Muslims in Delhi fear they will never see justice for religious riots in India

For a year, Irfan stayed in his house almost entirely, even afraid to leave. A Muslim living in northeast Delhi says his powerful Hindu neighbors, most of whom are from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are keeping a close eye on him. Unemployed and frightened, he whispered in fear of being “lost” at any moment.

“I sometimes take a safe route to get out of the house to see my lawyer,” said Irfan, who applied for a nickname for protection. “I know the BJP leaders and their The followers are behind me so I move around very carefully. I have to at least survive so that those who attacked me are brought to justice.

It was last week a year ago when Irfan’s life as a simple Muslim shopkeeper was broken: February 23, 2020, now called the first night of the Delhi riots.

For three days, sectarian violence erupted northeast of the Indian capital, the worst religious conflict in the city in four decades. Although both Hindus and Muslims were involved in the violence, it was mainly Muslims who fell victim to the violent Hindu right-wing mob roaming the neighborhoods. Many of those involved traveled from outside Delhi with guns, rods and explosives. Muslims were beaten, shot and buried in the streets, thousands of their shops and homes were attacked and at least four mosques were left in ruins. Of the 53 people killed in the violence, 40 were Muslims.

Irfan is also among those who are still fighting for justice. He was sheltering in his shop when a mob of about 150 people, including many of his Hindu neighbors, stormed out, pelted him with stones and armed him with guns and sticks. Irfan alleged that he was led by a local BJP leader who had a pistol on his head. He said the rioters chanted Hindu nationalist slogans and Muslim slogans when they looted his shop and then set it on fire with petrol bombs.

Irfan has been a member of the BJP for almost a decade, but living as a Muslim in a Hindu-majority area was not enough to protect him. Two days later, on February 25, when the neighborhoods around north-east Delhi were set on fire, the mob again targeted his house, this time allegedly led by Mohan Singh Bisht, a local BJP politician. Key, who Irfan says, threw a petrol bomb. Reached his house and led the crowd with the shout: “Kill everyone کٹ [kill all the circumcised Muslims]Several of Irfan’s neighbors have confirmed the account Observer.

February 24, 2020: Men beat 37-year-old Muhammad Zubair by a Muslim.
February 24, 2020: Pro-Hindu protesters beat 37-year-old Muhammad Zubair. Photo: Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Bisht called the allegations false. “There is no such case against me in any court in the country,” he said. “I was not present in Delhi during the riots. How can I have a case of violence?”

Nevertheless, this year, the police – which Irfan accused of being involved in the attacks – repeatedly prosecuted Bisht, other BJP leaders and some of his Hindu neighbors as criminals. Has refused to

Despite claiming to know the identity of the attackers, more than 25 Muslims in the neighborhood were also reportedly denied the right to file a case with the police.

He took his case to a lawyer, Mahmood Paracha, but Irfan is one of the few who was allegedly threatened by local BJP figures and police if he took the matter to court. If I stay, they threaten me with revenge. “I told them on condition that I would not take it back,” Irfan said.

Irfan’s case is not isolated. Hundreds of Muslim victims who have tried to file cases against their alleged Hindu attackers – often affiliated with the BJP – have spoken out against harassment and intimidation by Delhi Police who refused to register their cases. have done. In some cases, when victims went to police stations for identification and filed a case against the rioters, the police instead charged them or their families with rioting.

The Delhi Police, a Hindu force headed by Amit Shah, one of the hardline Hindu nationalist ministers in the BJP government, is under the Home Ministry.

Of the nearly 1,750 people arrested in connection with the riots, more than half are Muslims, although their communities have suffered disproportionately. Chargesheets filed by the Delhi Police name about 70% of Muslims as perpetrators of attacks, even when only Muslims were victims. Delhi Police did not respond to requests for comment.

On February 24, Syed Syed Zulfiqar, a light maker from Mohanpuri, was shot in the head when a local Hindu leader, whom he knew personally, opened fire on him during the violence. Zulfiqar said, “He pointed a gun at me and I heard him crying, ‘You are a Muslim, we will kill you’, and then he fired at me from a distance of about 20 meters. I was about to die. But when I went to the police station to file a case against this man, the police told me that they would only accept the report if I named my shooter anonymously. He alleged that the police later filed riot charges against his brother.

Muhammad Nasir Khan, a 35-year-old government employee who was shot in the eye and went blind after being shot by a mob of influential local Hindu men, is still unable to file a case. “I tried several times but it’s been a year and the police still refuse,” Khan said, weeping and wiping the wound where he once had an eye.

Instead, police filed a report on Khan’s case in June, in which several Muslims were blamed for the attack and four local Hindu Khans were shot dead without being named.

Paracha is a lawyer representing many of the victims, yet he has also been a target, and, in December, dozens of members of the Delhi Police Special Cell raided on forgery charges.

“Very few people dare to open their mouths because of the active role of the police in intimidating, attacking and intimidating the victims of the riots,” Paracha said. “Police have received some complaints from Muslim victims.” But only on the condition that they do not name any police officer or any member of the BJP. “

Mourning relatives of Hashim Ali, who died after being injured during the riots.
Relatives mourned Hashim Ali’s body near Khaki, who died after being injured during the riots. Photographer: Adnan Abidi / Reuters

“In most of the cases I am handling, the police have named the Muslims as the accused where they were actually the victims.”

In several bail hearings against the accused Muslims, the police have failed to present any evidence. At a hearing Previous WeekA judge has granted bail to three Muslims accused of shooting another Muslim, 25-year-old Shahid Alam, during the riots, on the grounds that it was “difficult” to imagine that a Muslim would kill other Muslims in a sectarian riot. ۔

Delhi Police has also been accused of shielding its own officers from making charges. Hundreds of eyewitnesses – in allegations confirmed by CCTV footage – accused the two of taking part in attacks on Muslims, allowing Hindu mobs to target innocent Muslims and watching thousands of painful adhans. Used to last year, Amnesty International released a detailed report On the role of Delhi Police in the riots. But so far no officer has been arrested or charged.

Instead, those who have felt the strength of the law since the riots are the ones who say their violence is over. There was no connection.

After Shah, the home minister told parliament that the riots were a “deep conspiracy”, with Delhi police cracking down on anyone involved in anti-government peaceful protests in the months leading up to the riots.

Activists, academics, women’s rights activists, students and ordinary citizens – who were described by government figures as “terrorists”, “traitors” and “jihadists” a week before the riots – were charged. He is conspiring to provoke sectarian riots in order to tarnish India’s image under strict terrorism laws.

The BJP government has been hailed by many as a turning point in crushing the democratic divide. “The riots in Delhi have been used by the police in the name of a false conspiracy to go after all the activists and anti-government protesters in Delhi for which there is no evidence.” Hate, in which several members have been arrested. “All of Delhi’s civil society is living in a world of fear.”

The Delhi Police chargesheet names several Hindu rioters and BJP leaders who were particularly absent, most notably local BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who addressed a rally in north-east Delhi on February 23. Had called on its followers to clean up Muslim protesters and “teach them a lesson”, which has led to large-scale riots.

Imam Muhammad Jalaluddin Al-Farqi Mosque, Delhi.
Muhammad Jalaluddin: After being almost beaten last year, the imam is now afraid to stay in Delhi. Photo: Sheikh Aziz-ur-Rehman

Mishra said that the police had thoroughly investigated and cleared it. Echoing the Delhi Police, he said the riots were “the result of a planned anti-national conspiracy by the protesters to hijack the country’s democracy and disrupt law and order.”

He denied information on the maximum number of Muslim casualties in the violence, but added: “Hitler died in World War II, but do we call him a victim? Just because the man died. This does not mean that they were victims. In any war or riot, more people could be killed on the one hand because most people were involved in the violence.

Mishra said he was working for communal harmony in northeast Delhi, but added: “My concern is that there is a deep hatred in the minds and hearts of the Muslim community through false propaganda.”

In riot-affected neighborhoods, the scars are still deep and visible. Dozens of houses are empty or locked for families fleeing their villages outside the capital, while neighborhoods are divided along sectarian lines.

Imam Muhammad Jalaluddin is seen sitting in the recently rebuilt Al-Farooqi Mosque on the outskirts of Mustafaabad. He was almost beaten by vandals at the mosque on February 25. Its jaw, which has been broken into three parts, is now constructed of steel plates and its face – completely torn in half – is sewn back together. Her fingers, made of steel pins, will no longer bend properly.

No charges have been filed against Jalaluddin’s attackers. He and the mosque’s president, Mohammad Fakhruddin, alleged that it was the police officers who fired tear gas at the mosque and beat the imams. It was also allegedly police officers who returned the next morning to destroy the CCTV evidence.

Jalaluddin said softly, “I find it very difficult to live in this mosque and sometimes I get flashbacks about what happened to me and I start shivering and breaking down in tears.”

“Next week, I will return to my village in Bihar and stay there,” he added. “I studied at a madrassa here since I was 10 years old and later became an imam. I loved the city. But after the violence that left me so close – and I was blessed by God. I’m sorry – I’m scared to stay here anymore. “

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