US, Taliban Sign Deal To End War, India Hails Peace Pact

The United States and the Taliban on Saturday signed a peace deal in Doha after months of negotiations, aimed at ending the 18-year long war in Afghanistan and which will pave the way for Washington to withdraw all its troops from the country within 14 months.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, the agreement was signed between the representatives of the US and the Taliban in Qatar’s Doha in the presence of representatives of various countries.

Ahead of signing of the deal, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the United States will closely watch the Taliban for their compliance with their commitments and calibrate the peace of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan with the group’s action.

Pompeo made the remarks ahead of signing the peace deal with the Taliban aimed at ending an 18-year long war in the country.

“Efforts only became real when the Taliban showed interest in pursuing real peace & ending their relationship with Al-Qaeda & other foreign terrorist groups. The agreement that we will sign today is the true test of this effort,” Pompeo said.

“We will closely watch the Taliban for their compliance with their commitments and calibrate the pace of our withdrawal with their actions. This is how we will ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a base for international terrorists,” he added.

As per the joint declaration between Washington and the Afghan government, the US will withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. The plan is “subject to the Taliban’s fulfillment of its commitments under the US-Taliban agreement.

“The United States reaffirms its commitments regarding support for the Afghan security forces and other government institutions, including through ongoing efforts to enhance the ability of Afghan security forces to deter and respond to internal and external threats, consistent with its commitments under existing security agreements between the two governments,” the joint declaration read, as reported by Tolo News.

India, reacting to the US-Taliban peace deal and US-Afghanistan joint declaration, reiterated that its consistent policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and lead to a lasting political settlement through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled process.

“India’s consistent policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan; end violence; cut ties with international terrorism; and lead to a lasting political settlement through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled process,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.

Kumar said India has noted that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan, including the Government, the democratic polity and civil society, has “welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements.”

“As a contiguous neighbour, India will continue to extend all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interest of all sections of Afghan society are protected,” said Kumar.

‘Rioters Came in Thousands, Policemen Were Just 200’

ACP Anuj Kumar, who was injured while trying to curb the violent clashes in Northeast Delhi, recounts the communal riots that cost 42 lives

On February 25, I had arrived at the troubled spot along with District Commissioner of Police Amit Sharma and about 200 police personnel when the tension began to raise its ugly head near Seelampur area in Northeast Delhi.

We were instructed that the road linking Signature Bridge with the border of Ghaziabad should not remain blocked. Slowly and steadily, a crowd started getting bigger. The crowd included both men and women. Soon the crowd swelled to about 20,000-25,000 headcount. I don’t know whether they had planned to block the road as they did previously.

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We spoke to them peacefully and asked them to remain confined to the service road instead of the main road. Till then, rumours had started spreading that some women and children had lost their lives in a police shootout. There was construction underway near the bridge, so stones and bricks were lying there. The rioters started pelting us with stones suddenly and many of us were injured, including DCP Amit Sharma who was bleeding severely.

The police fired teargas shells to disperse the rioters but the effort was futile as the distance between the protestors and the security was large. We were standing on two opposite ends of the road. We didn’t want to open fire as many women took part in the protest. But we were heavily outnumbered.

ALSO READ: State Riot Machine At Work

My aim then was to first rescue the DCP because he was bleeding heavily. But we also didn’t want to hurt any protestor. I later came to know that the force have lost Head Constable Rattan Lal to the violence.

Restrictions Relaxed In Violence-Hit Northeast Delhi

The prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC in the violence-hit north-east Delhi were relaxed for four hours on Saturday in view of the improvement in the situation, Joint Commissioner of Police (Eastern Range) Alok Kumar said.

Speaking to ANI, Kumar said that the restrictions were relaxed from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday.

“Incidents of violence have not been reported since the evening of February 25. We have given relaxation in Section 144 from 10 am to 2 pm today in a majority of violence-hit areas, as the situation is under control. We are monitoring the situation,” Kumar told ANI.

Authorities often use power conferred under Section 144 of CrPC to prohibit assembly of four or more persons at public places when such an assembly may cause trouble or public nuisance.

The restrictions were imposed in the north-east Delhi in the aftermath of violence.

Kumar further informed that a total of 100 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered and 25 people have been arrested as part of the investigation conducted by the Delhi police on the incidents of violence.

“The perpetrators are being identified based on the available evidence. More people will be arrested in connection with the incidents,” Kumar said.

At least 42 people have died while around 200 people sustained serious injuries in the violence that rocked north-east Delhi for four days.


Curfew In Shillong After Khasi, Non-Tribal Clash

Following clashes between Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) members and non-tribals, curfew has been imposed in Shillong agglomeration and adjoining areas and internet services have been suspended in the six districts of the Eastern Range as a precautionary measure.

The curfew was earlier imposed from 10 pm on Friday till 8 am on Saturday. M District Magistrate, East Khasi Hills district, Shillong, War Nongbri on Saturday imposed a curfew from 12 noon until further orders.

There was a KSU meeting in Ichamati on Friday afternoon. At around 3 pm, after the meeting, clashes broke out between KSU members and local non-tribals of the area, the police said in a statement.

“Thereafter, the KSU members burnt a haystack at the edge of the market and attempted to burn a house. The non-tribals retaliated and stoned one bus carrying KSU members. One local taxi which had gone to collect the KSU members from the Ichamati market after the clashes was damaged, one vehicle of the EAC J Umdor, MCS also got damaged. Four members of KSU were injured, two were sent to Ichamati CHC and released, two were referred to Sohra CHC,” the statement read.

The person driving the local taxi, Lurshai Hynniewta, 35, succumbed to his injuries.

“Curfew has been imposed in Shillong agglomeration and adjourning areas and internet services have been suspended in the six districts of the Eastern Range as a precautionary measure,” the statement added.


Environment Of Fear Prevailing In Delhi: Cong

The situation in Delhi is far from normal and an environment of fear is prevailing in the national capital, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters, Sharma said that the recent events in the national capital which unfolded due to “deliberate inaction” on part of the authorities have left people of the city living in fear.

“We are a constitutional democracy, where there is a rule of law. Recent events, riots in the national capital, the killing of almost 50 people and injuries to almost 200, enormous life and property because of deliberate inaction and in many cases complicity has led to a very tense situation,” Sharma said.

“The situation is far from normal. there is a prevailing environment of fear. Our citizens are living in fear,” he added.

Kumar said that the fundamental rights of people are under assault and that the sedition law is being misused against anyone who raises voice against the government.

“We have seen that for merely objecting to a government’s decision or action or a wrong law or discriminate legislation, the citizens are being accused of sedition. It is the right of every citizen to question, to protest or to oppose. But all over the country, sedition cases are being filed, which has never happened,” he said.

The Congress leader said it is time the Supreme Court “intervenes effectively” to protect the rights of the citizens guaranteed by the Indian constitution.

At least 42 people have died while around 200 people sustained serious injuries in the violence that rocked north-east Delhi for four days.


Coronavirus Death Toll Mounts To 2,835 In China

The death toll from coronavirus in China has mounted to 2,835, officials said on Saturday.

The number of confirmed cases has increased to 79,251, Sputnik quoted state health committee as saying.

“The state health committee received from 31 provinces (areas, cities of central subordination) information about 79,251 confirmed cases of infection with the new type of coronavirus, including 37,414 people who are currently sick (7,664 are in serious condition), 39,002 people were discharged from hospitals, 2,835 died,” the committee said.

Coronavirus has spread to more than 45 other countries including the US, UK, Singapore, Italy, France, Russia, Spain, and India.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak an international health emergency and said the global risk level remains high.


1984 to 2020 – State Riot Machine At Work

Sociologists and hardened journalists know it too well. No violent communal polarisation or riots, killings, arson and mayhem can last for more than a few hours if the local administration, the top police brass, and their bosses, don’t want it. 

It is impossible to stretch the bloody destruction of public and private property, ransack and burn schools, kill innocents in cold blood, or move as armed mobs shouting blood-thirsty slogans as a terroristic public spectacle, if the government of the day does not want it. In that sense, the onus of all communal violence in any locality across geographical zone lies with the administration and the law & order enforcement machinery.

Besides, there are grey zones in all kinds of violence which are driven by identity and hate politics. Riots can be termed ‘spontaneous’, based on years of conflict and tension, brewing and simmering, which suddenly flare up for no rational rhyme or reason. For instance, a tiff in a barber shop, a minor roadside accident, a heated argument, a mindless scuffle – they can all lead to spontaneous violence between communities. However, if this simmering conflict which is usually buried and allowed to pass, is stoked and instigated by interested lobbies for vested interests, with a certain diabolical twist in terms of motive, timing or location, then this spontaneous violence can be actually called socially and politically engineered.

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There could be also situations that communal violence is engineered deliberately and with precise planning even in a totally peaceful scenario where communities have shared local space, public/social functions and festivals, trade and agriculture, friendship and neighbourhood life, for prolonged periods of peace and harmony. Then, a vicious mind can introduce a virus than can suddenly become an epidemic with help from certain planned and hidden factors, inflammatory speeches and rallies, and acquire brutish and nasty dimensions which can rip apart the harmonious social structures built painstakingly since decades. And, then, the wounds just refuse to heal, thereafter.

This is exactly what happened in Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur and its highly fertile rural areas in western UP months before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which never had a history of communal strife or conflict. This is a green revolution belt, with flourishing sugar cane and mustard fields, a stronghold of the inheritors of Jat leader and former prime minister Chaudhury Charan Singh, and stretches across the rich and laid-back townships and villages of Shamli, Kandhla, Baraut, Baghpat and Meerut. The BJP had no presence here, except among the trading communities in Saharanpur etc.

The engineered riots were galvanized using the fake news of ‘Love Jihad’. That Muslims were enticing Hindu girls into love marriages, etc. This sparked off local violence, deaths, killings, mass rallies, mahapanchayats, inflammatory speeches and a vicious rupture that has never been witnessed ever in western UP.

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The BJP’s dream project materialized in the 2014 elections: the Hindus, from upper caste Jats to landless and divided Dalits, among others, united against the Muslims who were cornered and pushed to the wall. The BJP swept the elections here for the first time, while Charan Singh’s followers, including his son, lost out badly.

At least 60,000 Muslims were rendered homeless. And it took a while, fact-finding teams, and some brave reporting by reporters, to prove the fact that the Love Jihad propaganda was a diabolical ploy which succeeded; there were casualties among both the communities though the Muslims took the brunt, and scores of Muslim women were assaulted. Some of the most militant and popular hardliners and rabble-rousers among the local BJP leadership emerged from this ‘engineered’ communal violence.

Relatives of victims of Delhi communal violence mourn outside Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in New Delhi on February 27

More sinister than this phenomenon is what is called a ‘State-sponsored’ communal carnage. This happens when the State itself aligns with a community or powerful lobbies or violent vigilante groups, and thereby unleashes concerted and relentless violence of the most grotesque kind against another community, its own citizens, for political, hegemonic and social reasons. This is nothing but ethnic cleansing in a certain transparent form, like the Whites did with the Blacks in America, the Serbs did with thousands of Muslims in Bosnia, the Taliban did with the Hazaras in Afghanistan, and what the ISIS and Wahabi Jihadis continue to do with the Yazidis, Kurds and other communities in Syria and the Middle-east.

This includes massacres, mass murders, killings as public spectacles and total destruction of life and property of the victim communities so that they are savaged and ravaged and can never find justice against the violence inflicted on their bodies, minds, families and homes.

This is what happened in 1984 in Delhi and in 2002 in Gujarat. This kind of ethnic cleansing is called a pogrom: master-minded, planned, organised and executed by the State machinery and its ideological and sundry goons, with the full power and might of the State apparatus against a helpless and innocent community. This is what happened to the Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. 

A State-sponsored massacre.

This involves total destruction of their economy, shelter, community life, religious places and well-being, effectively rendering them as second/third class citizens, oppressed, brutalized and crushed.

In Delhi, for instance, the homes and shops of Sikhs were burnt and looted in full public view with the police either watching or becoming tacit and overt accomplices of the looters and murderers. In Trilokpuri, Sultanpuri, Jehangirpur, among other spots, where humble and modest, hard-working Sikhs lived simple lives, they were killed in the most macabre manner and their homes burnt. Gurudwars too were not spared. This was a Congress government sponsored massacre led by its politicians in Delhi with the full backing and support of the police and administration.

Besides, in other towns and public transport, Sikhs were hounded and killed. Indeed, it took decades to get a minimal sense of justice for those who suffered unimaginable tragedies and brutalities. The graphic realism of the massacre was made public in a report by the PUCL-PUDR, ‘Who are the Guilty’, perhaps the first decisive report of the bloodbath.

Unlike 1984, the Gujarat carnage of 2002, with Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs, was well documented from day one, though there was no social media at that time. Print and TV journalists did their job with precision and exposed the fault-lines where the violence was master-minded by the State, with its Bajrangi and Sanghi footsoldiers on the ground, enacting massacre after massacre, mass rapes and burning of women and children alive, hacking and burning of people, and organised mayhem with active support of the police machinery.

This reality has also been documented by several fact-finding teams, tribunals, filmmakers, among others. Some police officers testified about the dirty deeds of top politicians, and BJP leaders like Babu Bajrangi and Mayaben Kodnani were found guilty, among several local functionaries. For the BJP, it was yet another test of ethnic cleansing with State backing that would not only destroy the Muslims, but also reassert their masculine, xenophobic and Hindutva brand of politics.

This is exactly the ‘Gujarat model’ that they tried in Northeast Delhi last week. True, there were occasional retaliation and violence by Muslim youngsters, but by and large, this was a State-sponsored violence, with a loyal police in tandem, striking at will, burning and killing, destroying markets and schools, hosting a flag on top of a mosque, surrounding women and children, and running amok, like they did in Gujarat.

This could not have happened without the tacit and overt approval of the Union home minstry and Delhi Police. This could not have happened without the mobs being allowed full freedom to ravage and savage residential areas, shouting Jai Shri Ram, now a blood-thirsty war cry for masked goons with sticks guns, iron rods and petrol bombs.

People from both communities have died and a majority has died of gunshot wounds. Investigations are likely to be fudged in the days to come, as they did in Gujarat, but, still, the reality cannot be hidden. Indeed, it was Kapil Mishra who triggered the violence with his speech. That even the Delhi High Court is giving him space, after another judge had sought an FIR against him and other BJP leaders a day before, points to a certain pronounced institutional collapse of Indian democracy, where many believe that the Constitution itself is in danger.

In that sense, clearly, this was no CAA polarisation, though that was the pretense. The fact is that majority of the anti-CAA/NRC protests, including in Shaheen Bagh and all over Delhi, led by women, have been transparently and relentlessly peaceful.

Clearly, this was not spontaneous, as Amit Shah has claimed. Scores of innocents have died. The number will only increase. Surely, and tragically, this was brazenly and blatantly organsied for communal polarisation to target one community. This was State-sponsored. And the whole world knows whose first and final trump card this kind of organised hate politics is.

Now UK Says CAA Divisive, Raises Concerns With India

Deepak Pant/London

The Boris Johnson government has joined others in raising concerns over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by calling it ‘divisive’, conveying its views on its impact to Indian authorities, and using its diplomatic network in the country to monitor developments “closely”.

MPs on Thursday (February 27) asked the government to make a statement in the House of Commons on the issue, including recent deaths in Delhi. Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House, said the Johnson government is taking “this matter extremely seriously…It is a very serious matter”.

The government’s stand CAA was articulated in the House of Lords on Tuesday evening during a brief debate, which included contributions from Meghnad Desai, Raj Loomba and Indarjit Singh, among others.

Responding to concerns on behalf of the government, Elizabeth Sugg, minister in the Foreign Office, said: “(The) Citizenship (Amendment) Act has clearly been divisive in India. Its full impact remains unclear”.

“We hope and trust that the Government of India will address the concerns and protect the rights of people of all religions, in keeping with India’s constitution, its democratic values and its inclusive traditions”.

“I assure noble Lords that the UK is in no way turning a blind eye to these challenges because we do not want to criticise an important partner”.

“For our part, the UK Government have concerns about the impact of the legislation…(Thanks) to our close relationship, we are able to discuss difficult issues with the Government of India and make clear our concerns, including about the rights of minorities”, she added.

Sugg informed the House that Tariq Ahmad, Foreign Office minister responsible for India, had raised concerns about CAA’s impact, and the public response to the legislation, with India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs on the day it was passed.

“Our former high commissioner in New Delhi, Sir Dominic Asquith, also raised the issue with the Government of India last month, as did Foreign and Commonwealth officials with the Indian High Commission in London”.

“Most recently, on 6 February, the British High Commission in New Delhi raised our concerns about the Act with the state government of Uttar Pradesh”, Sugg said.

In common with India’s inclusive tradition, she said the Johnson government believes that societies are stronger and safer “when we embrace our diversity rather than fear it”, and welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s promise following his re-election to maintain India’s tradition of inclusive government under the guiding principle of ‘Together with all, development for all and trust of all’.

Sugg added: “I note that earlier this month Prime Minister Modi told India’s Lok Sabha that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act would not affect any Indian citizens. We trust that the Government of India will provide further reassurances to any citizens concerned about the impact of the Act”.

According to the minister, India continues to face challenges in enforcing its constitutional protections for freedom of religion and belief, despite its strong democratic framework. The situation for religious minorities across India varies according to where they live, their socioeconomic background and how their numbers compare to other communities, she claimed.

On the issue of detention centres, Sugg told members that the Assam government has announced that there will be no immediate detention of those left off the NRC, and those excluded have an appeals system through the foreigners tribunal run by the state government.

She said: “We have not yet received any reports of anyone being detained or arrested or sent to a detention centre, and nor has anybody yet been deprived of their citizenship”.

The act has also been divisive in the 1.5 million-strong Indian community in the UK, the government said.

Domestic Brownie Points For Trump & Modi

India gave President Donald Trump exactly what he asked for. Massive crowds in Ahmedabad, the Taj Mahal in Agra and energy & defence deals in Delhi. A deal worth $3 billion for the purchase of Apache and MH-60 helicopters was finalized before the US President landed in India.

The show and spectacle in Ahmedabad’s Motera stadium, where President Trump and First Lady Melanie were greeted by colorfully dressed enthusiastic crowds set the mood for the visit on Monday, soon after the US leader landed. He was accompanied by daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, besides a host of senior officials.

It is well known that Donald Trump loves to be feted. Prime Minister Modi and his government ensured that President Trump would have exactly what he wanted. His ego got a massive boost and the visiting dignitary was clearly delighted. He showered praise on Prime Minister Modi and declared that America loved India and Washington would be a loyal friend.

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Though violence has wracked north east Delhi during the Trump visit, the President has refused to comment on that or the Citizenship Amendment Act. On Kashmir, while he again offered mediation, he made it clear that he was willing to help only if asked. Though he spoke of fighting Islamic terror, he was not really aiming at rebuking Pakistan. For Trump Islamic terror is ISIS or Al Qaeda and not groups operating against India. Nevertheless he assured India that Pakistan is being urged to clamp down on these groups and Prime Minister Imran Khan is getting there. Trump also spoke of religious freedom and mentioned not just minority Muslims but Christians as well. The Christian right in the US is part of Trump’s support base.

Some are disappointed that no major deals were announced, though a mega trade deal is in the offing. Two MoUs were signed on mental health and safety of medical products. A letter of cooperation between Indian Oil Corporation and ExxonMobil India LNG was also signed. India is now looking to US to diversify its energy market. Energy imports from the US which stood at $7 billion in 2019 will rise to $9 billion in 2020

The significance of the Trump visit goes way beyond deals or the personal chemistry between Modi and the US President. “It reinforces the connect between people of the two countries and it will resonate on every aspect of the relationship, from the strategic global partnership, maritime security, to trade and energy cooperation, homeland security,” foreign secretary Shringla said at a news conference after the talks at Hyderabad House.  

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The fact that President Trump chose to come on a standalone visit to India, and on an election year, shows exactly how far relations between India and the US have improved. The people connect with 4 million Indian American’s playing a major part in this effort and contributing to the US economy, the sky is the limit for these two democracies. People in both countries endorse the ties. This is in sharp contrast with India’s relations with Russia, which are excellent at the governmental and political level, but poor on people to people contact. Getting private business off the ground between India and Russia is a major problem, despite the best efforts of New Delhi and Moscow. But there is no such difficulty when it comes to Indian investment in US. Business leaders are eager to do so.

The transformation of ties between the two countries, which were on opposite sides of the Cold War divide, began with the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005. The strategic consideration underlying Washington’s decision was to checkmate China’s growing military and economic might in Asia. By building ties with democratic India, another large Asian country and helping modernize its defence capabilities.

US wants India to be a part of the Indo-Pacific defence architecture an area which now includes the Indian Ocean. This works for both India and America, though Delhi has so far resisted the idea of joint patrolling of the Pacific, near the South China Sea. This has to do with avoiding a confrontation with China.

Trump’s visit should be seen against this background. And if a few billions go into US coffers in the process of building up India’s defence capabilities, it is fine. So far New Delhi has stuck to its promise of buying the S 400 missile defence system from Russia, despite enormous US pressure. Washington must realise that a country like India cannot be coerced.

WATCH: Agra Citizens Welcome Trump

It serves India for China to realise that Delhi has powerful backing in the international community. Though finally every country has to look after its own interests and not back on US or Europe to come to their help, developing India’s defence capabilities is important, more so as China has transformed its army, navy and air force.

Successive Indian prime ministers from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi know the importance of friendship with the US. Manmohan Singh risked his prime ministership to get the deal through, despite opposition from a large majority of his party men as well as the BJP and the Left parties. Singh realized more than any other leader that the civil nuclear deal would open many doors for India and help Delhi to finally be counted as a force in the world.  India’s nuclear apartheid ended with the signing of the pact for which former President George W Bush did some heavy lifting.

The need to counter authoritarian China with a democratic India is shared by Republicans and Democrats alike. So it does not matter which party finally wins the November elections, India-US ties will remain strong. However a Democratic President, especially if Bernie Sanders is the winner, will certainly have much more to say about human rights, treatment of minorities and Kashmir. For Trump these are India’s internal problem and he trusts Prime Minister Modi to take care of them. But democratic values are important and even Trump cannot totally ignore them up to a point.

Both Modi and Trump have gained domestic brownie points from the visit. Modi’s image among his followers will get another major boost after Trump’s fulsome praise of him as a leader with a vision. For Trump the India trip so close to elections may help to garner Indian-American votes, though most have usually opted for Democrats. More important Trump can boast of the welcome he received by adoring crowds in India, a rarity for him on visits to other parts of the world. Critics here believe India may have erred in opting blatantly for Trump in the November elections. But that remains to be seen.

Communal Violence Abates In NE Delhi, Say Police

Delhi Police on Thursday said that the situation is normal and no untoward incident was witnessed from northeast Delhi today where violence erupted on February 23.

“Situation is normal. No incident took place today. Adequate forces have been deployed. 48 FIRs registered so far, more FIRs are being registered as we are getting more information. 350 Aman committee meetings have been held so far,” Delhi Police PRO MS Randhawa told reporters.

“We will address all the individual cases. An investigation is going on. We have multiple footages. As the investigation progresses in all the cases, we will share the details. We are investigating from all angles,” said Randhawa.

Two Special Investigation Teams (SIT) have been constituted under the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch to investigate the violence.

At least 38 people, including a police head constable, have died, while around 200 people have been injured.

Moreover, properties worth crores of rupees have been damaged after clashes took place between two opposing factions over the newly-amended Citizenship Amendment Act.