What sets the Delhi riots of February 2020 apart from a rather rich history of riots in India is that there is not even the pretence of an investigation against those whose speeches openly incited violence.
Until now, we used to see a farcical process of investigation and fact-finding after political violence. After the 2002 Gujarat violence, there was Nanavati-Mehta Commission of inquiry. There was Liberhan Commission after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. The people accused of the demolition are being charged even today. Though it is just a matter of time before we conclude that nobody demolished the Babri Masjid and nobody took to rioting thereafter.
The Gujarat administration, under then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, pursued some cases, and even got some convictions for the violence against Muslims in 2002. Similarly, there have been some convictions in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. The politicians accused of leading the violence were let off, but they did face charges, FIRs, trials, and so on. Such investigations and enquiries are often pursued half-heartedly by the prosecution to make sure the person is not convicted.
But with the Delhi riots, we see a paradigm shift in impunity. Those who incited violence are not even facing an FIR, while human rights activists who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are being put in jail.
‘We won’t listen even to you’
“Main aap sab ke behalf pe ye baat keh raha hoon. Trump ke jaane tak to hum shanti se ja rahein hain. Lekin uske baad hum aapki bhi nahi sunenge agar raaste khali nahi huey to. (I’m saying this on behalf of all of you. We will walk along peacefully until Trump returns. After that, we won’t even listen to you if the roads are not vacated.”) These words of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra were heard by everyone. They leave nothing to the imagination about what led to the riots.
A report by the Delhi Minorities Commission found that “violence started in different pockets almost immediately after the short speech of Shri Kapil Mishra on 23 February, 2020 at Maujpur in which he openly called for forcefully removing the protestors at Jafrabad in North East Delhi.”
We haven’t seen the speech
When asked about Kapil Mishra’s speech, the Delhi Police told the Delhi High Court in February that they hadn’t seen it. This, when the words above were addressed to the Delhi Police officials. Kapil Mishra threatened violence and threatened to disobey Delhi Police on their face, and there isn’t even a showpiece FIR against him. Instead, he has been given Y+ security, a brazen way of suggesting that the government of the day endorses his actions.
There are eyewitness accounts suggesting a direct role of Kapil Mishra in the riots, not to speak of the ‘co-incidence’ of riots breaking out the day after Mishra’s speech threatening to forcefully remove the anti-CAA protesters.
Most victims of the Delhi riots, in terms of lives lost, injuries, loot and damage to property, are Muslim. This riot took place to end the peaceful, patriotic, Constitutional protests against a draconian law that could still lead to stripping many Indian Muslims of their citizenship, when applied in the ‘chronological’ order suggested by Home Minister Amit Shah.
For such anti-Muslim and anti-democratic riots, what is the Delhi Police’s concern? They are concerned about “Hindu resentment”. The false allegations against anti-CAA protestors that their speeches, asking for peace and hailing the Constitution, led to the Delhi riots, are doing exactly what the riots did: punishing those who dared to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act.
This is Hindu Rashtra
Along with Kapil Mishra, two other BJP leaders made hate speeches preceding the riots. One was Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, and the other was Delhi BJP leader Parvesh Varma. They, too, face not even an FIR. A plea before the courts to order FIRs against them was dismissed because such action, the court felt, needed the Narendra Modi government’s sanction.
This impunity for riot-mongers tells you how far India has come. Justice should be blind to one’s religion, ideology or political affiliation. But justice depends on the investigation, and yeh, Delhi riots investigation by the Delhi Police is a witch-hunt against the victims.
The Delhi Police’s own role in the riots is also shameful. They not only looked the other way in many instances but are accused of committing violence themselves. We have all seen how the police was going around breaking CCTV cameras. What evidence did they want to hide?
We don’t even pretend anymore that we are a Constitutional democracy which practices equality, rule of law, non-discrimination and such. This is what Hindu Rashtra looks like.
The author is contributing editor, ThePrint. Views are personal.