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'Crippled' police fail to act in Delhi riots, says former cop

In an interview Rai, retired police officer, author said politics behind the failure of police to act against rioters

Ahmad Adil   | 26.02.2020
'Crippled' police fail to act in Delhi riots, says former cop


A veteran Indian police officer blamed that the police failed to control the communal violence in the country's capital because of political interference. 

At least 24 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in the deadliest violence, which broke out on Sunday between protesters for and against a controversial citizenship law in North East Delhi.

"I can say the police have failed to control the situation. Because of political interference, maybe Delhi Police was not acting or making the decision," said Vibhuti Narain Rai, a retired Indian police officer.

Rai, 68, has conducted an extensive study on the neutrality of police during communal riots in India. During his study, Rai had found that the relationship between the police and Muslims was inimical.

The former senior police officer, who served in many sensitive districts and handled riots as a superintendent of police over three decades, has also authored a fiction in the Hindi language entitled Shahar Mein Curfew (Curfew in the City). The story of the novel centers around a communal riot between Hindus and Muslims.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Rai discussed the current communal situation in the Indian capital Delhi and the failure of police to quell riots at an early stage.  

Anadolu Agency: The communal riots have taken place in the Indian capital city of Delhi and that too when the U.S. President Donald Trump was in town. What led to the situation?

Vibhuti Narain Rai (VNR): Unfortunately, such a thing has happened in the national capital. It should not have happened. Police are supposed to be professionals. Police in Delhi in terms of numbers and training is the best. They are better equipped than other state police forces. This [riots] should not have happened.Q: Some political leaders gave provocative statements. Do you believe that they were the trigger to cause riots?

VNR: These provocative statements were very unfortunate and they have certainly contributed to worsening the situation further.   

Q: What was the reason, that one of the best and better-equipped police forces that are Delhi Police failed to contain the situation? There are even many disturbing reports that they took sides.

VNR: Without any doubt, I can say the police have failed to control the situation. Because of political interference, maybe Delhi Police was not acting or making the decision. Decisions were taken by the Home Ministry and they were politically motivated. Like we saw in Shaheen Bagh, where protests against new citizenship law were going on, half of the roads were blocked and it was allowed to continue. Nowhere in the world, you will allow blocking the roads during the protest. They [people] had every right to protest but they cannot curtail the right of the commuters. Delhi police were not taking any action because of elections in Delhi. Delhi Police, I personally feel was totally crippled and they were not able to decide on their own. 

Police not acting in secular way

Q: Since you have supervised various communally sensitive districts, what should be done to bring peace in Delhi?

VNR: I guess people should not believe in rumors. It is in the interest of both communities to stay peaceful. The matter of citizenship law is pending before the Supreme Court. Let the court decide it. In a democracy, one has the right to protest, but only up to a certain extent. If one thinks that protests are taking a violent turn, one should avoid it.  

Q: What are the normal causes of rioting and the role of police during the rioting since you have also studied riots?

VNR: There are many reasons. At times we find the police are not acting in a secular way. There are 1000 years of shared history between Hindus and Muslims. The Partition in 1947, division of region between India and Pakistan affected their relations because it recognized the Hindus and Muslims as two separate nations and that they cannot live together. Though Indian leadership has rejected this polarization in 1947, when the constitution was made, Muslims were given equal rights. But those memories still linger. 

Q: What are the ways to make police better and impartial?

VNR: Better training, accountability and better recruitment process are some of the ways. I have always recommended that in the case of law and order situations and communal situations, police officers who are responsible should be held accountable if something goes wrong. 

Q: Do you think Hindu and Muslim communities will be able to live together in Delhi after these riots?

VNR: Scars are hard to disappear. But Hindus and Muslims have learned how to live together despite such skirmishes. After a few months, they will forget. Both communities are interdependent. I am hopeful they will live together. 

Q: How do you see the on-going situation in the national capital?

VNR: Now, the situation appears to be under control. Whatever I have been watching on media, I personally can say worst is over now. Why I think like this because U.S. President Donald Trump was here and most of the security was busy during his visit. Since the visit is over, they are now looking at this situation and also additional forces have been deployed.

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