AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA: DELHI VIOLENCE AND ITS AFTERMATH – RECOMMENDATIONS OF A FACT FINDING MISSION

 18 March 2020

Hon’ble President of India,

Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi

Respected Rashtrapatiji ,

It is with deep anguish and concern that we, the members of the Constitutional Conduct Group (“CCG”)comprising former civil servants, write this letter to place before you some major issues in the aftermath of the widespread violence in North-East Delhi, which began on 23rd February 2020 and continued till 26th February 2020.

On 12th March 2020, eleven members of the CCG visited violence affected areas of North East Delhi including Shiv Vihar, Brijpuri and Mustafabad.

It is distressing that, even more than two weeks after the violence, the group did not see much evidence of any serious outreach by political parties to provide mental or physical support to victims of violence. There is no serious effort to re-establish much needed confidence building measures between communities.

The observations of the group which visited the affected areas are summarized below:

  1. In Aulia Masjid of Shiv Vihar, almost the entire building was found burnt and charred. A local resident pointed out that several cooking gas cylinders were thrown into the Masjid and set alight to ensure its total destruction. The building was saved by the fire brigade which responded to frantic distress calls from a member of the Hindu community. The group was informed that the miscreants were continuously shouting slogans like “Jai Shri Ram; Azadi dilate hain; Andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hain”. We were also informed that the electricity lines were deliberately cut and electricity meters were burnt, throwing the entire area into darkness and forcing the members of the Muslim community to run for survival in the ensuing violence, pandemonium and panic.
  2. In Brijpuri, the group visited Arun Public School owned by Mr. Bhisham Sharma, an ex-MLA, who claimed to have suffered a loss of ₹ 1.5 to 2.0 crores, with the school library burnt and most classrooms damaged. All the school records maintained over thirty years were also destroyed in the fire. The school has been quickly repaired and was being painted. There were children writing their examinations. We learnt that the fire brigade responded after a period of twelve hours and repeated calls to the police control room met with no response.
  3. The group visited Rajdhani Public Senior Secondary School, Shiv Vihar, but could not go inside as the gate was locked. From the outside it looked as if the school was badly damaged and several classrooms were burnt. The owner of the school, Mr Faisal Farooq, has recently been arrested by the police.
  4. The group also visited the Eidgah Relief Camp set up by Delhi Waqf Board. It has given refuge to approximately 1200 displaced Muslims, including women and children, who fled their homes after the violence. There was no medical facility provided by the Delhi Government. An NGO, Doctors Unity Welfare Association (a private NGO), has set up a stall which was manned by four MBBS doctors. It was well stocked with medicines for treatment of common ailments like fever, diarrhoea, hypertension, diabetes, wounds, schizophrenia etc.

Two severely disabled women met members of the group and pointed out that they did not have access to a toilet, both of them being unable to walk. However, the Eidgah authorities and officials of the Delhi Waqf Board said that toilets cannot be provided within the premises of the Eidgah, as it is a place of worship. This highlights both the ignorance and complete lack of sensitivity of the members of the Delhi Waqf Board and the Eidgah towards the women and the disabled from amongst those affected.

The group met several displaced families from Karawal Nagar whose houses were looted or burnt. They informed that they were rescued by paramilitary forces on 26th February 2020. Some of them showed handwritten complaints given to the police which bore the daily diary entry number from the police station. Some others mentioned that online FIRs filed by them are not being accepted for payment of compensation. Some of these people, who are tenants, informed that they would like to go back to their villages/towns in UP etc. while others, who own houses, informed that they would like to go back to their houses, provided they are assured of their security and are given assistance to rebuild their damaged properties.

There was a police camp at Eidgah where two police constables, including a lady constable, were helping those who wanted to lodge their complaints. There was a camp set up by the District Legal Services Authority, where legal help was being offered. However, we consistently found that people were too scared to name the persons who may have indulged in violence.

It was heartening to visit the stall set up by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Several young children, 4-10 years old, were being read stories by volunteers.

5. The group visited the car garage belonging to Mr. Virender Singh. There were some 40 vehicles lying completely burnt. It was pointed out that the garage was used by both Muslims and Hindus to park their cars on payment basis.

6. The group visited Madina Masjid located in a bye-lane in Shiv Vihar. The Masjid was badly damaged and burnt. One LPG cylinder was still lying on the ground floor of the building. Several twisted ceiling fans showed the extent of destruction and the precision of the violence.

7. In some houses near the Madina Masjid, there were several motorcycles, dragged inside by rioters and burnt. Several houses were completely destroyed and burnt beyond repair with fallen girders. The residents informed that they had run away from their homes.

8. The group learnt that there were several instances of Hindus protecting and sheltering their Muslim neighbours, some for several days. Similarly, Muslims have stood guard to protect the temples and Hindu neighbours of the area. There is no instance of damage to a single Hindu temple. However, we were told that in some cases, the neighbours facilitated identification of Muslim houses and properties

The visit revealed that though there were some properties owned by Hindus which were damaged and burnt as well, there were a much larger number of properties and houses owned by Muslims which were looted, burnt and badly damaged. The group did not see any camp for Hindus displaced from their homes.

The general impression the group gathered was that on 23rd February 2020, miscreants and rioters from both Muslim and Hindu communities fought pitched battles and damaged properties of the other community. On 24th and 25th  February 2020, however, the rioting seemed to have become well organized with rioters seen wearing helmets and bearing sharp weapons, targeting the homes and businesses of Muslims.

The group is appalled that the Police Commissioner, Delhi failed to mobilise adequate force and did not impose curfew and issue shoot at sight orders. Much of the arson, damage and deaths could have been prevented had the Police Commissioner exercised his duty to maintain law and order on the very first day of violence on 23rd February. He could have imposed curfew and ordered firing on any mob indulging in violence and arson. We hope that he was not waiting for instructions from anyone as he had all the powers under the Criminal Procedure Code to bring the situation under control. It was due to this failure that so many lives were lost and the incident is being referred to as a pogrom.

Recommendations:

  1. If such violence has to be prevented from erupting in other places, the Government must come down with a heavy hand on hate speech. Several politicians and the electronic and social media have been spreading hatred amongst communities but the Government has taken hardly any action to check this. The dissemination of such acts through print and electronic media also needs to be checked to prevent inter-communal hatred. In future, the failure to check hate speeches will be the cause of any communal violence. If the idea of India has to be saved, hate speech has to be stopped forthwith.
  2. In the past, in several incidents of communal violence, senior officers responsible for law and order have got away scot free and very junior officers were punished. We request the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court to enquire into the present incidents. The Commission should be specifically authorised to look into the failures of the administrative leadership of the Lieutenant Governor and Police Commissioner of Delhi.It should also be mandated to inquire into the role of hate speech by political leaders and electronic and social media in dividing communities, spreading hatred and setting them against each other. The other Terms of Reference of the Commission should include fixing responsibility on politicians who incited violence and police officers who failed to perform their duty in checking the same. The guilty must be expeditiously punished so that it acts as a deterrent for the future.
  3. The attitude and conduct of the Delhi Police during the build-up of tension over the CAA-NPR-NRC protests and the outbreak of violence in North East Delhi has once again underscored the urgency of correcting the institutional bias of the force. Even after the violence ended, the Delhi Police is not seen as neutral.  In the immediate term, a programme of retraining of police personnel at all levels should be designed to rid them of their deep-seated prejudices against the minorities and other disadvantaged sections of society, and to develop empathy and compassion towards human suffering. In the medium term, concerted efforts need to be made to rectify the skewed representation of Muslims, women and other poorly represented demographies in the police force through special recruitment drives. A diverse and pluralist police force is necessary to ensure an effective and humane response to communal tension and violence.
  4. The Delhi government is distributing relief to families affected by violence. There are several NGOs who are keen to help the victims in relief and rehabilitation but there is no coordination and supervision of their activities. We suggest that the Delhi government should set up a well-staffed committee for relief and rehabilitation, headed by a Secretary level officer and including officers from the departments of revenue, relief, women and child welfare, waqf board and education to coordinate relief measures. Officers having experience in cyclone and flood relief could also be drafted to contribute to this effort.
  5. We had thought that after repeated instances of violence over the past four decades, there would be no repetition of targeted violence, complicity of the police and lack of empathy of the state in relief and rehabilitation of victims. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself in 2020, that too in the capital of the country. It must be ensured by the Union and State Governments that strong preventive and deterrent action is taken in the first few hours of any such violence. Police Training Institutes must impress on their officers that they do not need any direction from their political masters for doing everything possible to prevent violence.
  6. Several Commissions of Enquiry have investigated various communal riots since independence. The entire police force, from the constabulary to the IPS officers, must be made fully conversant with the findings of these reports as they highlight the failings of local administration. In such training programmes, success stories of police in preventing such violence must also be highlighted, as several conscientious officers have, in the past, successfully prevented violence in their jurisdictions even while other areas experienced huge loss of life and property.
  7. The Government of India and the Delhi Government must take all measures necessary to mitigate the sufferings of the population of North East Delhi. In particular, the Government of India should expedite the enquiry into the incidents and fix responsibility and take action against those personnel of the Delhi Police guilty of inaction, instigation of and/or participation in the violence.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours sincerely,

Constitutional Conduct Group (89 signatories, as below)

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2. Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
4. Anand Arni R&AW (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5. J.L. Bajaj IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Administrative Reforms and Decentralisation Commission, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
6. N. Bala Baskar IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (Finance), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
7. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
8. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
9. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
10. Sushant Baliga Engineering Services (Retd.) Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI
11. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
12. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
13. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former Commissioner of Police, Pune, Govt. of Maharashtra
14. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
15. Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
16. Tishyarakshit Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Environment & Forests, GoI
17. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
18. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
19. Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
20. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
21. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
22. Nareshwar Dayal IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
23. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
24. Nitin Desai IES (Retd.) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
25. Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
26. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
27. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
28. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
29. Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
30. Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
31. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
32. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
33. S. Gopal IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, GoI
34. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
35. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
36. Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
37. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner

 

38. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)  
39. Sajjad Hassan IAS (Retd.) Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur
40. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
41. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
42. Ajai Kumar Indian Forest Service (Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
43. Arun Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, GoI
44. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
45. Aloke B. Lal IPS (Retd.) Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand
46. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
47. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
48. Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
49. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
50. Dalip Mehta IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary to GoI & Dean, Foreign Service Institute
51. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
52. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
53. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
54. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
55. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
56. Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay IAS (Retd.) Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
57. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
58. P.G.J. Nampoothiri IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat
59. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
60. P.A. Nazareth IFS (Retd.) GoI
61. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
62. Niranjan Pant IA&AS (Retd.) Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
63. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI

 

64. R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
65. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
66. C. Babu Rajeev IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI
67. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
68. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)  
69. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
70. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
71. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
72. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
73. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
74. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
75. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
76. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
77. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
78. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
79. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
80. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
81. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
82. Jawhar Sircar IAS (Retd.)

 

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
83. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
84. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
85. Thanksy Thekkekera IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
86. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
87. Geetha Thoopal IRAS (Retd.) Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
88. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
89. Ramani Venkatesan

 

IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

One thought on “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA: DELHI VIOLENCE AND ITS AFTERMATH – RECOMMENDATIONS OF A FACT FINDING MISSION

  1. Girdhar Rathi

    Let us hope the definitive observations and recommendations of seasoned,sensitive,responsible and conscientious administrators of our country,shall Not be brushed aside by those who have been chosen to uphold the constitutional morality,by a significant proportion of 130 crore Indians.

    On Wed, 18 Mar 2020, 17:20 Constitutional Conduct, wrote:

    > constitutionalconduct posted: ” 18 March 2020 Hon’ble President of India, > Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi Respected Rashtrapatiji , It is with deep > anguish and concern that we, the members of the Constitutional Conduct > Group (“CCG”)comprising former civil servants, write this” >

    Like

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