Activists ask Delhi police to lay off ‘coerced confessions’ over riots

Four chargesheets filed on the riots case showed identical confessional statements by different witnesses.

New Delhi: Four chargesheets filed on the riots case show identical confessional statements by different witnesses. On Friday, over a 1,000 activists, in a press conference, issued statement asking Delhi police to stop the unacceptable act of documenting such “coerced confessions and manufactured evidence”.

They also cited a recent letter from rights activist and former JNU student Umar Khalid to police commissioner S.N. Srivastava, The Telegraph India said. The letter said an acquaintance of Umar’s had been told to give a statement that Umar had called for blocking roads during the riots.

Khalid, named in an FIR on the Delhi riots, told a news conference in New Delhi on Friday: “Thirty seconds — in which I called for protests against the CAA — of a 17-minute speech of mine in Amaravati was first tweeted by the BJP’s Amit Malviya, then telecast by channels, and then used by the police to claim that I had called for riots…. Had they shown the full speech, the people would know that I said that the only two weapons we have are those that Gandhi gave us — ahimsa and satyagraha.”

The Telegraph India posted the citizen’s statement:

“We are gravely concerned that Dr Umar Khalid, a young scholar, already vilified and targeted relentlessly by a section of the media, is now being implicated in riots cases on the basis of manufactured evidence.

Umar Khalid is not above the law, and must support any police investigation. But when the process of law is sought to be short-circuited and undermined, then any citizen’s liberty is gravely threatened.

We seek an urgent assurance from the Delhi police commissionerate that practices like extorting ‘confessions’ to manufacture evidence will be immediately ended; that those who indulge in them will be held accountable; and that no action will be taken against Umar Khalid or anyone else on the basis of these so-called confessions and fabricated evidence.

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Even these coerced confessional statements do not make for UAPA offences, and invoking this law appears to be done without application of mind to give acts the colour of a conspiracy against the state. We ask the police to drop the application of UAPA in all these cases.”

The signatories

Among the citizens who signed the statement are academics Ramachandra Guha, Zoya Hasan, Partha Chatterjee, Jayati Ghosh, Poonam Batra, Nivedita Menon and Sucharita Sen; former civil servants Jawhar Sircar, Wajahat Habibullah, Madhu Bhaduri, Deb Mukherjee, Amitabha Pande, Sundar Burra and Aditi Mehta; filmmaker Aparna Sen and former governor Margaret Alva.

Former bureaucrat Harsh Mander and political activist, academic Apoorvanand Jha and student leader Kawalpreet Kaur, who are being probed for their alleged role in the riots, addressed the news conference along with Khalid on Friday.

They condemned what they called a police witch-hunt against those who spoke up for the riot victims or criticised the “discriminatory” Citizenship Amendment Act and related laws.

WhatsApp groups

“During the protests, some WhatsApp groups were made. Now every word exchanged in these groups is being examined with a defective microscope by the police, their meaning and context deliberately and mischievously misinterpreted, the truth ripped into shreds and re-imagined to create the mythology of a conspiracy of hate, violence and insurrection,” said Mander, a social activist who was an IAS officer.

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“There were significantly other WhatsApp groups that were indeed actively calling for violence on those dates; none of these are being subject to any investigation of a conspiracy.”

The conspiracy

Yadav responded to Union home minister Amit Shah’s statement who had called the riots a pre-planned conspiracy after initially calling them spontaneous.

Yadav asked: “Is this an investigation into a ‘conspiracy’ or is the investigation itself a conspiracy? Is the entire just a façade to arrive at premeditated conclusions already announced before the investigation had even commenced?”

Yadav asked: Why has the police had not taken note of reports against BJP leaders Satya Pal Singh, Jagdish Pradhan, Nand Kishore Gujjar, Mohan Singh Bisht and Kapil Mishra or Right-wing social media sensation Ragini Tiwari. Mishra has been accused by the Delhi Minorities Commission and others of inciting the riots.

Yadav further asked: Why the police had not identified the cops who had beaten a youth named Faizan while forcing him to sing the national anthem. Faizan later died.

Kawalpreet Kaur, Delhi president of the CPIML Liberation-backed All India Students’ Association, said: “The impunity granted to the supporters of the ruling dispensation in the clear incitement to violence seems to be a repeat of the impunity that the Delhi police have provided over decades to the political leaders who were involved in inciting and participating in the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide.

“However, this time, the Delhi police seem to have gone one step ahead and, while providing impunity to the netas, they have started targeting the students and activists who have been critical of the regime.”

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