If aim was to liquidate opposition to CAA it might not succeed
The casualty graph of the religious violence in Northeast Delhi does not seem to stop from rising. By the afternoon of February 27, as many as 34 persons were reported dead in four days of bloodletting. A hundred more were battling serious injuries. It all started with Kapil Mishra, who lost as a BJP candidate in the recent Delhi election, calling for direct action against the group of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters that had gathered outside Jaffrabad metro station. Mishra made that call with a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) standing beside him. The DCP smiled and did nothing against Mishra despite his inflammatory speech. That showed the bias of the Delhi police which reports to the Union home ministry. The same bias showed through the violence that was unleashed on ordinary people in many areas.
It is true that the anti-CAA protesters in Shaheen Bagh blocked a part of a public road and those at Jaffrabad blocked movement at the metro station. These were issues that needed to be tackled, as it inconvenienced commuters. However, there had been no violence from the side of the protesters at Shaheen Bagh and Jaffrabad. They were mostly women and children. It was after Kapil Mishra’s call that a mob attacked the protesters at Jaffrabad with stones and lathis. In reaction the protesters counter-attacked. All this was happening in the heavy presence of the police. They should not have allowed the pro-CAA protesters to gather there in the first place. That they not only let them gather but also gather with stones and lathis and then launch an attack on the protesters tells a scary story of Delhi police. This was open partisanship toward a side whose chief aim was to teach a lesson to the anti-CAA protesters.
The violence that, starting from Jaffrabad, engulfed several parts of Northeast Delhi followed a pattern that people had witnessed in 1984 anti-Sikh riots and 2002 Gujarat riots. For days and days together the police allowed mobs enjoying the support of the ruling party to slaughter people in their homes and on the streets and burn houses and shops. The marauders in both 1984 and 2002 had the same aim as those in Delhi of 2020: teach the men and women following a particular faith a lesson of their lives. The ruling party of the day thought that by allowing such slaughter and ruin the members of the particular religious community would live under great fear and never think of doing the slightest offence that could provoke a similar calamity to them.
No amount of explanation would help the Delhi police redeem its credibility. They clearly let mobs take many lives and wound many people and destroy many homes and shops. The places where the slaughter and arson took place are all areas inhabited by the working class and petty businessmen. Families have lost their young sons who used to bring income home. Businessmen who had used their savings and loans to run small shops have lost everything. Going by postmortem reports, several men died of gunshot wounds. Where did so many guns come from? Who were carrying these illegal guns? Why did not the police confront them in ‘encounters’ they are so famous for killing suspects and politically undesirable elements? Men belonging to both religious communities died of gunshot wounds. That shows that both sides had elements that were carrying illegal guns.
Of course, there was violence from both sides. It followed the Jaffrabad pattern: first the mob instigated by Kapil Mishra’s speech attacked the anti-CAA protesters, then some of the protesters retaliated; in the other areas of Northeast Delhi similar attacks and counter-attacks went on for three days. Although the casualty and destruction took place on both sides, the Muslims suffered more. That also gives credence to the theory that the whole attack on the Muslims was pre-planned. However, if the ruling party of the day thinks the Delhi slaughter would liquidate opposition to the CAA they are mistaken. Opposition to CAA is not limited to Muslims, though they are the ones who fear they are the ultimate target of it, combined with an NRC. The anti-CAA protests are going to continue. And that would make the ‘Delhi lesson’ look fruitless.