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Home / Columns / The roots of Delhi’s communal riots | Opinion

The roots of Delhi’s communal riots | Opinion

The city paid a price because politicians indulged in hate speech and Delhi Police failed to do its job

columns Updated: Mar 02, 2020 19:49 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in north-east Delhi, March 1, 2020
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in north-east Delhi, March 1, 2020(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

The Delhi riots have left not just 47 dead but also a series of troubling questions. We need to pay attention to these in our own interests.

For the last three months, the seeds of violence were being sown in Delhi. This is the tragic culmination of the provocative issues our political leaders have been trying to focus on in the last several elections. The invisible warriors of social media were also stoking this fire. Why don’t we understand the fact that the tone and language of our politicians change according to the place, time and circumstances? Take the example of former Delhi Member of Legislative Asembly (MLA), Kapil Mishra. Till a few years ago, as a member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Mishra used to rebuke Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2019, Mishra joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and suddenly became a self-declared protector of Hindu interests. You must have seen him on television channels, saying in the presence of a deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, that we are waiting for the American President Donald Trump’s visit to the Capital city to get over to act. Mishra warned that if the blocked roads were not opened after the visit, then his forces would be unstoppable. These remarks set the ground for the horrific Delhi riots.

Here, it’s important to mention AAP councillor Tahir Hussain. The manner in which petrol bombs, stones and chemicals were allegedly found in his custody shows what a dangerous game our politicians are playing. The councillor has refuted these charges, but a case has been filed against him, charging him with complicity in the murder of Intelligence Bureau official Ankit Sharma. It is also worth mentioning here the statement of a former All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator,Waris Pathan. He had said 150 million [Muslims] will weigh heavily on a billion Hindus. Mishra and Pathan are two sides of the same coin. The Union government and political parties must deal with such elements strictly and without delay.

The Shaheen Bagh movement, though inadvertently, has helped such people. Admittedly, the women protesting have succeeded in maintaining social harmony. But there is a palpable sense of dissatisfaction even among those who sympathised with the protests due to the constraints on mobility. Similarly, when traffic jams took place in Jaffrabad in Delhi, this underlying dissatisfaction gave miscreants like Mishra an opportunity to stoke passions.

Now let’s come to Delhi Police. Had the police got into action at the right time, people wouldn’t have had to turn to the courts asking for help. The situation got so out of control that their own head constable fell victim to the violence. Dozens of policemen were injured and one Indian Police Service officer was admitted to hospital. This must be among the first instances when the police looked like they were just going through the motions, even when their own were affected by the violence. Is our police force not neutral anymore? Or, has the force become inactive or incapable? It was not long ago that a young man brandished a gun near Jamia Milia Islamia. Abusing the demonstrators, he was shouting the slogan: “Delhi Police zindabad!” Who convinced him that the police were with “us”? This is the reason why National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had to take charge of the situation.

When northeast Delhi was engulfed in communal violence, the mohallas of old Delhi, where Hindus and Muslims have been living side by side for centuries, was peaceful. Not one stone was hurled there. Why? The residents here have learnt to live together despite disagreements and fights.

Questions also arise on the functioning of the new government in Delhi. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal used to pass on the responsibility for all that went wrong on the Centre. He has now returned to power in Delhi after winning the support of half of the voters of Delhi. He says that riots were spread by outsiders, not Delhiites. Is he not the chief minister of the riot-affected areas? Didn’t the people vote for him? It is true that his ministers and MLAs tried to talk to the officials concerned, but Kejriwal’s admirers expected and needed much more from him. Had he followed Bapu’s methodology instead of sitting at Rajghat, some lives might have been saved. At such a time, Gandhi did not sit in isolation. He used to go to such places where violence was taking place and put his own life at stake to save others.

Finally, a question to the people of this country. Are the people of this country so naive that they can be tricked by what various leaders say? If we stop voting for such leaders, they will also be forced to forgo such incendiary phrases and rhetoric. It is important to remain vigilant and aware, and not fall prey to divisive politics.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal
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