Pandemic response helped us repair relations with the community, say Delhi Police
New Delhi: While many residents of north-east Delhi have said that they have lost trust in the police in the one year since the riots — trust that they believe never can be re-established, the Delhi Police maintain that their unflinching and widespread response during the COVID-19 pandemic had helped them repair their relationship with the community to a large extent and the fact that "no communal tension has been reported" in the area since is a testament to their free and fair investigation of the riots.
"We helped every people from different communities. They were provided with food, medicines and other important items during the lockdown," senior officials told Millennium Post, who went on to add that it was a time when the role of the police completely changed and they helped people going beyond their duties. "It is an achievement for us. Trust of residents increased," they claimed.
The Delhi Police have said this has been possible due to the fairness during and after riots, heavy police presence in the area, continuous dialogue with communities, peace committee meetings and various community outreach programmes. "Moreover, even as the district remained engaged with the investigation of riots, massive efforts were made to contain street crime," the Delhi Police said.
Another senior official said that while a large part of the force was invested in probing the riots, the focus for local police was to make sure there was no breakdown of dialogue among both communities and the police. "We ensured that there is no break up in dialogues with all communities," the official said. After riots, various religious programmes have been held peacefully and before each of these, the police held meetings with religious leaders to ensure no problem arises.
The Delhi Police said that about 471 Peace Committee Meetings have been conducted since the riots ended. "North-East district Police is also facilitating the victims or submissions of forms for their claims (for compensation), about the damage of properties and injuries. As of date, 2,599 forms have been submitted before the riots claim commission," one official said.
The then Deputy Commissioner of Police (North East) Ved Prakash Surya said they saved many lives during the north-east Delhi riots and during COVID 19, they helped people from different communities. "Due to our efforts, the trust of people in us has increased and we are continuously working for their safety," he said.
Significantly, Surya was infamously seen in a communally charged speech by BJP leader Kapil Mishra, hours before the riots. He was, one week ago transferred from the north-east district to the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Meanwhile, beat officers in the North East district were asked to maintain a continuous presence in the area so that people can feel safe by seeing police personnel in their area.
"Whilst normalcy was being restored, the police leadership decided that every possible incident of riot shall be individually registered and complainants, victims of all sections of the society shall be encouraged to come forth to narrate their grievances so that effective investigations can be taken up," the police have said.
Special camps were organised to facilitate the registration of offences and Crime Branch teams were deployed to assist the local police in ensuring registration of all prima facie verified complaints. Each and every PCR call received for the duration of the riots was accounted for, they claimed.
"Every rank at the Police Headquarters concerned with the administration of law and order was pressed in their respective capacities to hear out the complainants and to ensure fair and impartial registration and investigation," the police added.
The number of cases registered in the north-east Delhi riots is the highest ever in comparison to all previous riots reported in Delhi — even higher than those registered for the infamous 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
A slew of police officers across ranks, who spoke to this newspaper, said that they consider it to be one of their greatest achievements that since the riots in February last year, they have managed to prevent any communal tension from flaring up in the area. "It has been a long time since the riots, there is no case of communal tension in the district. We have focussed on public-oriented policing," one of the officials said.
"As of now, investigation of the riot cases is in full swing. All possible efforts are being made to solve the unsolved riot cases, besides taking the on-going investigation to a logical conclusion in a time-bound manner," the police said.
This the seventh part in Millennium Post's series on the one year since the north-east Delhi riots.
This Millennium Post series reports stories that highlight the nuances of how the north-east district has changed, what level of distrust has been sown into the community, how policing has changed in the area, how or whether the victims are coping, the problems they are facing with the criminal justice system and the problems police, prosecutors and defence lawyers are having to deal with in courts -- One year after the north-east Delhi riots that killed at least 53 people and injured nearly 600 others.