Abdul Ghaffar: A lawyer fighting close to 50 Delhi riot cases

40-year-old criminal lawyer Abdul Ghaffar is fighting around 50 cases related to the Delhi riots that took place in February. Almost for half of the cases he is not charging any fees. Ghaffar has raised questions over the investigations and arrests in the Delhi riots, claiming that there is an attempt to set up a concocted narrative by the police.

Delhi riots in February reminded Ghaffar of the Muzaffarnagar communal riot that took place seven years ago during which Ghaffar’s elderly uncle was killed by a mob. Ghaffar recalled that when the village sarpanch, who is Hindu, rushed over and moved his family to his  house before the mob arrived, his septuagenarian uncle stayed in the house itself as he was confident that no one will harm him ‘I have raised all these boys’ he had said. But his trust was broken when the mob entered the house, and hacked him into four or five pieces. He says if the death of his maternal uncle stays with him till today, so do the actions of the Hindu village chief who saved his family from the mob. If most of his clients are Muslim, half the junior lawyers working with him are Hindu.

Ghaffar studied law at DAV College in Muzaffarnagar. Expressing surprise over investigating agency trying to set an anti-Muslim narrative, he pointed out that the role of the investigating agency is limited to collecting and producing evidence before the court. He said that for the first time, he’s witnessing an investigating agency giving its own hypothesis, personal opinion, making assumptions, and trying to set a narrative.

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Ghaffar deplored that the police linked the February riots to the preceding months of largely peaceful protests by those opposed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

While the police arrested several activists and students who opposed the CAA, the representatives of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who incited crowds and policemen filmed assaulting protestors and destroying property on camera are yet to be brought to account.

Ghaffar said in dozens of chargesheets pertaining to the Delhi riots he noticed the “narrative” linking the riots to the anti-CAA protests in Delhi, with no direct evidence. He felt that the focus of the investigating agency has been to set a narrative that the people who organised the anti-CAA protests are behind the riots.

Ghaffar opines that the reason we are still having communal riots in the 21st century is a low conviction rate. And behind the low conviction rate, is an unfair and improper investigation.

Of the 50 Delhi riot cases Ghaffar is defending, 40% of them are pro bono (free). He has applied for bail for 100 clients and got bail in over 90% of them. Whether the client is paying a fee or it is pro-bono, Ghaffar treats them the same, because he says “A life is a life”.

Ghaffar, who is appearing before 15 judges, feels that judges in the Indian judiciary have a lot of discretionary powers. 

After the coronavirus pandemic Ghaffar is attending online hearings. But he misses the energy he felt when he used to be in court. Working long hours from home is taking a toll on his health. Ghaffar went into depression when his wife and children fell sick during COVID times. Even though they tested negative for Covid-19, waiting for the results was stressful. While his family members were locked up in different rooms, Ghaffar said he was running between the stove and his laptop. Huffington Post reported.

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