Two years after deadly riots shook the Indian capital, Muslim victims of the upheaval and their families say they still await justice.
The worst communal riots in decades erupted when then-US President Donald Trump arrived in New Delhi on Feb. 23. The riots lasted until Feb. 27, resulting in the deaths of over 50 people, mostly Muslims, and over 250 injured.
Even as investigations continue into cases registered by the Delhi Police, including many that have reached the courts in the Indian capital, victims call for the punishment of those allegedly guilty of the violence.
A fact-finding report by the Delhi Minorities Commission had said the riots were “well-planned.” The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, has since rejected the report.
Nasir Ali Khan, 36, took a bullet to his left eye during the riots. He told Anadolu Agency that he got a compensation of 200,000 Indian rupees (roughly $2,700) from the government but is yet to see those responsible get punishment.
“I was near my home when I was attacked by the group and my eye got hurt. My life has turned upside down. After two years, I’m yet to see the attackers getting severe punishment,” said Khan.
Even after this long period, Khan said he maintains his demand, so his attackers do not subject anyone else to such an assault again.
“First, my complaint was registered after much struggle. Then, police filed a case on their own statement which had a different version of events,” said Khan. “I hope they’re punished severely for their crime.”
Sahil Parvez, whose father died in the riots, told Anadolu Agency that most of the accused named in the case were now out of jail on bail.
“I had given 19 names in the case. Sixteen were arrested and they came out of jail very soon as if they committed a small crime,” he said.
Parvez asserted that “even if they give a huge compensation to our family, I won’t back down on my father,” whom he said was shot dead near his home.
The hearings on the case continue, as does the people’s fear, according to Parvez. “The Indian Constitution says that if someone performs a crime, he will be punished. In our case, our father was killed. We want to be given justice,” he said.
One of the accused in the case is now eyeing a ticket in the municipal polls due in the next few months. “Imagine the accused getting a ticket tomorrow and they win, as well. What would they do to us,” said Parvez.
Two years after the riots, 758 cases registered for investigation remain open.
Last month, police submitted to the Delhi High Court that around half of these cases were still pending investigation, while trials have been commenced for only at least a quarter in which police filed charges.
Out of the 758 total cases, 384 are pending investigation and charge sheets have been filed for 367, the data indicated.
Legal experts say that more steps need to be taken at the court level to ensure justice is delivered to the riot victims.
M.R. Shamshad, the advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court who headed the 10-member fact-finding committee, said the court would need to take more active measures to speed up the process.
“These are the two levels of the whole process: One at the police level, another at the court level. At the police level, in many serious cases, charge sheets are yet to be filled. In many cases, proper FIRs (first information reports) haven’t been registered and litigants are contesting,” he explained, speaking to Anadolu Agency.
First information reports are documents prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of an offense.
The courts ought to have taken a more proactive role, said Shamshad, adding that more efficient steps needed to be taken.
“If the police are not placing lawful evidence on record against the accused, and FIRs are clubbed arbitrarily on their own whims and fancies, something serious needs to be done against their inaction and wrongful action as well,” he said.