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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 13 New Delhi March 14, 2020

Delhi Violence: Genesis of Carnage

Sunday 15 March 2020

by Ram Puniyani

They say ‘history repeats itself first as a tragedy and then as a farce’. In the case of India, communal violence not only keeps repeating itself, the pattern of the tragedy keeps changing every next time. Some features of the violence are constant, but they are mostly under the wraps. The same can be said about the Delhi violence (February 2020). The interpretations, the causative factors are very discernible, but those who are generally the perpetrators have a knack of shifting the blame on the victim community or those who stand for the victims.

As the carnage began presumably in the aftermath of the statement of Kapil Mishra of the BJP, which was given in front of a top police official, in which he threatened to get the roads emptied. The roots of violence were sown earlier. The interpretations given by the Hindu nationalist camp is that the riot is due to the changing demographic profile of the area with Muslims increasing in number in those areas, and coming up of Shaheen Bagh which was presented as a ‘Mini Pakistan’. As per them, the policies of the BJP in matters of triple talaq, Article 370 and CAA, NPR, NRC has unnerved the ‘radical’ elements and so this violence.

As such before coming to the observations of the activists and scholars of communal violence in India, we can in brief say that violence, in which nearly 46 people have died (the figure is now 53), include one from the police and another from the intelligence. The majority of the victims are Muslims. The violence started right under the nose of the police and the ruling party. From the videos and other eyewitness accounts, police not only looked the other way around, at places it assisted those attacking the innocent victims and burning and looting selective shops. Home Minister Amit Shah was nowhere on the scene. For the first three days the rioters had a free run. After the paramilitary force was brought in, the violence simmered and slowly reduced in intensity. The State’s AAP Government, which in a way is the byproduct of the RSS-supported Anna Hazare movement, was busy reading Hanuman Chalisa and praying at Rajghat with eyes closed to the mayhem going in parts of Delhi.

Communal violence is the sore point of Indian society. It did begin during the colonial period due to the British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. The root cause was the communal view of looking at history and pro-active British acts to sow the seeds of Hindu-Muslim divide. At another level the administration and police under the British were fairly neutral. On one hand was the national movement, uniting the people and creating and strengthening the fraternal feeling among all Indians. On the other were Muslim communalists (Muslim League) and Hindu communalists (Hindu Mahasabha, RSS) who assisted the British goal of ‘divide and rule’, promoting hatred between the communities. After partition the first major change was the change in the attitude of the police and adminis-tration which started tilting against the Muslims. Major studies by Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, Paul Brass and Omar Khalidi demonstrated that the anti-Muslim bias was discernible during and after the riots.

Now the partisan role of the police has been visible all through. The Sri Krishna Commission report brought out this fact; as did the research of the Ex-DIG of UP Police Dr V.N. Rai. Dr Rai’s studies also concluded that no communal violence can go on beyond 24 hours unless the state administration is complicit in the carnage. In one of the violence, investigation of which was done by a Concerned Citizen’s Team (Dhule, 2013) this author observed that the police itself went on to undertake the rampage against Muslims and Muslim properties.

The general observation about riots is that violence sounds to be spontaneous, as the Home Minister is pointing out, but as such it is a well- planned act. Again the violence is orchestrated in such a way that it seems Muslims have begun the riots. Who casts the first stone? To this scholars point out that the carnage is so organised that the encircled community is forced to throw the first stone. At places the pretext is made that ‘they’ (minorities) have thrown the first stone.

The pretexts against minorities are propa-gated, in Gujarat violence the Godhra train burning, in Kandhamal the murder of Swami Laxamannand and now in Shaheen Bagh! The Hindu-Muslim violence began as riots. But it is no more a riot, two sides are not involved. It is plain and simple anti-minority violence, in which some from the majority community are also the victims.

This violence is possible as the ‘Hate against this minority’ is now more or less structural. The deeper the Hate against Muslims and partly against Christians, has been cultivated since long and Hindu nationalist politics, right from its Shakhas to the social media, have been put to use for spreading Hatred. The prevalent deeper hate has been supplanted this time by multiple utterances from the BJP leaders, Modi (Can be recognised by clothes), Shah (press EVM machine button so hard that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh), Anurag Thakur (Goli (bullet) Maro), Yogi Aditya Nath (If Boli (Words) do not work Goli will) and Parvesh Varma (They will be out to rape).

The incidental observation of the whole tragedy is the coming to the surface of the true colors of the AAP, which not only kept mum as the carnage was peaking but also went on to praise the role of the police in the whole episode. With the Delhi carnage “Goli Maro” seems to be becoming the central slogan of the Hindu nationalists. This violence in Delhi has been the first one in which those getting killed are more due to bullets than by swords or knifes! The leader’s slogans do not go in vain! Courts, the protectors of our Constitution seem to be of little help: as one of them like Muralidhar Rao gives the verdict to file against hate-mongers, he is immediately transferred.

And lastly, let’s recall the academic study of the Yale University. It concludes that the BJP ‘gains in electoral strength after every riot’. In India the grip of communalism is increasing frighteningly. Efforts are needed to combat this Hate and the Hate-mongers.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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