New Delhi: A leading forensic pathologist — who has assisted the CBI in high-profile cases such as the Gujarat riots and the Ishrat Jahan encounter — and a ‘public prosecutor for the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’ were among the six-member group that presented a fact-finding report, on the Delhi riots, to Union Home Minister Amit Shah last Friday.
The members, part of the NGO ‘Call for Justice’, blamed the “Tukde-Tukde Gang”, and “radical groups such as Pinjra Tod, Jamia Coordination Committee, Popular Front of India (PFI), and the local politicians from AAP” for the violence that killed 53 people in the national capital in February.
Other members of the fact-finding team included a group of retired civil service officials and a retired high court judge. The team is the first to secure an audience with Amit Shah though there have been other fact-finding reports on the riots — by civil rights groups, lawyers and even the Congress party.
The only other fact-finding group that the home ministry has acknowledged with regard to the riots is a Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) led by RSS ideologue and lawyer Monika Arora. The group had met with junior Home Minister G. Kishen Reddy in March to present a report titled ‘The Shaheen Bagh Model in North-East Delhi: From Dharna to Danga’.
“We have ways,” said Chandra Wadhwa, the trustee of the Call for Justice group on how its team was able to secure an appointment with Shah. “When you are a group of such reputed individuals, you have contacts. So it wasn’t that difficult to meet him.”
The team claims it conducted its field work in the affected areas of Northeast Delhi from 29 February to 1 March — about a week after the deadly riots.
Wadhwa said they were ready with the report back in March itself, but the meeting kept getting postponed due to the lockdown. A picture of some members of the group presenting the report to Shah went viral last week, after some pointed out that the home minister wasn’t wearing his mask properly.
The forensic expert and an ‘NIA prosecutor’
One of the primary members of the six-member fact-finding group was Dr Tirath Das Dogra, a former AIIMS director and a leading Indian forensic pathologist.
In a career spanning over four decades, Dogra has assisted the CBI and the Delhi Police in almost all the high profile cases — from Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, the Batla House encounter as well as the Aarushi Talwar murder.
“I didn’t see them as high-profile cases. A prime minister dying or a beggar dying — it’s all the same for me, they are my patients,” Dogra told ThePrint.
The report accuses the AAP, Congress and Left parties as being responsible for hate speech and misinformation in the build-up to the riots. Dogra said he stands by everything written in the report.
“It may be surprising to people that I associated myself with the report, but I went to the field and we wrote what we saw. For me, there is nothing politically charged or communally charged in the report,” he said.
It isn’t just Dogra, another member of the fact-finding team has also worked closely with state agencies.
Neeraj Arora, Supreme Court advocate has worked on cyber law and cyber crime with the National Police Academy and the CBI Academy. His website claims he also acts as a special public prosecutor with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Delhi.
“I am primarily a computer forensic expert. So I can scan through the entirety of the internet to connect the dots of a crime,” Arora told ThePrint.
One of the demands of the fact-finding team is to have the riots investigated by the NIA. “Considering involvement of PFI, ISI & other inter-state and international groups, investigation must be done at NIA level,” the report mentions.
Report relies on website OpIndia
Arora said all the claims made by the fact-finding report are based on “authentic news sources that can be corroborated.” The most-cited news website in the fact-finding report is OpIndia, which has been cited 20 times in the 70-page long report.
The report, further, claimed that the riots were meticulously planned attacks.
“The Hindu community was totally unaware about the attacks while the attackers belonging to the Muslim community meticulously planned not only the manpower and other resources but also the timing as well as the pre-defined targets,” it claims.
A third important member of the team is Neera Mishra who runs an organisation called the Draupadi Trust. The trust works on “vedic principles and philosophy” to create a “better understanding of ancient Indian culture”.
The trust’s website shows an endorsement by PM Narendra Modi from back in 2013, as well as from Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, and former president Pratibha Patil.
In 2016, controversial BJP leader Subramanian Swamy inaugurated an exhibition held by Neera while Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat attended one such exhibition in 2018. In July 2019, Neera presented her book Maharabharata Manthan to President Ram Nath Kovind while she held personal meetings with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in March 2019.
Other members of the fact-finding team include retired Justice Ambadas Joshi, retired IPS officer Vivek Dubey and retired IAS officer M.L. Meena.
While Joshi is a former judge of the Bombay High Court, he had served as the chairman of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal under the BJP-led government in the state from 2014 to 2019. Dubey had served as a special central police observer in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.