‘There was complete dereliction of duty by police’

Former East Delhi MP and Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit was among the first to visit the areas of north-east Delhi hit by communal violence two weeks ago. Excerpts:

You visited the violence-hit areas of north-east Delhi. What did you find there?

I was being told that this is some anti-CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act], pro-CAA supporters locally and people trying to muscle down the other. But on [February] 24, things suddenly started going wrong. So, I tried to contact my people and go there sometime in the evening. I found that some of the areas blocked so I quickly came back. On [February] 25 I randomly went from place to place; Muslim-dominated, Hindu-dominated, mixed population areas. There was a sense of panic and fear in both communities. There was some anger in the Hindu community; they had this sense that the protests [against the CAA] had gone on too long. Then came [BJP leader] Kapil Mishra speech. I think he used a platform where there were police people standing around him to give a very clear message as to who is with us.

What about the police role?

Initially, it was a case of masterly inactivity, followed by biased assistance towards one community. The police don’t have to wait for any order when there is a clear case of violation of law and order in front of you. They are duty-bound by their oath to intervene and that is something they just didn’t do. So either they were given explicit instructions not to do anything when things go bad or there was fear in them that they cannot retaliate against particular communities, because a government favours a particular community. But very clearly, it was complete dereliction of duty. You know, there are two huge Rapid Force [Rapid Action Force] camps [in the area and these men] could have been called within five minutes. So it was a case of dereliction of duty, but it literally turned into wilful abuse of law and neutrality.

In your view, where does the buck stop?

I think the first is the kind of a political atmosphere we have seen. Secondly, I would put it squarely on the [former] police commissioner. Amulya Patnaik has gone out dishonourably. It was a matter of two to three hours, one flag march, one lathi charge, a few tear gas shells in every area and things would have been completely normal.

What about the AAP government? They say the police do not fall under them.

If Aam Aadmi Party government [functionaries] had come out onto the streets, none of this would have happened. You have your SDMs [Sub-Divisional Magistrates] and your Collectors. If they had started moving in the area, none of this would have happened. If [Chief Minister] Arvind Kejriwal and others were travelling around in their cavalcade in these areas you really think police would have been inactive? Can the police remain inactive if the Chief Minister is travelling? Mr. Kejriwal knew that he had the Muslim vote with him and can probably play the role of a leader of both communities in his larger national ambitions. He is hunting with the hound and running with the hare. When you become too clever by half, this is what happens. Delhi was not a vote against communalism but a vote for free power, electricity. And many people misread that as him presenting some new kind of a secular hope.

It was a case of masterly inactivity, followed by biased assistance