Politicians stoked Delhi riots

Often without any reference to context, even pulled out of personal archives the lies were disseminated in nano seconds.

By Bikram Vohra

Published: Wed 26 Feb 2020, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 26 Feb 2020, 8:24 PM

The biggest problem with social media is its ability to be hugely anti-social. The madness in Delhi these past 48 hours is a perfect case in point.
As private tweets and WhatsApp forwards of grotesque and stark scenes of gratuitous violence cascaded onto millions of screens to the point of numbness these also did a 'fine' job in raising hackles and feeding the mob frenzy. Often without any reference to context, even pulled out of personal archives the lies were disseminated in nano seconds.
At the outset, it has to be said the attention given to the Trump visit offered a bizarre background to the violence and made a mockery of a wall to hide slums and other warts on the Indian landscape from the US president's eyes.
These scenes of bloodletting were hardly edifying.
Even as the rest of elitist India laughed lustily over the combined mispronunciations of nomenclature by the two leaders and media gave it inordinate space, in north east Delhi live bodies were dragged by gangs, individuals beaten up by common people under a sort of unspoken pact that honour was at stake. No one asked what honour there lay in burning hundreds of vehicles, homes, and petrol stations, causing mayhem and fear, suspicion and distrust.
On day 3 the death toll is 23 and could rise further. Eyewitnesses tell me that fear lies like a toxic miasma and mobs are still attacking homes and shops. One has to ask how the clash between pro- and anti-CAA grounds turned into a full-scale communal conflict that Delhi has not seen since the fallout of the Indira Gandhi assassination in 1984.
As a bad enough situation was exaggerated on these social platforms, the beleaguered police finding their numbers far too limited and their defensive weaponry inadequate for the occasion opted for a seat at the sidelines. The death of one of their own and the confusion of being damned if you do and damned if you don't put the once elite police force of New Delhi under the cosh. When they confessed that they didn't have the strength or the wherewithal to bring peace on Tuesday night, it gave New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal the opportunity to push at his bête noires in the BJP-run central government for the army to be called. That should not be heeded.
The army is the last resort. India has as many as eight paramilitary organisations with over a million officers and soldiers besides state police forces that can be called in. The cruel fact is that between Kejriwal, the Modi government, and an indecisive Lt Governor the rancour and hostility that exists in their equations eclipses instant action.
Most of India's government was aware that the Supreme Court decision on the vacation of Shaheen Bagh was scheduled for Wednesday but they were still too busy kowtowing to Donald Trump and agonising over his inability to say Sachin and Swami Vivekananda's names. With five members of the apex court now suffering swine flu, the judgement has been postponed to March 23. That the odds of a decision to remove people by law from Shaheen Bagh to other designated areas of protest was on the cards should have given the government enough time to exercise pre-emptive options including curfew and assembly limitations being imposed.
With shoot on sight orders having been issued now the odds are that an uneasy peace will settle on this part of Delhi.
But the same social media that has contributed to the escalation in destruction of lives and property and allowed communal disharmony to blanket the place also has one great advantage different from other riots of the past. The local police forces have faces to identify, clear, upfront and personal. Dozens of them. Regardless of their religious pursuit and belief, if they have engaged in violence, hurt people, been part of a rabid throng they have to be taken into custody and punished. A message has to be sent out that this conduct will not be tolerated. There are gang leaders in every $$$$mohallah$$$$ (ghetto or alley) every street, every little housing colony who set the pace and generate provocation. The police know who they are and one would not be surprised if they are often in cahoots with them in various dubious exercises.
Unless there is this effort and a concerted and sincere one at that to round up these elements and also those who pillaged and plundered as the fires burnt, calling out the army to do the dirty job is a travesty of law and order.
Both the state and central governments knew the pot was boiling over. The Shaheen Bagh sit-in over the Citizenship Amendment Act is into its 64th day today. The mediators appointed by the Supreme Court seem to have their own axes to grind. The writing was on the wall. This is an administrative failure. If it was designed by certain vested interests to be a token battle of contrition, feeding on itself, it got out of hand. These masterminds must also be identified. There is no need to second guess who and why.there would be enough data to provide concrete proof.
For now, the shame is universally Indian.

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