India unleashes war on its Minority. Law became the weapon. Innocents became the victims. Violence becomes a celebration.
Like, Share, Support…be the Voice of Independent Press
So many killed, so many injured, so many houses burned, so many shops looted, so many people turned destitute, but police sealed only one house and looking for his owner. Incidentally, his name is Tahir. Hats off to the consistency of Delhi police…Javed Akhtar in a tweet on February 27
By Bureau Chief Vijaylakshmi Nadar, edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: A scary, fiery, violent majoritarian communalism unleashed by the current Hindu nationalist regime in India is fast paralyzing the state and a fearful, partly reactive minority communalism is providing just the fodder it needs to take root. The Indian government helmed by prime minister Narendra Modi and his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is at war with its minority. Six years of a Hindu nationalist regime, and sectarian identity clashes, has reduced the country’s minority Muslims to a persecuted lot, now wilting in mortal fear of not only their lives and livelihood being destroyed, but also fearing statelessness, triggered by the brute passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in parliament in December last year.
Also, Read: State-Sponsored Genocide, Not Riots in Delhi
A morbid fear of this regime, which has relentlessly whipped up a frenzy in the majority, to serve its own political goals, now has seized the Muslim minority. This frenzy peaked in the country’s capital Delhi recently, when houses and businesses in Muslim localities, even in mixed neighborhoods were first identified, inmates forced out, looted and then set on fire. The charred remains are testimony to the degree of hate and communal violence that spilled over for four days in the national capital, which not only silenced the police into inaction but in many instances made them complicit in the destruction that followed.
Unabating violence which was at its frenzied peak from February 23 to 26, claimed 53 lives, gutted 122 houses, 322 shops, 301 vehicles, three schools, and 16 masjids. The estimated cost of destruction is Rs 25,000 crores, according to a report in Business Standard, which is nearly half of Delhi’s total budget. This is visible, measurable damage. The invisible damage is the harshness that has settled on the majority Hindu community, as the state stymies every protest from the minority community with its vast resources, whether it’s the police, judiciary, the media, to crush any defiance against the government’s own repressive acts. The damage which is visible, but which needs to be quantified soon, is the total collapse of law and order, with the police and the defense forces being reduced to the personal militia of the ruling regime and the disappearing constitutional immunity of the judiciary, all of which is nullifying the fundamental rights of the Indian citizen.
The conflict, which was classified as spontaneous on February 25, by an official press release of the government, was changed to a “conspiracy” by 300 outsiders, according to the minister of home affairs, Amit Shah in Parliament on March 12. Though the admission in Parliament of the presence of a large number of outsiders in the macabre massacre in Delhi was a surprise, the facts by itself were not. Both international media and alternate media had reported the presence of large numbers of masked gunmen that led to the conclusion that what happened in Delhi was a well-planned genocide and not spontaneous riots. This admission in parliament, however, could be also to protect the Hindu neighbors, who helped not only identify Muslim homes and shops but also torch them.
Not only has the government machinery with the active support of the pro-establishment media, been trying to project the peaceful anti Citizenship (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protestors, as traitors to the country, but have been desperately trying to project that the protests and protestors were the real cause of the destruction that was wrought on the capital.
Not surprising then, that the regime was in search of a Muslim name, to make him the face of the Delhi riots. Their target was Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA, Amanatullah Khan, who had defeated the BJP candidate by over 80,000 votes, in the assembly elections, concluded just a few days before the massacre. The media had earlier tried to trap him in the violence that erupted, following the police attack on Jamia Millia Islamia students in December last year, claiming that a speech made by him had led to the violence. No charges were however pressed, despite the relentless campaign against him. Another Muslim name, that of Shahrukh, who was seen brandishing a gun on the first day of violence surfaced. However, the reason for the delay in his arrest and his presence amongst the violent Hindutva mobs is still a mystery.
A desperate search was on to find a more viable face for the Delhi riots. The search ended with an AAP councilor Tahir Hussain. A relentless media trial forced him to surrender to the police on March 5, who didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to arrest him, fully aware of the lack of evidence against him. So much so that now police are being forced to level money laundering charges against him, to keep him in jail.
Desperate attempts to link AAP to the riots were shrugged off by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, who insisted that no politics should be played with the country’s security and none should be spared. Tahir was suspended following the First Information Report (FIR) filed against him. An unfortunate step, which party insiders feel had to be taken, to diffuse the relentless media attack on Tahir and AAP, which was helping BJP further polarize the Hindu majority.
In the last six years, BJP has been building a narrative that since Congress and now AAP is “pro-Muslim”, they are pro-Pakistan and therefore anti-national and anti-Hindu. Though Congress has suffered from these insinuations, AAP with its successful governance model, which has benefitted both the majority and the minority, has managed to keep the two communities together. This fact too was used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments, by extremist Hindus, hitting them with accusations that they are suffering because they voted for AAP’s “free Bijli-paani” (water electricity) schemes.
Tahir Hussain, himself a victim, who along with his family was rescued after several requests to the police, on February 24, a day before media launched its attack on him, stating that incriminating evidence was found on his terrace to link him to the crime.
Just before his surrender and subsequent arrest, Tariq in a series of interviews mentioned that till noon of February 24, he was in his house. Mischievous videos of him on his terrace brandishing a stick was used to frame him, after the media latched on to it, the next day.
He stated that a huge mob was outside his gate, trying to get past the gate, when fearful of his safety he had the stick in his hand, all the while making distress calls to the police, since noon. Late in the evening, he was finally rescued by the joint commissioner of police, Alok Kumar, who along with his team of officials did a thorough search of the house, before evacuating him and his family from the house.
Also, Read: Watching India Crumble: A Note To My NRI Friends
On February 25, when videos of masjids being burnt and a saffron flag deliberately planted on a minaret went viral, so also videos of Muslim homes being burnt and looted started surfacing, the media, went on the offensive, insisting it was a riot, hurting both the communities, all the while desperately looking for a Muslim face for the crimes. They went into an over-drive, as soon as a video showing a handful of crates with glass bottles filled with petrol, stones, sticks on Tahir’s terrace surfaced, to immediately link him to the crime, despite his insistence that he was rescued the previous day by the police.
After his arrest, NDTV was able to track the five distress calls that Tahir made to the police before he was rescued.
The fact that Tahir chose to live in a predominantly Hindu colony, had helped put CCTV cameras in the local Hanuman temple, besides organizing Hanuman Bhandara, which did not help him stay safe.
Following his arrest, there is greater fear among the Muslims, that the cases will now be filed against those who actually suffered. This fear is compounded by the fact that over 2000 people have been picked up for questioning from areas, worst hit by the riots, and charges slapped on them after the `questioning’. So far there is no news of arrests of the emboldened Hindu extremists who were seen hitting helpless Muslims with chants of Jai Shri Ram, with sticks and stones in several videos. Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Kapil Sibal, during a discussion in Parliament, alleged that victims will be made accused, while those guilty will enjoy state protection. He was making a reference to a failed MLA Kapil Mishra, who joined BJP just before elections, and who is guilty of making inciteful speeches, just hours before skirmishes broke out.
There are several videos to establish police complicity but none to show police trying to stop the crowds. Videos showing excessive police force on Muslims, have gone viral, but not a single video of a Hindu being beaten by the police has surfaced. Over 13,000 distress calls to the police mostly by Muslims, on February 24-25 went unanswered.
Imagine the pain and the horror, when the victims heaved a sigh of relief on spotting a cop, only for the relief to dissipate when they realized that the cops were with the rioters, rushing towards them with sticks, stones, guns, petrol bombs. Law had become the weapon. Innocents became the victims. Violence had become a celebration.
When police forget to do what their uniform dictates them to do, they put their own lives in danger too, as was discovered by DCP Amit Sharma who was badly injured and an ACP Anuj Kumar also injured, besides constable Ratanlal, who was killed on the very first day of violence.
In the madness that ensued, journalists too were attacked. They were harried and hit by drunk Hindu extremists, all the while shouting Jai Shri Ram when they were seen reporting. Phones and diaries were snatched away from them.
The chances of the truth ever surfacing is diminishing by the day as pieces of evidence are being destroyed. Even while violence was on, police themselves caught on tape, breaking CCTV cameras. To make matters worse, the home minster himself sounded flagitious in parliament, as he reeled off several lies, including the one where he stated that violence was contained in 30 hours when there is video evidence of it raging for almost four days.
It is not as if BJP is partial to all Hindus. It has caveats for that too. 26-year-old Ankit Sharma, a young Intelligence Bureau officer’s death was mourned and funds raised for him because his mother blamed Tahir Hussain for his death. It is a different matter though that a day before her statement on February 25, Ankit’s brother had blamed goons who chanted Jai Shri Ram, for dragging is brother away in an interview with Wall Street Journal. The WSJ report was badly trolled and reported, with the Indian government even lodging a complaint with the US consulate, for WSJ’s anti-India stance. On the other hand, 22 years Rohit Solanki’s parents blamed Kapil Mishra for inciting violence which led to the death of their young son. His story was therefore buried in the sidelines. So the message for Hindus too is that those who criticize the government will face the same consequences as the “anti-nationals”.
Though the situation was not considered serious enough to call in the army, though Delhi is the headquarters for it, section 144 was in force on the 24th itself and yet the police did not do anything to stop the mobs. Kapil Sharma managed to even hold a peace march, with the same slogans as what caused the riot in the first place.
Though the Delhi Police has formed two special investigation teams to investigate all the cases related to the violence, the SITs are headed by DCP Rajesh Deo and DCP Joy Tirkey, both known to be pro-establishment. While Deo is also in charge of the violence that broke out in Jamia Millia Islamia on December 15, last year and the police brutalities that followed, DCP Tirkey is investigating the attack on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, by masked goons on the night of January 5. Needless to say, both investigators have not revealed anything substantial so far about the incidents which rocked the academia not just nationally, but internationally as well.
Mixing religion with politics has become a low cost, sure shot means to capture power unmindful of the destruction that follows, of the human lives lost, properties destroyed, the insecurity that follows, and the loss of reputation, nationally and internationally.
If this lawlessness permeates society, none will be safe.
Also, Read: Lift Kashmir lockdown, world leaders implored