As the Delhi government and law enforcement authorities made efforts to pick up the pieces in the wake of the violence in the National Capital’s northeast district on Thursday, BJP leader Kapil Mishra, whose ‘ultimatum’ comment was allegedly the catalyst for three days of riots, remained defiant and blamed sustained protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for the violence.
Addressing a press conference, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced an ex-gratia sum of Rs 1 lakh and a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the families of the deceased as the toll in the violence rose to 38 on Thursday, with at least 200 injured.
Announcing a slew of measures, he also said that the government will bear the cost of treatment of those injured in the violence and are admitted to private hospitals under the government’s ‘Farishte’ scheme.
When asked about the alleged involvement of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain in the riots and in the killing of an Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma, Kejriwal stated that every rioter should be punished, irrespective of the party.
“If those involved in the riots are found to be from the AAP, give them double punishment,” Kejriwal said. He also insisted that the issue of security should not be politicised.
On Thursday, reports emerged saying that bits of broken bricks and glass was found on the terrace of the AAP councillor’s home. Later in the day, he was booked on charges of murder and arson. Hussain, however, has denied involvement in the killing and called the allegations against him “baseless”.
On the other hand, Mishra, who is being criticised for his alleged hate speech against a particular community, sought to pin the responsibility for the riots on the anti-CAA protesters. Speaking to reporters at an event on Thursday, Mishra alleged that the sustained, nationwide protests had been “violent from the beginning”.
“Some people are creating hatred against police. These include leaders and activists. This violence should end. This selective silence should end. This is false secularism and false liberalism,” he added.
Mishra further defended his statement on 23 February in which he demanded that Delhi Police clear the road of a day-old anti-CAA protest in the Jaffrabad area of the district. He had given the police an “ultimatum” of getting it done in three days.
On Thursday, also referring to the allegations against Hussain, he said, “No question is being asked to people who are talking about dividing country or those on whose terrace petrol bombs were found. But someone who only requested for road to be cleared as it was causing inconvenience to 35 lakh people is being called a terrorist.”
“There was nothing inciting in my statement. I was talking to a police officer that the road be cleared. If you call those blocking the road as ‘agitators’ and those asking to clear it as ‘terrorists’, it shows your bias. I don’t want to comment on a sub-judice matter,” he said.
Arvind Kejriwal announces relief measures for victims of Delhi violence
Kejriwal listed out several peace and rehabilitation measures in a press conference on Thursday. Kejriwal also said an immediate relief of Rs 25,000 would be given to those whose houses have been burnt, while the government would also provide free books and uniforms to students who have lost them to the riot.
The violence mainly hit the northeast Delhi, and localities such as Jafrabad, Maujpur, Babarpur, Yamuna Vihar, Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Shiv Vihar are among the areas majorly affected.
Kejriwal said the Delhi government will bear the cost of treatment of those injured in the violence and have been admitted to private hospitals. The families who lost any minor member would get Rs 5 lakh as ex gratia, while those seriously injured will get Rs 2 lakh, he said.
Those who have suffered minor injuries will get Rs 20,000, and the orphaned children will get Rs 3 lakh, he announced, adding special camps will be set up for people to get essential documents they lost in the arson. He said that round-the-clock helpline numbers for riot-affected people will also be set up and four night magistrates have been deployed to coordinate relief and rehabilitation activities.
Delhi HC gives Centre 4 weeks to reply on plea seeking FIRs against BJP leaders
A day after Delhi High Court Justices J Muralidhar and Talwant Singh expressed “anguish” over the Delhi Police’s failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, and Mishra, a bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel hearing the case on Thursday took a lenient stance by making the Centre a party in the PIL and giving it four weeks to file its reply.
On Wednesday, the court had pulled up the security force for the lack of FIRs over the hate speeches and asked Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik to take a “conscious decision” on it by Thursday. Justice Muralidhar was transferred late on Wednesday evening to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, days after the Supreme Court collegium had made the recommendation.
On Thursday, the bench, also comprising Justice C Hari Shankar, said that “looking at the complexity of the situation”, the Central Government was seeking more time to file a reply to the plea.
When the arguments commenced post-lunch on Thursday before the new bench, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta at the outset said some of the alleged hate speeches in question were three weeks to more than a month old and yet instead of waiting for one more day the matter was mentioned by the petitioners before the bench headed by Justice Muralidhar on the ground that there was “great urgency”.
Mehta said the petitioners could have waited for one more day as the matter was listed for hearing before the Chief Justice’s bench on Thursday. The SG said that everyone was trying to restore normalcy in the National Capital and urged the court not to intervene at this stage as it would not be conducive to maintaining law and order in the city.
He further said: “Considering the prevailing situation, it is the considered opinion of the police authorities that any decision at this juncture may not be conducive for restoration of normalcy. The decision (on lodging of FIR) will be taken at an appropriate stage in accordance with law.”
The SG also submitted that the authorities have examined all the audio/video clips and other material including that on Twitter and “after having carefully considered all these materials, a conscious decision is taken to defer the decision on the question (of lodging FIR)”.
Mehta had insisted for the registering of FIRs to be postponed in the hearing on Wednesday also, but the court had insisted that the Delhi Police make an informed decision at the earliest.
Two SITs formed to probe Delhi violence cases
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police Thursday transferred northeast Delhi riots probe to the crime branch. The cases will be probed by two Special Investigation Teams (SITs), officials said on Thursday. The police has so far filed 48 FIRs.
The teams will be headed by Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP) Joy Tirkey and Rajesh Deo. The teams will have four Assistant Commissioner of Police-rank officers each and the probe will be supervised by Additional Commissioner of Police BK Singh.
Four days after the spate of violence began, the Delhi Police on Thursday said that the situation is normal and no untoward incident was witnessed from northeast Delhi where violence erupted on 23 February.
“Situation is normal. No incident took place today. Adequate forces have been deployed. Forty-eight FIRs registered so far, more FIRs are being registered as we are getting more information. Three hundred and fifty Aman (peace) committee meetings have been held so far,” Delhi Police PRO MS Randhawa told reporters.
“We will address all the individual cases. An investigation is going on. We have multiple clips of footage. As the investigation progresses in all the cases, we will share the details. We are investigating from all angles,” said Randhawa.
Police was apathetic, says SAD MP in letter to Amit Shah
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP Naresh Gujral wrote a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah accusing the Delhi Police of inaction and apathy when he called for assistance for acquaintances during the violence that broke out in northeast Delhi this week. The letter was also addressed to the Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik.
“Last night, at around 11.30 pm, I received a desperate call from an acquaintance that he and 15 other Muslims were trapped in a house near Gonda Chowk in Maufpur, and that the mob outside was trying to break into the premises,” he said in the letter, adding that he called the police helpline and “explained the urgency of the situation”.
“However, much to my disappointment, no action was taken on my complaint and those 16 individuals received no assistance whatsoever from the Delhi Police. If this is the situation when a Member of Parliament makes a complaint personally, it is not surprising that certain parts of Delhi continue to burn while the police stands by apathetically,” he concluded.
Gujral likened the police’s inaction during the northeast Delhi violence to that in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the letter.
Congress meets President Ram Nath Kovind over Delhi violence
Accusing Home Minister Amit Shah of “abdication of duty” during the communal violence in Delhi, a Congress delegation led by party chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday urged President Ram Nath Kovind to call for his resignation and remind the Centre of its “raj dharma“.
Reading out parts of the memorandum that the party submitted to the president, Sonia said both the Delhi government and the Centre remained “mute spectators” instead of trying to take remedial measures to control the situation.
“We call upon you and the constitutional office you hold, that the life, liberty and property of the citizens is preserved, secured and protected. You should immediately call for the removal of the home minister given the gross ineptitude, abdication of duty and his inability to contain the situation.
“We owe this to the citizens who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihood and most of all their long cherished amity and brotherhood. We hope you will take decisive action on this matter,” she told the media outside Rashtrapati Bhavan after meeting the president.
With inputs from agencies
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