for years. In the case of the Delhi Riots, the special cell did a remarkable job in putting together a 15,000-page chargesheet, with hundreds of pages of supplementary chargesheets, documenting the conspiracy to create violence. While the police did their job, arguing that a chargesheet in court is an entirely different matter.

In several cases, when the lawyers attempt to reach out to eyewitnesses, they flat-out refuse to testify. Imagine being a poor Hindu vendor whose shop was burnt to ashes by a violent Muslim mob. 2 years on, if a lawyer tells you that you need to testify in open court against the Muslims of your locality, who still live there, would you? Knowing that the Muslim mob can come back and ruin the little you have rebuilt? Would you chase justice, that may or may not be delivered, or safeguard your life, limb and livelihood?

With witnesses shying away from testifying, they also battle a crippling resource crunch. As someone who has spent 3 years working on reporting Delhi anti-Hindu riots, I can safely testify that even going through the chargesheets, the organisations that are active now, the lies being spread, the legal arguments that have to be strung together and making sense of the millions of threads in the case is no mean task. The lawyers working on this case essentially work on a pay-per-day basis. They are on the payroll of the government (since they are public prosecutors) and hardly get additional resources to deal with such complex cases.

While those defending accused persons like Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid etc have the strength of the ecosystem backing them, the public prosecutors are mostly armed with conviction and a sense of duty. For example, in 2020 itself, Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind started securing bail for those Muslims accused in the Delhi anti-Hindu riots and started providing extensive legal help to the accused. They also filed a writ petition in court. From CPIM submitting a fake fact-finding report blaming Hindus to former Judges like Madan Mohan Lokur muddying the water with his ‘Citizens Report’, the ecosystem that works to defeat the State’s case with lies and more lies is endless.

As the riot cases go on for years, change of guard at the respective police stations also hardly helps. Even as a journalist covering the Delhi Riots cases, it becomes almost impossible to orient someone else to the several nuances of the ongoing proceedings in the court. One can only imagine how difficult it must be for newly posted police officers to get oriented with the case enough to help the cases move forward and for the prosecutors to collect the necessary information with the help of those who have no knowledge of the cases. With thousands of cases to investigate, the arduous task of continuously working on an elaborate riots case becomes even more daunting.

The recent conviction of 9 rioters comes as a bright spot in the otherwise bleak progress of the Delhi Riots cases. Bleak not because those meant to work on these cases are not doing their job, but because they are up against a conglomerate with indomitable will.

On Monday, March 13, Delhi’s Karkardooma court convicted nine persons involved in the 2020 anti-Hindu Delhi riots. The court noted that the main objective of the convicts who joined the unruly mob guided by ‘communal feelings’ was to cause ‘maximum damage’ to the properties belonging to the people of the Hindu community.

The accused identified as Mohd Shahnawaz, Mohd Shoaib, Shahrukh, Rashid, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvez, Mohd Faisal, Rashid alias Monu and Mohd Tahir have been charged Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 436 (Mischief by fire), 452 (House-trespass with preparation to assault), 454 (Lurking house-trespass), 392 (robbery), 427 (mischief) read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of IPC. 

Justice Pulastya Pramachala said that the involvement of the accused in the riots is proven beyond doubt. ASJ Pramachala pronounced the accused guilty and stated: “I find that charges levelled against all the accused persons, in this case, are proven beyond doubt. Hence,  those charged are convicted for offences covered under Sections 147, 148, 380, 427, 436, and 149 of the IPC in addition to Section 188 of the IPC.” 

Moreover, ASJ Pramachala said, “On the basis of the assessment of the evidence in this case and further reasoning, I am convinced with the version of prosecution against the accused persons. It is well established, that all the named accused individuals, in this case, joined an unruly mob that was motivated by communal feelings and had as its objective to inflict the maximum damage to the properties of the people belonging to the Hindu community.”

The observation by the court is not particularly surprising. Tahir Hussain, one of the main conspirators of the violence, had in his disclosure statement stated categorically that the aim was to “teach Kafirs a lesson”.

The court had observed, “On his (Hussain’s) provocation/instigation, the Muslims turned violent and became volatile on February 24 and 25 and started burning shops and pelting stones and petrol bombs on Hindu community and also targeted their houses situated in that locality. Thereupon, the uncontrolled mob turned into rioters and in process of rioting caught hold of Ankit Sharma and dragged him to Chand Bagh Pulia and caused his death by inflicting multiple injuries using sharp and blunt objects/weapons in a brutal manner and a view to conceal the evidence, all of them in furtherance of their common intention, threw his dead body in the drain.”

It would bode well to remember that Tahir Hussain had, during the violence, painted himself as the victim of the communal violence instead of the perpetrator.

To this date, the shameless ecosystem has not deleted their tweets defending Tahir Hussain. Here are just two examples:

Be that as it may, while the conviction of Dinesh Yadav was taken as the deliverance of justice, even though the judgement was terribly flawed, the current judgement convicting Muslim rioters has been slyly and tacitly questioned even by legal portals which are supposed to delve into nuances far more than average media. LiveLaw for example was quick to point out that the 9 convicted were acquitted only a few weeks ago by the same court in a separate FIR. That those convicted were acquitted earlier in a separate FIR should actually be concerning because the evidence is clearly not ambiguous. Legal platforms, however, slyly cast aspersions on this conviction and never raised their voice against the genuinely terrible judgement convicting Dinesh Yadav.

One of the arguments used in court quite often in the case of the Delhi Riots is that the police delayed the filing of FIR and therefore, the case is malicious. This argument has come up several times in the court of law and finds special mention in the Citizen’s Report by Justice Lokur as well. The law says that if the police can provide an adequate reason for the delay in filing the FIR, then it cannot be used as a reason to dismiss the authenticity of the case. Now, let us look at that argument from a purely non-legal, logical perspective. There were hundreds of FIRs filed, thousands of pages of chargesheets and supplementary chargesheets prepared and uncountable evidence collected.

When a case is this vast, it is entirely possible that there would be some delay in some cases. However, without a legal and logical explanation, to a lay reader, the police and the prosecutors would seem lazy, irresponsible and almost complicit in letting the perpetrators walk free. It is perhaps the perception that the narrative would create which is being used as a weapon by those who want to ensure the rioters and Jihadis walk free with no consequence whatsoever. With the prosecutors, lawyers and police officials unable to comment on the record, the leftist and Jihadi ecosystem almost have a free run in tarnishing the narrative in their favour.

Had these Muslim rioters not been convicted, those following the Delhi Riots cases would also question the prosecutors as to why they failed at their job. They would be questioned about why they could not prove their case, why the evidence was not adequate and whether they are a part of the conspiracy to ensure Muslim perpetrators walk free.

I reached out to people who are directly involved in the Delhi Riots cases to understand how they deal with not just the pressure of a global ecosystem trying to deny the truth, but also the questions that come their way when the ecosystem scores a victory against them.

“It is never easy to try riot cases in the court of law. Prosecutors are often terribly short of resources, and while they work tirelessly, most others tasked with seeking justice move on with their lives and get busy with the thousands of cases that are pending. The police lose interest after a point and the witnesses simply refuse to testify because they don’t want to relive the trauma they faced during the violence. What we are left with often is fighting a battle with very few arrows in our quiver”, a lawyer said.

“The truth is that the government of India, the police and even the Judiciary does get affected by public discourse. There is no point denying it. Those who fight to free perpetrators have the world at their disposal to turn the discourse in their favour. We hardly have anything or anyone. Our greatest weapon is public memory and perhaps, it is our greatest weakness too because Hindus often forget their own plight”, he continued.

The lawyer is not wrong. Public perception and the pressure built, based on facts, do have a massive impact on how seriously the cases are taken up not just by investigating authorities and the government of India, but also by the judiciary. It has been three years since Delhi burnt. It has been three years since Ankit Sharma was pulled out of the drain and Dilbar Negi was burnt alive. It has been three years since Jihadis orchestrated a pogrom to “teach Kafirs a lesson”. While this time we remember the names of the victim, it remains to be seen if we will also remember to pursue the case to its logical conclusion.

If we as a collective let the memory of the Delhi anti-Hindu riots fade and if we as a collective get swayed by the daily outrage cycle, they will win. They will get away with murder. They will walk free – free to orchestrate another pogrom. This time, they could not wash away the memory of those we lost. The question is – will they get away with it simply because we have been conditioned to forget our own persecution?

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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