New Delhi: Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has refuted reports that stonepelting by a member of his organisation may have been among the triggers of the Delhi riots. According to him, such allegations are just meant to divert attention from BJP leader Kapil Mishra, “the real culprit”.
Azad has been at the forefront of protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Delhi riots, with a toll of 42, are believed to have begun with clashes between supporters and opponents of the CAA Sunday. The clashes began hours after Mishra led a rally in Northeast Delhi where he delivered an incendiary speech.
Speaking to ThePrint, Azad said if any member of the Bhim Army is found to be involved in the riots, they should be put behind bars as the organisation does not promote violence.
“The government has all the machinery. The intelligence, the police. If they find any evidence against any member of the Bhim Army or me, they should make an immediate arrest, as we do not support violence of any kind,” he said.
Azad was responding to reports that Delhi Police’s initial assessment suggests the riot was triggered by stonepelting by a Bhim Army member, and his group being chased away by pro-CAA protesters who gathered at Maujpur in Northeast Delhi in response to Mishra’s speech.
Protests against the CAA, said Azad, had been going on across India since December but no riots had broken out anywhere as a result.
“If no riot broke out in the last two months, then why now? What changed? The protesters are the same, we have been giving out such calls in the past as well,” he said, referring to the 23 February ‘Bharat Bandh’ he announced to protest against the CAA and the Supreme Court’s promotion quota order, among other things.
“It is because this attack was planned by goon elements of the BJP. The government now wants to divert attention from that, which is why they are putting it on the Bhim Army.”
‘Riots orchestrated to stop anti-CAA protests’
Azad said the riots were initiated to “scare” anti-CAA protesters and fail “the movement”, but he would make sure the protests go on.
“Their hate speech formula did not work in the assembly elections, so they mobilised people for a riot,” he added. “It is their strategy to scare us, scare the people. But we will keep mobilising them. To protest against this unconstitutional Act is our right.”
He also blamed the government for not taking strict action to stop the riot.
“They have all the force, Delhi Police, then why did they not contain the violence… (why did they) let rioters run amok for three days? It is because they initiated it,” he said.
He also urged police to deal with hate speech with a stern hand. “If they could arrest me for reading out the preamble (of the Constitution) at Jama Masjid, then why not arrest Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, who actually instigated the people?”
“It is laughable that the Centre has said their arrest, or registration of an FIR against them, will lead to further violence and the time is not right,” he said. “How will it lead to further tension? Will their supporters indulge in violence again if the two leaders are booked? Is this what they mean?”
Azad said the Bhim Army — which is based in Uttar Pradesh, primarily involved in promoting Dalit rights — was holding peace meetings in Scheduled Caste-dominated colonies of Northeast Delhi and had also made arrangements for people in riot-affected areas.
“We have opened Ravidas and Valmiki temples and have made arrangements of food and shelter for both communities (Hindus and Muslims). Dalits and Sikhs are working together on this,” he said.
He added that he had sought permission to visit Northeast Delhi, and was waiting for it to be granted.