Chronicling Truth, Countering Hate: Responding to the violence and state
action in North-East Delhi in February 2020
A report by Karwan e Mohabbat
Press note | 11th July 2020
It has been four months since North-East Delhi had been engulfed in communal violence. When the first reports for violence came in, a team of over thirty young volunteers assembled to track and respond to calls of rescue and support. This subsequently expanded to detailed work on the fronts of rescue, medical, legal, relief, and mental health support in the weeks immediately after the riots. “Chronicling truth, Countering Hate: Responding to the violence and flawed state action in North-East Delhi in February 2020″ is a report that chronicles the violence and its aftermath in North-East Delhi in Feb 2020. At a time when a very different official narrative of the violence is being constructed, this report helps us understand what truly transpired during the time and its lasting impacts on the community, from the eyes and hearts of the young volunteers who contributed hugely to rescue and relief when the state largely
abdicated its duties.
This report was released through a webinar on 11th July 2020, at 11 am. It was presented by Sasikanth Senthil and Suroor Mander, joined by a panel consisting of Dr, Neera Chandhoke, Dr. Syeda Hameed, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti and Ambassador Deb Mukharji. The short documentaries ‘Cry My Beloved City’ and ‘Best of Luck for Your Exams, Ayesha’ by Karwan e Mohabbat were also screened.
While presenting the report, Suroor Mander noted that ‘What began that afternoon with two injured patients when the first distress call was documented, by the time the ambulance arrived was 22 injured and 5 dead bodies. It also dawned on us that this affected more than one police station and thus decided – ambitiously, maybe recklessly – to move the Delhi High Court… What bound all of us – judges, policepersons, lawyers, court clerks, volunteers – was our love for our country, our constitution.’ Ex-IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil, who was a part of the relief efforts, remarked ‘I came across a perfect system of youngsters receiving, verifying and forwarding rescue pleas to the police. I was blown away by the way these youngsters worked…The government in Delhi thought this was just a police-related matter happening in Delhi, which the police ought to control. In fact, this was a man-made disaster…In riot situations we wonder what can be done. This report needs to go to the people, because Civil Society did all the work of rescue and rehabilitation. Others have to learn.’
After hearing the presentations on the report, political scientist Dr. Neera Chandhoke said ‘In December we were pleasantly surprised with all sorts of student organisations come up. They spoke the language of solidarity. Students said we will be affected if our fellow citizens would be affected. They embodied the principle of justice that we owe each other. A new language of protests took shape. The protests showed a shift from the idea of paper citizens to performative citizens.’ Dr. Harjit Bhatti, who provided emergency healthcare during the riots remarked ‘In my life as a medical professional I had never seen this kind of brutality and such hatred between humans, despite the fact that as doctors we are used to see death and suffering … ‘Doctor’ is a gender and religion neutral term. But we were asked to send non-Muslim doctors to rescue people, as Muslims were at risk from the rampaging mobs. For the first time in my life I was looking at my phonebook in terms of religion.’ Ambassador Deb Mukharji argued that ‘What is required is a commission to look into the shortcomings of what the police did not do and could have done, and whether police acted as an extension of the executive.’ Activist and educationist Syeda Hameed said ‘These young people who came together and gave up their sleep and peace of mind, are we going to call them for help every time? If the state wanted this would never have happened… What power does the individual have against the might of the state? The only hope for me has been the young
lawyers, doctors and psycho-social workers who stood up and continue to stand up.