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Delhi Riots Fact Finding Report: Police used 'Azadi' slogan to sexually assault women

At least 55 people died and property, including homes, shops and 22 places of worship, were destroyed during the riots, the report said

Friday July 17, 2020 7:55 PM, IANS

Delhi Riots Fact Finding Report

New Delhi: Months after deadly riots broke out in the northeastern district of the national capital, a report from the Delhi Minorities Commission has brought a fresh twist to the whole story, claiming that "the police used chants of 'Azadi' to sexually harass women and attack them"

"While the slogans of 'Azadi' (a cry for freedom from the discriminatory laws and practices) were used by the protesters, the police used the same chants of 'Azadi' to sexually harass women and attack them, including at least one incident of a police officer flashing his genitals in front of women protesters," said a fresh report by the panel.

The report further said that the nature of verbal abuse was also sexual and communal in nature while adding that the testimonies suggested that Muslim women were attacked on the basis of their religious identity as their hijabs and burqas were pulled off.

"Acid attacks on women"

"Women have also recounted instances of acid attack by the mobs," the report claimed.

The report which runs into hundreds of pages also stated that women have also lost their social and financial security, as their houses were looted and their jewellery was specifically robbed; they had to spend hours hiding, without access to food and water, with their children on terraces but no one came to their help.

"Several women also reported being threatened with sexual assault. For those women who locked themselves inside their homes to protect their children, tear gas shells were thrown inside, causing severe suffocation, eye burning and nausea," said the report.

The commission has in its report recounted the statements of many other women including a 45-year-old woman who lived in Shiv Vihar Area.

"Rioters tore my clothes"

"They pulled my dupatta and tore my salwar's sleeve. I was saved by a family that was still living in the area," Fatima said.

"The family said I was with them, the men abused them but left me alone," she said, adding that the family hid her for some time till everything was clear.

"If it weren't for them, I don't know if I would be here," said the woman, who went back to her home in Shiv Vihar to look for her goats.

"When a girl was thrown into fire"

Another woman from Shiv Vihar area recalled the sexual violence that she had witnessed saying that she saw the mob tearing clothes of a girl and then throwing her into the fire. Her husband has been mentally unstable since they have been rescued.

The commission has also recounted the ordeal of 37-year-old woman, who was then three months pregnant. "She recalls the communal slurs and slogans of 'Jai Shree Ram' and 'Yeh Le Azadi' when a man in police uniform tried to kill her with a stone rendering her unconscious. She was taken to Al-Hind Hospital and later to the AIIMS Trauma Centre," the report said.

Another 30-year-old Bhagirath Vihar resident narrated that while fleeing from her home, she was caught by six to seven men who started beating and molesting her. "They did whatever they could, hit me with what they had, and touched me in my private parts. They did everything, the only thing they didn't do was rape me," she said.

According to the report, at least 55 people died and property, including homes, shops and 22 places of worship, were destroyed during the riots.

"Role of Kapil Mishra in Delhi riots"

The commission said that the violence started in different pockets "almost immediately" after the short speech of BJP leader Kapil Mishra on February 23 at Maujpur in which he openly called for forcefully removing the protestors at Jafrabad in northeast Delhi.

"He clearly said that he and his supporters will take matters into their own hands, alluding to extra-legal vigilante tactics, in saying: 'But after that we will not listen to the police if roads are not cleared after three days," the report stated.

The committee said that Deputy Commissioner of Police, North East district, Ved Prakash Surya, was standing right next to Mishra when he made the incendiary speech.

Communal clashes broke out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after clashes between Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

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