By Professor Ujjwal K Chowdhury

Delhi Burning: Who Is Responsible?

A riotous situation has engulfed Delhi, specially the Muslim majority areas. Apart from some lives lost (last reported 16, including that of a policeman), there has been thousands of shops and houses gutted, and more than 200 seriously injured. Post anti-Sikh pogrom by Congressi goons in 1984, this is the worst violence in Delhi, and this time largely instigated by Sanghi goons, led by Kapil Mishra, who recently lost Assembly polls as a BJP candidate.

But does the story end here? No. The culprits in varying degrees are on various sides.

Surely dozens of videos of marauding blood-thirsty murderous mobs shouting Jai Shree Ram and charging towards anti-CAA/NRC protesters, largely if not wholly of Muslims, and a discredited Kapil Mishra threatening even the Police that post Trump visit he and his henchmen would not even listen to the Police before resorting to street fights “to clear the roads of protests”, all show how right wing violent mobs are ruling the roost on the streets of Delhi.

The Shaheen Bagh protests have been going on for more than two months, but there was no such violence as seen over the last 48 hours in Delhi. Protesters in Jamia and in JNU were beaten by police in uniform inside one campus and by police protected goons in the other campus. So many videos of violence have come out but till this date no one arrested for JNU violence on campus and no policeman suspended for Jamia violence even in libraries. Yes, Shaheen Bagh protest remained a peaceful resolute protest, with support from Sikh community members and many liberal or left wing Hindus too. Police stopped as many as five roads apart from the one the protesters closed, to augment public inconvenience, still protest continued and peacefully throughout the month long bitter and communally charged Delhi assembly polls campaign too.

However, after the assembly elections were over the situation had started deteriorating. In the Delhi assembly elections of February 2020, the ruling party at the centre, BJP, the largest and the richest one in the world, was defeated squarely by a political start-up of seven years for the second time in a row. The vengeance seems to be out on to the streets now. And there could not have been a worse timing, given the fact that the US President Donald Trump is in town.

Delhi on Fire

This is the big picture, but this is not the total picture.

The Delhi Police, which comes under the central Home Ministry, has decidedly failed to do its basic duty of controlling violence, and even seems to be hand in glove with the pro government rioters protecting them, goading them and turning their eyes away when they are resorting to arson. There are videos of Police charging alongside mobs towards the other community, forcing mayhem injured youths to sing national anthem and beating them alongside, and standing by Kapil Mishra when he is threatening violence against the Muslims. Several elected leaders have tweeted how their pleas to the Police for quick action fell on deaf ears.

The Lieutenant Governor, who enjoys more power in Delhi than the elected state government, by dint of a lopsided Act of the past and works on behalf of the Centre, did not even wake up to the situation in the first 40 hours, after which he tweeted on his instruction to the Police to control the situation. He refused to meet elected MLAs and ministers as the crisis snowballed, and has been conspicuous by his silence apart from a couple of tweets. Another complicity by default or design here.

Even the massively winning AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal is at fault here. His MLAs found visiting some areas and appealing for peace and calling for police reinforcements surely, but this did not much help. One MLA found visiting the slain policeman’s family, none found to go to the other dead persons, all civilians and largely from the minority community. The Chief Minister tweeted about his talks with the LG and his assurance of police action, but no strong words, action, if need be collective protest before LG for visible and fast action, nothing found. Yes, the CM does not control the police in Delhi, but a stronger action was expected. He is seen caught unawares. He met the Home Minister of the country, but left on verbal assurance of higher police reinforcements, which were not seen much on ground thereafter. He could have engaged all 62 MLAs and their teams to be meeting and staying put with the victimized localities, setting the stage for a bigger action by the CM.


Sections of the Muslim community also seemed to have fallen into the communal trap of the ruling party leader led goons. First, when Shaheen Bagh protest has been going on and the Supreme Court is seized with the matter, there was no need for starting another major protest at Jafrabad-Maujpur area. Then, a large number of youths getting engaged in violence, even in retaliation at times, should have been better avoided. The police has claimed to have arrested one Muslim youth named Shahrukh with a revolver. Earlier, communally charged talks of Sharjeel Imam at Shaheen Bagh and AIMIM leader Waris Pathan immensely harmed the cause of the community.

Another major culprit has been the media in general, with notable exceptions in the digital space and some in print and TV too. Media has focused just on Trump visit while Delhi burned. Media did not question earlier police atrocities in Jamia and RW goons attacking JNU students (except a few and one strong sting operation by a leading media). Media has not been asking the right questions to the police and the government and most media platforms have not shown perpetrators of violence in the right way it should be. And, even in the Delhi case, the media has made a demon out of women protesters at Shaheen Bagh, anchors even now are spewing venom aggravating the crisis on ground, while their reporters are facing violence and braving personal attacks on themselves in the line of duty.

But no riot or pogrom can succeed if the law enforcing institutions do their job steadfastly. The Police decidedly failed, some complied, some connived, some lamented lack of force, while the police chief congratulated the home ministry for adequate resources and people. It is clear that Police failed to impose Article 144 when needed most, kept telling they are doing whatever is needed, and no need of other forces. After full 48 hours of mayhem, paramilitary forces have been called, though army is still far.

Hence, there is complicity at the top. AAP has just had a massive landslide win and it is not in their interests to have such a violent riot, even if the argument of soft Hindutva of AAP is accepted for a moment. Congress has nothing to gain from such violence and is just using this sad situation to get back to AAP.

Thus it is the failure of the Home Ministry to whom the Police reports, and it is said by those in the know of the things that the mayhem has blessings of the top brass of the ruling BJP.

Trump's visit to India

If so, which seems highly likely, then why is it during Trump’s visit to India? Is it that over enthusiastic elements to prove their usefulness were in hurry from within the right wing, notably Kapil Mishra who has been trying to be the VC of Arunachal? Or is it that the situation went out of the hands of those who targeted the minorities, and wanted to keep it low key for now? Is it that turning anti CAA-NRC movement into merely a Hindu-Muslim issue was imperative for the ruling party with Bihar polls and Delhi corporation polls ahead? Still the Trump-time violence is inexplicable. Is it that the Home Minister Amit Shah wants to keep up the political pressure at the Centre led by PM Modi to keep his possibilities in 2024 or even before the polls, alive?

The nation is truly up for a spate of violence ahead, big time.

The author is the Pro Vice Chancellor of Adamas University, based out of Kolkata, and a regular writer and television debater.