These are terrible times. Delhi has lost the aura of being an island of peace. The national capital was subjected to the worst possible communal violence over the last five days. For five days and nights the violence raged against a particular community that has been on the edge following the promulgation of a bill into law that not just discriminates against them, but also turns them illegal alien in their own motherland when accompanied with the proposed NRC.
Dozens of people have lost their lives, an overwhelming majority of them being Muslims. Entire neighborhoods have been torched after being looted and emptied of the valuables. As the issue of citizenship comes into focus, many people are worried that all the documents they possessed have been turned to cinders.
The most worrisome aspect of the Delhi riots 2020 is the fact that this happened under the very nose of the police that remained mute spectator as the rioters had a field day. Innumerable footages and video have emerged showing how the police not just allowed the rioters to attack Muslim localities, but actively supported them.
How can you forget the viral video where five Muslim men, beaten to pulp, are forced to recite national anthem by the police. One of the five people has been confirmed to have died following gunshot wounds. Faizan, a resident of Kardampuri in northeast Delhi, one of the worst affected localities in North East Delhi succumbed to his injuries this past Thursday. This is going to further scar the already sullied image of the Indian police. But more than that, it has established the police, meant to establish law and order in the country, as a partisan force that will not come to the rescue of the victims and instead support the rioters.
Many people have said that the riots wouldn’t have taken place had the police acted swiftly against people who incited violence through their inflammatory speeches. Sanjay Singh, a senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member says, “A High Court judge had said that why had the DCP not taken action against the Kapil Mishra. That judge himself was transferred. Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Anurag Thakur's name had been taken by the court. When will the BJP take action against them, even their own MP Gautam Gambhir has asked for action against Mishra”?
Community on its own
The Indian Muslim community has lately realized that it is on its own following the ghastly Delhi riots when the courts didn’t take any cognizance of what was happening to the community in the heart of the Indian capital. Haji Nayeem, a resident of Maujpur, one of the worst affected localities by the brutal riots told me that for the three days there was no one who came to their rescue. “When we made PCR calls and asked for help, what we got was all the more damaging. We faced filthiest of abuses from the police personnel handling the call”, says Nayeem. He goes on to add that police would have controlled the riots right away but they didn’t act and in many cases supported the riots rather openly.
Hapless riot victims continued to call police, but without any help from law enforcement agencies. It is learnt that the Delhi Police received close to 15,000 calls seeking help on its police control room (PCR) helpline in four days of the riots that broke out in northeast Delhi. Had the police fulfilled its responsibilities, dozens of lives could have been saved and hundreds of homes that have been burnt to ashes could have been saved.
Court mute spectator
People are also critical of how the courts didn’t do anything and sat idly while a large section of the city went up in flames consuming hundreds of homes, destroying businesses and taking the lives of many people. There are many people missing even now and the relatives of missing people are not sure they would ever be reunited with their families. The sudden transfer of Delhi High Court judge, Justice S Muralidhar also baffled many. The High Court that had given some hope to riot victims that the people who ignited the violence in Delhi will be taken to task, failed to reassure them when Justice S Muralidhar was transferred.
Merely a few hours after judge grilled the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and Delhi Police officials for negligence and dereliction of duty in coping with Delhi riots, the Central government issued notification for his transfer that was recommended by the apex court on February 12. The Central government notification didn’t even mention the usual 14 days given to judges on transfer. Justice Muralidhar left his job at the Delhi High Court the same day. This was a crude jolt to the riot survivors who thought that people like Kapil Mishra who are alleged to have incited the violence in capital will be held accountable for their roles and apprehended. Following the transfer of Justice Muralidhar, the Congress called his transfer amid violence in the capital territory as a "hit and run" move meant to protect BJP leaders accused of making hate speeches.
Supreme Court didn’t do more than rebuking the police. Justice Joseph in an oral observation said, “Lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem here. If you had not allowed people to get away after inflammatory remarks, all this would not have happened. If you act the way law requires to act, you will see the difference”. He observed orally when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tried to hush the judge saying the judge’s remarks may “demoralise the police”.
The Muslim community has felt baffled over lack of any action on the part of the apex court. Faizan Mustafa says that minorities in India are living in fear today. While writing in a column in the Indian Express, one of the top experts on constitutional law in the country says, “By not hearing petitions on the constitutionality of the CAA, not taking cognisance of the inept handling by the Delhi Police of atrocities against the students, the apex court has overlooked the gravity of the situation. The SC had stayed the acceptance of the Mandal Commission’s recommendation of reservation for OBCs because there had been protests by upper castes. A stay on the CAA would have ended the nationwide protests. Today, minorities are living in fear. The promises made to them in the Constitution in Articles 25 to 30 are broken with impunity”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who talked of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Wishwas has miserably failed to act or even express sympathy with the people affected by the worst riots of the capital in more than three decades. Home Minister, Amit Shah, who controls the Delhi Police, is alleged to have done nothing while Delhi burnt. Had the two leaders acted swiftly, the damage would have been minimized.
There is no denying that the psychological scars of the riots will continue to haunt the young children who were directly affected by the riots. The image of a young boy sitting with the dead body of his father who lost his life in the ghastly riots, with a blank expression on his face, will be hard to erase from the collective memory of a community.
Even those who were not directly affected, it will badly impact as the sense of vulnerability has deepened among them. Raihan (name changed), a social entrepreneur told me that he was shocked beyond belief when his 16-year old daughter asked him if girls are allowed to take their life if confronted by rioters trying to rape them. My salam to the father who said they should think about killing the rioters by their powerful bare hands instead of even thinking about taking their own lives. There is no denying that these are terrible times indeed and even young girls who shouldn't have more to worry at the moment than trying to perform well in their exams, are confronted by such questions.
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Despite muted denials, NRC will target Muslims
Bhagwat, Madani meet: End of the maddening divide
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
Muslim women's entry in mosques: What is the truth?
Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October