Restore Peace in Delhi! Punish the Pogrom Mongers! Defend the Lives and Rights of the Vulnerable People!

EVEN as the Modi-Shah regime was busy hosting US President Donald Trump, Delhi was ablaze in the fire of targeted anti-Muslim pogrom lit and stoked by a bunch of BJP leaders with the Delhi Police silently standing by, if not openly participating in the pogrom. Four days on, the pogrom has already claimed more than thirty lives while many more remain critically injured and hundreds displaced with their homes burnt and livelihoods destroyed. The list of those killed includes a few Hindu names, including a police constable and an intelligence officer. But there can be no denying the fact that the violence is overwhelmingly targeted against the poorer sections of the Muslim community in Delhi, and that the mobs targeting Muslims have enjoyed the patronage of the Delhi Police and state machinery. The Delhi Police has even been destroying CCTV cameras, presumably to protect the identities of the leaders of the communal mobs. It took the Delhi High Court to ask the Delhi Police to ensure safe passage to ambulances and transfer the wounded to hospitals with proper medical facilities. The High Court was the only institution that played its constitutional role at this most critical hour.

The pogrom has rekindled memories of Delhi 1984 or Ahmedabad/Gujarat 2002 when the state allowed lynch mobs to kill, loot and rape at will. The challenge before all peace- and justice-loving people is to save Delhi 2020 from reaching the devastating scales of 1984 or 2002. There is of course one major difference. Both in 1984 and 2002, the pogroms were said to have been 'provoked', by the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and by the Godhra train fire tragedy in 2002. What is the 'provocation' behind the current Delhi pogrom? The two things that seem to have 'provoked' the regime are: (a) the powerful countrywide wave of protests against the CAA-NRC-NPR which found a strong and resilient citadel in Delhi, and (b) the spectacular snub given by the Delhi electorate to the BJP's vicious communal election campaign. The pogrom is the culmination of the BJP's 'goli maro' (shoot the traitor) call to action and it is significant that the centres of the pogrom are precisely areas where the BJP managed to win in the Assembly elections. The pogrom is the BJP's answer to the anti-CAA protests and the Delhi mandate and this plot must be foiled by all means.

BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Singh Varma raised the 'goli maro' war cry during the elections, Kapil Mishra openly threatened the police that his men would take the law in their hands and the lynch mobs have done precisely that. It was reassuring to see the Delhi High Court to take cognizance of these hate speeches and open incitement to violence, force the police representative to watch the videos when the police pleaded ignorance about this crime and order the police to book the perpetrators of these hate crimes. Muslim speakers have been slapped with sedition charges for delivering fiery speeches, school children have been framed in Karnataka for staging plays questioning the divisive and discriminatory nature of the Citizenship Amendment Act, but here in India's capital responsible ministers and elected representatives of the ruling party are enjoying utter impunity while openly inciting violence and calling lynch mobs to take the law in their own hands. And when a judge of the Delhi High Court played his due constitutional role, the regime retaliated by transferring him summarily to Punjab. The crisis of India's constitutional democracy has never before been so grave.

While insisting on immediate restoration of peace in Delhi we must fight equally resolutely for justice. The instigators and perpetrators of the pogrom must be brought to book. The wounded must be saved and given proper medical care. The victim families must be rehabilitated and compensated for the loss of lives and livelihood. As the minister in charge of the law and order situation in Delhi, the Union Home Minister must resign for this gross failure. The role of the AAP, both as the elected government of Delhi and as a party, has been pretty disappointing at this hour of crisis. It is true that the Delhi government does not have power over the Delhi Police, but that cannot and does not absolve the government and the AAP leadership of their responsibility towards the people of Delhi. With the institutions failing the people, it is therefore for the people to rise to the occasion, defeat the pogrom-mongers and ensure peace and harmony in Delhi. Even in the midst of the communal pogrom, there are many heartening instances of Hindus protecting their Muslim neighbours, and Sikh gurudwaras opening their doors for victims fleeing violence. Just as Delhi has emerged as the capital of the ongoing people's movement to save the Constitution, the conscious and conscientious citizens of Delhi and progressive activists must all join hands to win the battle for peace.