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HomeNational InterestWhy the root of Delhi's Hindu-Muslim riots is a malevolent creeper planted...

Why the root of Delhi’s Hindu-Muslim riots is a malevolent creeper planted by Supreme Court

The top court wrote a diabolical chronology and playbook through its Assam NRC order, and the BJP turned it into an all-conquering, polarising dog-whistle.

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Is it the right time to discuss the root causes of a problem at the precise moment your nation’s capital city is burning because of it? And when the death toll has already crossed 40, making it the highest in a Hindu-Muslim riot in the city’s post-Partition history?

This, in India’s most protected city, in an arc between 6 to 10 km from Rashtrapati Bhavan, where the glory of the republic sits, flanked by South and North Blocks housing the entire and humongously formidable homeland and military security machinery built to protect it and its people?

Can’t you leave it for later, when passions calm and leave everybody, especially the institutions critical to restoring normalcy, the government and the judiciary, free to do the immediate job first? Intellectual debates can wait, until the fires — and emotions — cool.

Any debate on strife, mass dissatisfaction, insurgency or terrorism usually stalls when it runs into a wall: The root causes theory. Antagonists invariably take inflexible, ossified positions for or against it, and nothing moves. Watch Pakistan invoke it on cross-border terrorism and India’s response, for example.

There are also risks in raising uncomfortable questions now. A minister or an army of social media ‘influencers’ could rise to charge you with anything they wish, from instigation to sedition and, for all you know, a court will also issue you a notice. That’s the reason television channels were issued dire warnings to abide by the broadcast code — of course after the damage had been done. We are so chastened and quaking in fear, therefore, that we aren’t fighting with the government for now for failing its citizens living just 6 km away.

We aren’t, however, so cowardly yet that we won’t pick an argument with another institution which failed the same citizens. And in its case, the distance from the victims is even less, just 5 km. This, mind you, isn’t a case of complicity, incompetence or ideology; the charges we usually throw at governments.

It is a misapplication of mind, a waste of institutional and moral capital of the one institution that matters when the chips are down, the last goalkeeper. The root causes to the burning and humiliation of India’s capital, of the many fires that are smouldering across the country, lie in the one institution which should have known better. Surely, the wisest and most respected men and women chosen to run the Supreme Court can’t be so oblivious to the inevitability of unintended consequences.

Also read: What data and history of India and its capital tell us about Delhi’s riots

The CAA-NPR-NRC poison currently toxifying India, unfortunately, comes from a malevolent creeper bush planted by the Supreme Court of India when a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Nariman passed that landmark order to begin the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam, under its direct supervision.

In fairness, we should underline that this wasn’t a sudden brainwave on the part of the judges. There is a ‘foreign nationals’ issue peculiar to Assam and its messy history of immigration. A massively popular movement against it had paralysed the state in the early 1980s, to the extent that the government’s writ did not run for more than three years. To such an extent that it was unable to even ensure that a drop of crude oil produced by Assam’s oil fields could reach the ‘mainland’ refineries. 

The anger, that Bengali-speaking “infiltrators” (the term originated there) were overwhelming indigenous culture, political power and economics, was near-unanimous among ethnic Assamese. As it invariably happens in such situations, the largely peaceful movement grew some nasty, militant offshoots as well.

Peace and normalcy were restored in the winter of 1985, after Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, signed an accord with the agitation leaders. Among its many clauses was one promising a thorough NRC scrutiny, identification of illegal foreign nationals and deletion of their names from electoral roles to begin with, and then deportation.

Again, because the specific context was Assam, there was a cut-off date — 25 March 1971 — when the Pakistani army’s crackdown on what was then East Pakistan began. The idea was what is familiar again now: Millions of Hindus, who left East Pakistan to escape persecution, entered into Assam since 1947. They deserved refuge in India. To simplify things, anyone who came in until it was Pakistan was to be left unquestioned, unsuspected and untouched. After 25 March 1971, the responsibility of looking after the Hindu minority was that of the friendly Bangladesh government.

It follows, therefore, that anyone who came in after that cut-off date was an illegal foreigner and would be sent back, and Bangladesh was committed to resettling them. Anyone, Muslim or Hindu. That accord made no such distinction. Certainly, it wasn’t also the judges’ intention to make one. The bench was ruling on a petition seeking the implementation of this key clause of the Accord that all its signatories had conveniently forgotten. 

You can take a purely legal view and ask, quite justifiably, why should the judges let the sleeping dogs lie just because it may be politically and pragmatically expedient?

Also read: Why Delhi riots are different — what ThePrint’s 13 reporters, photojournalists saw on ground

The rest is a recent flashback and we can run it in fast-forward. The NRC process began, supervised and expedited by a Supreme Court bench, with a zeal matching that of the apex court’s epochal cricket bench. I dare say, with about similar results in the end. Except that one became a joke, the other is a tragedy.

The court had the head of the NRC process report to it directly, put a gag on him so he couldn’t speak to anyone, including the media. This gave the process an aura of fear and opacity. It also ordered that massive detention centres to house those found to be illegal be constructed. And then, when stuff hit the fan, or the truth emerged, everything changed. Some were furious with what the facts brought, but more powerful others saw an opportunity.

First of all, the ‘foreigners’ identified were a fraction of the old popular fantasy. Then, more than two-thirds of those still not proven legal are Hindu Bengalis. The ethnic Assamese won’t accept the Hindus, nor would the logic of the 1985 Accord or the SC order to implement it. And could the BJP ever expel the Hindus?

Where do we stand now? The BJP spotted an opportunity. The Hindu ‘infiltrators’ of Assam could be protected with the new CAA, and Muslims dealt with. And now that the highest court had legitimised it for one state and also written a diabolical chronology and playbook, right up to detention centres, why not take it across the nation? It was an all-conquering, polarising dog-whistle.

That’s where we stand now. A new ball, the constitutionality of the CAA, is bouncing in the same court. Meanwhile, the poison-ivy it sowed with the best of intentions is creeping on India. Even in Assam, the BJP government now says it’s unhappy with the NRC and intends to do it all over again. The officer who led it, directly under the court’s supervision and protection, is being hounded. Probably because he didn’t bring the ‘right’ numbers. So far, we haven’t seen the Supreme Court defend what was done under its own watch, to say it won’t allow a repeat NRC in Assam, or gross undermining of its own intention through the CAA.

Delhi was just one riot. Add Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and you can count a few scores dead. It could, regrettably, be just the beginning of a very long, dark phase for India. That’s why the time to reflect on the root cause is now.

Also read: Why Northeast Delhi violence is India’s first Hindu-Muslim riots with guns  


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  1. The real question to ask is this: “Has the condition of Hindus in Bangladesh improved since 1971?” The answer is no.

    Bangladesh was founded as a secular Bengali nation but now is a Muslim country (state-religion Islam). And in Bangladeshi “riots” only Hindus die.

  2. WE are clearly able to see the havoc created when Judges seek to become ‘preachers’ and ‘talk’ to the media and people, out of turn and out of context, airing their personal views ( often perceived as their personal ‘prejudice’ against the government of the day). A Judge best serves the cause he is appointed to serve when he is sitting on the Bench and hearing cases, not when he vents his personal views ( which are noticeably and obviously biased). On many an occasion this ‘talk’ can easily be construed as a “PRECONCEIVED” notion on what the Judge would decide. There was a time when Judges would never allow such a perception to emerge. Sadly, it is Indira Gandhi, and her vociferous clamour for “A Committed Judiciary” that created this situation. This has been exacerbated by the media playing up private opinions of Judges for their sensation value to help their TRPs and circulation. The former President Pratibha Patil openly, and to the media too, declared her repugnance for the “Death Penalty”. What further sense was left in the provision to move the President by a ‘death’ convict’ for clemency, when it was practically guaranteed by the aversion to Death Penalty of the very person who had to “Apply his/her mind” on the petition”? Judges should only ‘speak’ from the Bench. Or, be prepared to be perceived as NOT impartial and seeking truth and justice, but being unjustly biased.

  3. Read the article and the responses!!! You know what, it is on purpose that, the difference between‘Refugees’ and ‘official Immigrants- permanent Residence or Citizenships’ is not being clarified by media- The Print included!!! All over the world there are far more stringent and different laws for it!! And those are not open for ‘comments’!!
    Also, at any point of discussion how the angle of ‘Pakistan’ being created only and only On the basis of’Muslim’ religion can be overcome!! How ever one may be ‘Secular’ the deep rooted history of ‘Hindustan’ since the days of Mahmood of Gazani and the ‘Mughal Empire’ and what happened in that era to Hindu natives can’t be easily forgotten!! Yes , it can be kept out of mind when one has vested interest!!! And that’s the real story!
    Yes, untouchability was worst but the Hindus have ever been trying to overcome it though the process is far from satisfactory! But we have laws and constitutional provisions!! Can any Muslim claim they are ‘in process of changing bad elements mentioned in ‘Quran’ and accept the‘Constitution of INDIA’?
    The real problem is what? Present government is ready to make needed changes, what may come rather than, keeping the issues under carpet!!

  4. Mr Shekhar Gupta. Please stop your anti-BJP propogandist lies on CAA.
    CAA is pro-Pakistani minorities to give refuge to the persecuted.
    Please stop your incessant lies.

  5. Fake news.
    CAA was first introduced in Parliament in 2016, when there was not even a whiff of the outcome of NRC in Assam.

  6. Typical secularist rant and this is what started. Our generations has been taught sab bhul jayo aur kush yaad nahi rakho. But other side does not acknowledge Godhra. Firstly it was even if Babri masjid was on Ram temple hindus should forget. Even if triple talaq not in line with law hindus should forget. Even if there is sufficient evidence that Mughal period was not good period for hindus but it was great. Even if there is strong evidence of Aurangzeb and Tipu acting as more as Islamic king but they were fine and there is no similar eg of Hindu kings. This extends to Pakistan too…. do not attack Pak before 1985 as muslims in India may not like, in Kashmir forget the genocide and special status, forget the terrorism from Pak as it will lead to war. Many of these assumptions have been proven to be self inflicted ghosts. The right way would be to acknowledge the problem of illegal migrants, study it run reports on it and then work to resolve as humanly as possible. The CAA is not anti muslim and NPR if done rightly ever will help to improve relations between countries of sub-continent as vote bank illegal immigration will be bad. As for warning UP, Bihar, works well for BJP it will be another Babri Masjid…especially with no national level NPR. Muslims will find ever difficult to justify violence for unknown muslim migrant who never lost his citizenship

    • you think these secular Muslim loving Hindus will listen to you. These liberal hindus want to be ruled by Muslims like they were for about 500 years.

      • I first heard chaddi remark not from Muslim or by other minority friend but by my Father who had voted till 2014 for Congress only. In this Lok Shabha BJP clocked 51% votes. And Shekhar did not squeak on Babri Masjid despite dollars to be made by opposing. More they resist and desist from reasonable, responsiblness more it will move to 60%. At some point muslims will also see thru the liberal west gameplan of stopping their evolution as religious right and using it to discriminate and use them.

  7. Theprint kindly use a little easy english,because you are not addressing literature students only,but you are writing these articles to address masses.Thanks

  8. The CJI gets let off on sexual harrasment charges. Sets the playbook for Ayodhya, rafale, defers 370 hearings, judges getting transferred, judges dying of ‘natural causes’, charges getting dropped, bail for blast accused…list is endless..we all know deep within what’s happening. It’s only a matter of time when it reaches ‘you’ personally. Brace yourself for the impact.

  9. Utter rubbish. There again Shekar Gupta doing what he does best – grinding his axe. Someone must use it on him. That would be the most suitable reply to this idiotic piece.

  10. To what extent can the root cause analysis go. BJP might well say that the faulty Assam Accord is the root cause. Without the mention of 1971 and NRC in that accord no one would have gone to court.

    “na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri”

    Is there a truth or does it lie only in the eyes of the beholder!

  11. I refer to the commentator Sristi who claims below in response to my previous comment that the levels of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants into Assam is exaggerated. My figures are from the Third Front administration in 1997 and the Congress administration in late 2004. The decadal census figures since 1971 corroborate that. The levels of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam is roughly 5 million. Shouldn’t India do something about that? Doesn’t Assam matter?

    • In Assam movement of people from the areas now called Bangladesh is going on from 2001. Sylhet district now in Bangladesh was part of British time Assam. Relevant years are 1951 census and 1971. Already AASU has accepted March 71 as cut off date. Decadal growth rate in after 71 is there in census records. Rest are political propaganda. Which party did those propaganda is immaterial.

  12. Shekhar ji;
    CAA is a good law. Opposition to it is politically motivated.
    Any compromise on this good law, will encourage fringe elements to use violence to get its demands met.

      • Can you liberal retards tell why is it so bad to provide refuge to persecuted minority in India that you need to resort to stone pelting and arson ? If refugees are problem why Europe should accept Muslim refugees from syria let them die.

      • Any law that gives refuge to the persecuted is a good law. Not sure what’s bad about helping those in need.

    • This good law may bring bad consequences which we all may have to face in future. But no one listens to sane advice in time.

      • I admit politics all about being clever. But cleverness by political party’s sometimes gets everyone into a soup, including leaders.

  13. Don’t forget that Babri Masjid was a minor dispute for decades while our lethargic courts sat on it without rendering a judgement. For those who might not remember, troubles in Telangana were originally fueled by the courts in the early 70s. If only people were to examine the real history of judiciary, they would realize how destructive it has been in terms of governance. For those who say “the law is an ass”, I say – “if only that was true”. If you examine court judgments you will find a pattern of acting above the law and flouting the constitution so as to protect and expand their powers. There is an entire industry that thrives on frivolous PILs and the lawyers charge enormous fees to get you access. The entire legal system at the highest levels is corrupt to the very core.

  14. The way this govt manipulates numbers, speaks half-truths and passes laws specifically to promote agendas of their birth-mothers, no wonder no foreign govt pays any heed to their requests, whether it is Kashmir, or co-operation with intelligence agencies or treating them as a developed nation with a rule of law and democratic principles.

  15. This is highly irresponsible conclusion of the author and putting it on Supreme Court clearly lacks the historical and judicial facts.

    Hindu Muslim faultlines exist since British Raj or maybe even more. You just did a ctc on riots yet came to this conclusion.

    Accords between Assam and central government USA valid document. The government did not implement the NRC 70s which led to SC observed judgment on its implementation.

    I will give you some CTC which in your worldview would be blasphemy.

    Muslims in India identify themselves as inheritors Descents of Arab/Turks/Afghan/Mongol heritage which plundered looted raped executed and converted the Kafirs. Even when we all look the same.

    They celebrate and display their Arabic inheritance by acting and dressing like one.

    When you completely destroy your Indianess and accept foreign then these faultlines will continue to persist

    Next time I would like you to declutter this.

    • Foolish that Muslims feel like that.what is Hindu history.what about untouchability.the greatest shame upon earth.just hating particular region and forming opinion is very bad

      • Untouchability is just Extreme form of Hygiene restrictions and Nepotism which went really bad.
        You feeling it as greatest shame is just manifestation of working of Hinduphobic Academia.
        You must learn details of African Slave trade in Europe, Middle-East and Americas throughout the Human History and Butchering of Native Americans . Then, you will find out what true shame really is.
        And, hating a particular religion is not very bad, when the sole purpose of that religion would be to either convert or kill people of other religions.

  16. Dear Mr. Gupta,

    Are you denying that there are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam? Previous Congress and Communist central and state Governments had estimated 15 million illicit immigrants in India, 5 million of which are estimated to be in Assam. The census figures seem to corroborate that. Are you suggesting that we do nothing about Assam? The Supreme Court acted because the politicians did not. The root cause of Delhi’s conflagration can not be so simplistically explained.

    • Figures mentioned are highly exaggerated. That will make all Bengali Hindus and Muslims foreigners. Read the history of Assam and then come.

    • Fact is post 71 decadal growth rate of population in Assam is even lower than many other states of the country . Truth and propaganda are two different things.

  17. Shekar Gupta has forgotten to ask himself one simple questions: If Hindu immigrants get Indian citizenship as per CAA, it is no skin off the nose of Indian Muslims. What do they lose? Why should the protest? As regards NRC, why should a Muslim living in Mangalore, or Bengaluru, or Maharashtra or even Delhi worry? What are they afraid of? They aren’t Bengali speaking Muslims. Does murdering the Hindus obstructing public movement for months together solve the problem? I think none can beat Muslims when it comes to irrational public behaviour.

    • ¤

      Agree with you. Paradoxically , Indian Muslims created Pakistan, thereby IMs are also responsible for the genocide-rapecide-loot of Pak-Bangla Hindus . To rub chilli powder into the wounds of Pak-Bangla Hindus , IMs are treacherously opposing CAA . Shame on IMs


    • If you repeat a lie 100 times, it becomes truth. – Foundation of Propaganda, at least in this case.

  18. Why my earlier response was deleted or got rejected?
    Can I get a reason for that? or Is it like US consulate cancelling your visa giving no reason or Indian government cancelling UK lawmaker’s visa giving no explanation.
    I think, after reading Shekhar Gupat’s daringly written piece It’s a right time to ask a very important question . To whom GJI reports to ?

  19. Very Very insightful article, Shekhar Sahab.
    Judiciary’s unwarranted zeal and enthusiasm was quite evident during R Gogoi’s time.
    Now, we must ask same question, as we asked during Delhi riots i.e.
    Surely DARK Time is waiting….

  20. It is high time that Govt also introduce guidelines similar issued to TV Channels to curb spreading lies,inciting people.Social Media is mainly responsible in spreading lies ,hatrate articles,videos,interviews etc I am at shock to see instigating articles with lies in dozens every day .

  21. This is not true, there are videos where UPA Chidabaram saying that this needs to be done during UPA Government. Please stop spreading untruths.

    • Everyone has seen these videos where Chidambaram is explaining the NRC. Surprisingly Shri Gupta is oblivious of them.

  22. My heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Shekhar Gupta, whose fingers were itching to add the SC order on the Ram Janmabhoomi, in his witches’ cauldron, but chose not to against his ‘conscience’ and Madam 10 Janpath’s orders.

    This kind of bullshitting by Congress’ stooges in the media had pushed Hindus into a corner, please realise that. If mobs are to decide what a government should or shouldn’t do, I am sure we can have pro-CAA, pro-NRC rallies across the NRC and let’s see if these media men cover it in the same way as the hossanas being sung by Gupta and Co.

  23. After reading scores of writings on this issue I can state that 2 emotions come to forth – helplessness amongst the right thinking people and unabashed glee amongst those who think that all old scores can be settled here and now. Both do not augur well for the republic. What should be stated again and again to remind everyone is that the republic is still only 70 years old. Losing it would be an unimaginable tragedy.

  24. Don’t agree with Gupta. A large violent mob gathering exactly when Trump landed can’t be a coincidence. This is a well orchestrated conspiracy by internal and possibly external enemies of India, to the drum beat of urban naxals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta and the NDTV worthies.

  25. Dear Shekhar Gupta, CAB was first introduced in Loksabha in 2016. Then how can you say that it was introduced because of NRC final list in Assam which came out in 2018-19?

  26. The law is an ass. The Indian courts too several decades to decide the issue of Shia-Sunni graves in Doshipura locality of Varanasi and ultimately ordered for the transfer of some graves.

  27. Every institution is as good or as bad as the society itself. Society is composed of interest groups and with some exception, each for his own. But history is replete with examples when decision or action taken for your own benefit boomerangs.

  28. 1. One can understand feelings expressed in this article. 2. A case has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Hence, I wish to ask: if legal and democratic remedies to oppose CAA are available, why not use them? Why burn public property? 3 I wish to say in this context that all citizen-voters are generally opposed to misuse of religion for political purpose. I also wish to say further that the State cannot protect those who use religion clandestinely, particularly to oppose decisions like CAA. 4. I feel that no politician can succeed in defeating sectarian, religion-based politics by opposing acts like CAA. Further, secularism will succeed in our country only by protecting interests of all communities and not by appeasing the minority vote banks, something which is being done by many opposition politicians.
    5. Incidental observations: let us not forget how late PM Rajiv Gandhi reacted to riots after assassination of after Smt Indira Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi’s reaction is in public domain: “We must remember Indiraji. We must remember why her assassination happened. We must remember who could be the people behind this. When Indiraji’s’ assassination happened, there were riots in the country. We know that the hearts of the Indian people were full of anger and that for a few days people felt India was shaking. When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”
    Although late PM Rajiv Gandhi’s reaction came after the end of the worst of the riots, those words have come to be remembered as Rajiv Gandhi’s justification for the carnage that took place after his mother’s death. It seemed to suggest that the Congress party saw the anti-Sikh riots as a natural response to the assassination, a shaking of the earth. 6. I think the double speak, of the opposition politicians and intellectuals, especially of the Congress party on violence related to the anti-CAA agitations, needs to be exposed.

  29. These two judges, who have inflicted so much harm on India, were appointed by an entirely opaque process. They also happen to be from powerful legal and political families. This is the kind of damage a secret appointing process and nepotism will inflict upon a nation.

  30. Adorable how Shekhar is pussyfooting around the real issue- why not hold Amit Shah and his cabal of hate mongerers responsible for this carnage? The rest is just an eye wash.

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