The BJP, Delhi Police must act | HT Editorial
The shootings reflect political and institutional failureUpdated: Feb 03, 2020 20:57 IST
Over the past week, there have been two, possibly three, incidents of shooting in Delhi’s Jamia area. A young gunman walked towards protesters and shot a bullet — injuring a student who was protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA — on Thursday. On Saturday, another man, Kapil Gujjar, fired bullets in the air in the Shaheen Bagh area — which has emerged as the hub of the anti-CAA protests — and declared that only Hindus had a right to rule. And late on Sunday night, two men on a moving vehicle allegedly fired shots near the gates of the Jamia Millia Islamia university. While the first two shooters have been arrested, the police are investigating the third case. It still isn’t certain whether shots were fired.
The incidents merit the strongest condemnation. They also point to both a political and institutional failure. First, the violence cannot be divorced from the political rhetoric that has emanated from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership. From home minister Amit Shah down to candidates in the Delhi assembly polls, the BJP has decided to contest the elections by demonising Shaheen Bagh as the citadel of “anti-nationals”. Irrespective of one’s view on the protests, this is undemocratic, for those protesting against CAA have grievances which they are expressing peacefully. To demonise it, instead of engaging with it, is flawed. The rhetoric has also taken violent overtones, especially in the openly provocative slogans chanted by minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur, statements by Delhi Member of Parliament Parvesh Verma and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. All of this has contributed to extremism among a section of young Hindus — and is getting manifested in the violence targeted at Muslim-dominated protests in Muslim-dominated areas.
The second responsibility is institutional. The State is tasked with the duty of maintaining law and order and preventing violence, while safeguarding democratic rights. In this case, it is clearly the responsibility of the Delhi Police — which reports directly to the ministry of home affairs — to ensure that no violence occurs. The fact that there have been two (maybe three) shootings in the same, limited, geographical area points to an abysmal dereliction of duty. In recent months, the Delhi Police have either been excessive in their use of force (in Jamia on December 15), seemingly complicit in mob violence (in Jawaharlal Nehru University on January 5) or incompetent (in Jamia/Shaheen Bagh over the past week). It is time for the political leadership of the BJP, the leadership of the home ministry, as well as the top officials of the Delhi Police to meet their constitutional responsibilities.