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'Home minister is solely responsible': Ex-Delhi cop

By PRASANNA D ZORE
February 27, 2020 12:59 IST
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'Blame lies nowhere else but the home ministry.'

IMAGE: A police flag march in north east Delhi, February 25, 2020. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo

"The Delhi police is acting only at the behest of the home minister," Maxwell Pereira, the retired Indian Police Service officer who served in the Delhi police, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

Pereira, who is in California on a family visit, blames Union Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah for not quelling the riots and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra for instigating it.

How could the Delhi police have handled the riots differently so as to nip the problem in the bud on the day rioting began in Delhi?

They should have arrested Kapil Mishra right away.

It's easy to say this, but perhaps they could not do it because Kapil Mishra is a BJP leader now. And the (Union) home minister (Amit Anilchandra Shah) is a BJP leader. So, the Delhi police definitely was handicapped in handling that (arresting Mishra).

The sole responsibility is of the home minister. He should have controlled it (the rioting). He should have given direct orders to the Delhi police; he should have had his own leader arrested.

Kapil Mishra is the one who instigated this (riots). Three days ago, in his speech, he had instigated that he will have the entire colonies (the reference is to Muslim protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Delhi), arrested or deprived of (space to protest) and removed from the premises and that's what caused the riots, isn't it? That's what is my understanding.

Why do you think the home minister has not yet acted against Kapil Mishra apart from the fact that both belong to the same political party?

I see his whole interest is in pushing for their agenda, isn't it?

And would that agenda be disempowering and disenfranchising the Muslims, prevent them from protesting?

Could be, but I wouldn't know. Why would he use the words like 'remove them (the protesting Muslim women) from these premises (Jafrabad station)'?

You say the Delhi police is a professional unit. Why then isn't it acting professionally?

It is only at the behest of the home minister; blame lies nowhere else but the home ministry.

I have been scanning the Internet (Pereira spoke on the phone from California) and the whole media I think everybody has blamed the home ministry.

What about the Delhi police? What about Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik?

He is handing over (retiring) at the end of this month. He's not interested. He will close his eyes anyway.

When you handled the anti-Sikh rioters in November 1984 outside the Gurdwara Sheesh Ganj Sahib you responded to your call of duty and asked the police to open fire at the rioters and quelled the mobs. Isn't there anybody in the Delhi police who would respond to the call of duty?

I would expect (them to do) so. The special commissioner, (Intelligence), Praveer Ranjan is one of the finest officers. Such officers can be compromised only under political pressure.

The home ministry has appointed S N Srivastav as the special commissioner, law and order, in Delhi. Do you think that will help bring the situation under control?

I wouldn't know. Both officers have worked under me; both officers are wonderful officers; they are very capable officers who will act independently. But one never knows how things are working at the moment.

How is the situation right now in Delhi different from the one in 1984?

In 1984, it was on a very large scale. It was a spontaneous reaction to an unprecedented horror (assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984) that had happened.

You see, here (in Delhi right now), these things (riots) are being instigated. These are not just happening by themselves.

What business did the BJP (Kapil Mishra) have to go under police protection in a Muslim dominated area, and proclaim with the DCP standing next to him that he will have the entire colonies removed?

How are the people in the US reacting to the Delhi riots? After all, these riots occurred when the US president was in Delhi?

These people are appalled. They are shocked to see footage that they are seeing on their television. They can't believe what they are watching and they are watching because their president was in India. Those people who have spoken to me and a cross section of opinion that is appearing in the American media is calling it appalling.

They can't imagine the police looking on while the riots are happening (in front of them).

Isn't this a template that we have witnessed in 1984, then in Mumbai in 1992-1993, then in Gujarat in 2002, that the police just looks away as rioters go on a killing and destruction spree?

You often see such reports in the media. But I do not believe so. I did not stand by watching; I acted.

If others didn't, I have no right to talk about them.

What could be those immediate measures that can bring the situation in Delhi under control because as we speak the situation is still tense, rioting is still going and the death toll is increasing?

In a communal riot situation, you should nip it in the bud as it is happening.

Immediate action is needed; you should not look left or right (for orders, permission or fear of being hauled up for protecting citizens). You should go headlong into the rioting situation and make arrests.

You (the police) must ensure that whoever is indulging (in rioting), Muslim or Hindu, you have to control the riot first.

What appeal would you like to make to the Delhi police which you served so meritoriously?

I'm too small a fry. I'm an ex-Delhi police officer. I can only hang my head in shame.

I can only say that I would expect my junior colleagues to act correctly. I can't advise them this way or that way. They are the people facing the mobs on the streets. They are on the spot (and in the best position to act).

But there will always be conscientious officers who would value your advice.

I would ask them to act correctly, what is right, what is warranted correctly in the situation they should resort to.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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