Monday, March 30, 2020
 
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Delhi Riots: CAA-NPR Confusion, Politics of Hate & Modi’s Image
Straight Talk



K B Jandial



Delhi riots have left behind a trail of wanton loss of lives and property: 52 dead, 526 shops, 142 houses, some schools & several places of worship burnt. Barring political posturing to placate their respective vote bank in this hour of grief, hardly anyone has remorse over such huge devastation and loss of face by the Govt. and the nation. Whether any political party accepts or not, they all are individually and collectively responsible for this carnage that has brought shame to Indian nation. Who gained from these horrific acts of communal violence in nine localities of North East Delhi? Were these avoidable? Were these spontaneous or well-planned conspiracy to demean Modi when his “friend” President Trump was being accorded tumultuous public reception? It was the first ever standalone visit of any American President to India, an indication of attention India is now getting globally. With these riots, the global headlines changed, perhaps to the liking of many who hate PM Modi. They charge the Centre of complicity in these without realising that Modi himself cannot do self-inflicting humiliation.
The Delhi riots were the culmination of various developments starting from passing of the CAA: divisive politics & polarisation on CAA based on misinformation, religion & vote bank; free-for-all hate speeches; attempts to raise mass protests and agitation; visit of President Trump to India viewed as another feather in Modi’s cap. All was not well from day one and it had to have ended in disaster which none was willing to stop.
Notwithstanding Kapil Sibal’s late admission in Rajya Sabha during debate on Delhi riots of non-existence of any provision in CAA that can take away Indian citizenship of Indian Muslims, the opposition parties & anti-Modi diehards, for the first time in six years, succeeded in creating a strong narrative on CAA as anti-Muslim, building up environment against Modi-Shah duo and instilling a fear in the minds of Muslims. The effort was perhaps to make CAA a pan-India issue on which a JP or Anna Hazare type mass movement could be built. But they had neither JP nor Anna Hazare and unguided narrative sadly led to violence in some parts of India, few universities and then riots in Delhi.
After the end of the riots, the blame-game started and wounds opened to promote respective vote bank interest. This was clearly seen in the delayed debate on the riots in the Parliament. Making a dig on Amit Shah, many MPs speculated what would have been the reaction of Mahatma Gandhi’s to riots had he been alive today, accusing him for not visiting the riot sites. But they forget that Mahatma Gandhi now exists only in speeches and at functions & not in real life of the nation including among those who carry Gandhi surname but are farther from his principles.
Without exception, all major national political parties, activists and even media have contributed towards these riots. They injected poison in our social fabric through anti-Muslim narrative, divisive politics & hate speeches. The ruling BJP and opposition have ceased to see eye to eye on any issue: be these of national security, social upliftment or development. Wary of challenges, Modi, strong and decisive PM, is executing BJP’s announced manifesto, brick by brick in close succession. The divided opposition is unable to prevent him in the Parliament from going ahead with his agenda or dislodge in elections. As short term gain, they support any “public protest” against Modi on any issue hoping to convert it a pan-India agitation.
Delhi riots have exposed the systematic failure of major Institutions, albeit, contributed to avoidable violence. First causality is the parliamentary system & political leaders. The Parliament is the highest forum of democracy where people’s representatives’ debate public issues and make laws but how our Parliamentarians conduct themselves every day doesn’t make the nation proud. The laws passed by the Parliament are not accepted by the opposition parties. They take these issues to streets to get these reversed through public unrest. They don’t even wait for the decisions of the Apex Court where the vires of these laws are challenged.
Political system too has failed. Vote-bank politics has become more important than the nation and the harmony. Every leader of whatever consequences is making incendiary statements perceived to be a threat to peace and harmony. Politically incorrect statement or hate speech of one leader is countered by quoting similar statements of other party leaders and these are in plenty. ‘One wrong justifies the other’, is the new dictum. Everybody is getting away with such criminal acts while the authorities don’t even register FIRs, what to talk of arrests.
Sonia Gandhi gave a clarion call for “aar paar ke ladai” on anti-Muslim CAA at Ramlilla Ground rally where Priyanka Gandhi taunted people by saying that those who wouldn’t come out they would be “gaddar”. AIMIM’s Waris Pathan had more dangerous take: freedom (azadi) is not demanded but has to be snatched & 15 Cr (Muslims) would be ‘heavy’ on 100 Cr (Hindus). A JNU leader, Sharjeel Imam, now arrested, had another prescription for Muslims: “Muslims of this country should block all roads in all major cities of India. Muslim organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and others are a hurdle in such ways of protest”. He even suggested to “cut off Assam through Muslim blockade”.
Harsh Mander, an activist, told anti CAA protesters that the CAA would not be decided in the Parliament or the Supreme Court but on the streets. It is not only an open challenge to the highest forums of democracy but also call for revolt against the Govt., Parliament & SC. Umar Khalid, former JNU student leader was seen instigating people (Muslims) to hit the streets on 24th February when Trump comes to Delhi to show to the world Muslim anger against Modi.
But the real target remained on BJP’s Kapil Mishra for his incendiary ultimatum to the police at Jaffrabad, epicenter of Delhi riots, on February 23, 2020. He had said, “We will hold our peace until Trump leaves. After that, if roads are not cleared (stretch of road near Jaffrabad metro station where some people were sitting in protest against CAA on Shaheen Bagh type), we won’t even listen to you (police)… we’ll have to hit the streets.” The media, anti-CAA leaders and even Justice Muralidhar picked up Kapil Mishra for instigating riots. Those who are blocking road in protest should expect reaction from pro CAA people. Does the democracy grant exclusive right of protest to the exclusion of pro Govt gatherings? Whatever may be his defence, the police must have registered FIR against him too. But the real issue is: can police register FIRs against ruling party leaders? They cannot be liable for any acts; an unwritten law in India.
Another angle has surfaced with the arrest of a Kashmiri couple from Delhi whose links with ISIS have established and their role in instigating anti-CAA protest has been found. PFI funding of Rs 120 cr for instigating Muslim protests too is an angle under investigation. They were in the job of inciting Muslims for violent struggle against India and protests against the CAA.
Modi invariably resort to Manmohan Singh type “maun” when the nation expects him to admonish people from ‘Sangh Parivar’ for misdeeds like Anurag Thakur for raising unacceptable slogan at an election rally “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko” in December and Parvesh Verma BJP MP for creating fear among people about Shaheen Bagh protesters. Even though these statements made months before riots had no linkage with riots, still PM’s silence was intriguing. Given his mass appeal to Indians, he should have issued an emotional appeal rather than 2-line tweeter appeal for calm & harmony, late & too brief.
There have been misgivings about the top judiciary for not according priority for adjudicating the contentious and sensitive constitutional issues. Somehow, the Apex Court has, its wisdom, kept the issues wide open through routine adjournments. Had the constitutional validity of sensitive CAA (also about abrogation of article 370 & continued detention of former CMs of J&K) been decided expeditiously the unwarranted tension & uncertainty over its constitutional validity would have ended. The good thing is that the Apex Court’s verdicts still carry a lot of weight, respect and public acceptability Harsh Mander atrocious observation on SC notwithstanding.
While Justice S Muralidhar of Delhi High court held midnight hearing to ‘fix’ Kapil Mishra and also creditably got “rescued” through the police 22 riots injured from a gheraoed local nursing home in a riot hit locality, the Supreme Court kept on adjourning proceedings and now listed on 23rd March, 2020 the PIL to remove sit-in at Shaheen Bagh. On 18th February 2020, the Apex Court, in a balancing act, held that peaceful protest is the “fundamental right of the people” and at the same time wondered “if everybody starts blocking public areas then where it ends” impliedly disapproving “right” to block roads for many days that led to frequent traffic snarls that exactly happened due to protest at Shaheen Bagh since 15 December, 2020. But the SC stopped short of enforcing the rule of law by giving clear directions. Instead it, in its wisdom, sent interlocutors for dialogue with protestors to change the site of protest but they didn’t budge as the protestors had already made it clear that they would lift their sit-in only when CAA is withdrawn. With the matter subjudice the sit-in continues and nobody can remove them by force.
Exercising their right of protest as SC observed, a group of women protestors started Shaheen Bagh type sit-in at Jaffrabad Metro Station road on the eve of Trump’s visit in line with Umar Khaild’s ‘appeal’ to Muslims. Incidentally, it became the epicenter of the riots that began with the arrival of President Trump.
In the backdrop of protests on CAA, the SC judges instead of examining the constitutionality of CAA & abrogation of Article 370, are espousing the people’s right of dissent at Seminars. At least two SC Judges have publically decried the “present tendency of the Govt” to stifle protest as long it is peaceful and described dissent as “safety valve” of democracy. Laudable views, indeed, but perhaps untimely. Can’t they know that there is a very thin line between peaceful protest and the violence? Another Hon’ble Judge bluntly indicted BJP saying that “Today in the country, dissent is seen as anti-national. Government and country are two different things”. “If some party gets 51% votes, does that mean the other 49% should not speak for 5 years…every citizen has a role to play in democracy…governments are not always right,” he added. These observations are well-intentioned in a vibrant democracy & legally correct, but ill-timed.
The Delhi Police, yet another institution, has too failed Home Minister’s ‘shabaahs’ notwithstanding. If it had prior information why the potential trouble makers not picked up or slapped with FIRs & why section 144 CR. P. C not imposed in sensitive areas? If Delhi police was overstretched due to VVIP visit, why central para-military forces not requisitioned or called the police from the neighbouring States? To echo Kejriwal’s comment, why the army was not called on 24th Feb itself when the violence had started in Jaffrabad with full running commentary on TV Channels? It is not essential to wait for 36 hours to die down violence and then NSA was sent for confidence building in riot areas? Home Minister is within his rights to keep the morale of Delhi Police high but the outgoing Police Commissioner didn’t inspire confidence in his men & the residents in this scary situation. He preferred to remain out of public glare.
Media too contributed towards this avoidable carnage. First they overplayed hate speeches and become a conduit for creating misgivings on CAA, strengthening ear among Muslims. Brazenly anti- Modi western Media and many Indian news magazines picked up selective stories of only one community to project that they alone were the victims and run down the image of India & PM Modi. Some channels were seen settling score with Modi Govt by overplaying hate irresponsible speeches of BJP leaders only while others did just opposite to demonstrate loyalty to Modi. The violence was in full public view and the credible evidences but the police was nowhere seen.
The most unfortunate part is that the there is no course correction post-riots. All political parties including the ruling BJP are continuing their agenda. Even after Modi image getting a beating; he continued to command a huge pan-India support with no threat to his Govt. It is high time that “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas” is actually seen in practice with higher visibility of “sab ka vishwas” everywhere. Inclusive India is much better than divisive India and the role of role of opposition parties in it is equally vital.




(Author is a retired IAS officer) feedback: [email protected]





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