Rightwing academicians’ fact-finding report on North East Delhi riots provides perfect template that Delhi Police is of book ‘following. Reviewers Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story’ assert finding evidence the “real’ conspiracy between the Delhi police and authors” of the book.
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Prominent civil society groups Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Anhad and Muslim Women’s Forum on Friday released a review of ‘Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story’ asserting that they found evidence the “real’ conspiracy between the Delhi Police and authors” of this book who are known right-wing academics.
The review titled – Sifting Evidence: The Untold Story of ‘The Delhi Riots Book’, said the theories in this book have been replicated down to details in the charge-sheets being filed by the Delhi Police in the in the North East Delhi violence cases. It said the book, which was originally a fact-finding report, is a form of hate speech designed as an “intervention into a criminal legal process”.
This review is based on a PDF of the ‘book’ (Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story) which went viral, after the original publishers withdrew, because it was widely circulated on social media presumably by the book’s supporters, who believed its message must be spread far and wide. The review (Sifting Evidence) is largely in tabular form, which makes for a quick read.
This Delhi riots book which was originally a fact-finding report by an ultra right wing group called GIA (Group of Intellectuals and Academicians), that was submitted to the Home Ministry on March 11, 2020. Later, a version of it was accepted for publication by Bloomsbury India. BJP leader Kapil Mishra, whose hate speeches allegedly triggered the riots in February 2020, was a guest of honour at the book launch event held on August 22, 2020. On the day of the launch, Bloomsbury India decided to withdraw publication.
The authors claimed their freedom of expression was violated. But the facts are clear – there was no call to ban the Delhi Riots 2020 book. Established and reputable publishers get their reputation because they fact-check, and stay away from publishing material that may amount to libel. Other publishers may not care, and therefore do not achieve that reputation.
What the review found is false claims, factual inaccuracies, and distorted/selective presentations. The reviewers have simply used the yardstick of evidence and fact, or lack thereof. There are many statements in this book that amount to libel.
A reputed publisher like Bloomsbury must answer how this material, including defamatory content, made it through their fact-checks from manuscript stage to final proofs.
The review also examines parallels between the book and some charge-sheets filed by the Delhi Police in the riots cases, and reveals evidence of a conspiracy – because a book like this seems to be providing the template that Delhi Police is following. This is by no means an exhaustive review, but perhaps enough to allow a reader to judge the book’s relationship to fact, and its deeply worrying relationship to the narrative being created by the Delhi Police.
On the day of the book launch, Bloomsbury India, the publisher, pulled out. We do not know exactly why, but presumably because many people objected to the idea of such a book and its release by Kapil Mishra. The authors subsequently claimed that their freedom of expression was being curtailed.
It is noteworthy here that the lead author, advocate Monika Arora, was instrumental in getting noted Sanskritist Wendy Donniger’s book, The Hindus, banned in India in 2014.
One of the other authors, Prerna Malhotra, belongs to the National Democratic Teachers Front (NDTF) which has frequently lobbied to remove material from the social science syllabi of Delhi University, including well known linguist AK Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayanas. But the facts on this matter are clear – there was no call to ban the book.
The review provides an illustrative glimpse of the contents of the book.
According to the review, “In chapters three and four however, the narrative presented was at odds with the events as described in numerous testimonies and by the media, so we have pointed the reader to other evidence-based reports. The conclusion chapter repeats things already said, so it did not warrant a repeat review”.
WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
Rewriting the narrative.
This book is not about the Delhi riots. This book is about re-casting a people’s movement for equal citizenship and against controversial and religiously discriminatory the Citizenship Amendment Act.
BROAD ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK Urban-Naxal-Jihadi conspiracy to destroy India under garb of movement against CAA.
According to this book: “There was a giant criminal conspiracy to create extreme violence and destroy the Indian state. The conspiracy was likely foreign funded, probably by international, Islamist organizations; possibly the ISIS. The entire movement against the CAA-NRC-NPR in India was the front. The lakhs of protestors, including youth, students and women of all ages were part of the conspiracy; sometimes described as gullible and brainwashed, and other times as co-conspirators who were exceptionally violent. The conspirators were ‘Urban Naxals’ or Jihadi, and most times both at once.”
The book does not explain why Naxals were funded by Islamists, despite their known differences. The phrase Urban-Naxal-Jihadi is used a lot in this book. Each throw aims to stick to a range of actors, in the belief that stickability is a foregone conclusion; that it is self-evident and self-explanatory; and requires neither logic nor evidence. It is fair to say that in this book, all people who express liberal views and take public positions against the ruling BJP are Urban-Naxal.
All Muslims – men, women and children – are Jihadi. The tale takes a broad sweep, invokes images of ISIS, Syria and Egypt, and quotes from purported Maoist pamphlets about guerrilla warfare.
In a 190-page book about the Delhi riots, the approximate number of times these words/phrases appear (not counting titles and references) is as follows: Urban-Naxal – 45 Jihadi – 42 Urban-Naxal-Jihadi (occurring in close combination) – 28 Syria – 13 ISIS – 24 PFI – 17 Left -46
International (media/internationalising the issue): 16 This is more than the names of any of the victims of this tragedy. This is more than the word ‘victim’ itself which appears only some 16 times. 4 According to this book, conspirators – interchangeably Urban, Naxal and Jihadi – planted highly skilled sharp-shooters, possibly trained in Syria or Egypt, on high rise buildings in North East Delhi to kill. Therefore, the authors demand that all high-rise buildings in all of Northeast Delhi must be subjected to a forensic audit. Many Islamic rioters, the book suggests, had combat training and used ‘bunkers.’
The conspirators also trained women to hide swords under their burqas. However, it does not indicate a possible location for this burqa/sword training.
Delhi Police had no choice but to crush this Islamist-Naxal conspiracy, which is also taking root in our most reputed universities. Therefore, this books also calls on “… vice chancellors of DU, JMI, JNU and all other universities to take an audit of the use of their campuses to engineer wider disturbances in the city in the eight weeks leading up to the riots.” This then, is the big picture of the Delhi riots in this book.
THE ‘REAL’ CONSPIRACY BETWEEN THE DELHI POLICE AND AUTHORS OF THIS BOOK We did, however, find evidence, which forces us to take this book very seriously. For alongside this book, we also read the charge-sheets being filed by the Delhi Police in the riot cases (refer – Introduction II) we came to the inescapable conclusion that there is indeed a conspiracy. And this book is part of it. The theories in this book have been replicated down to details in the charge-sheets being filed by the Delhi Police in the Delhi riots cases. These criminal cases have already incarcerated scores of people who participated in the movement against the CAA.
For example, Chapter 6 about the first day of violence in the Seelampur-Jaffrabad area contains a story that mirrors the version in the police charge-sheet on the Jaffrabad violence (FIR 50/20).
The reviewers said,”We scanned several other charge-sheets and found the same story being repeated. Each charge-sheet begins its narrative with the movement against the CAA, it then goes on to talk about conspiracy, pre-planning, networks, and so on, with no evidence whatsoever. Yet, people are in jail today, many under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an anti-terror law that makes bail near impossible.”