Majority community must understand that hate crimes breed retaliatory hate crimes. It would be a big mistake to believe growing trend of targeted violence against Muslims to be infertile.

Hours after violence broke out in north-east Delhi on Monday, a Muslim friend shared on his Facebook wall: “I feel like going out, sporting my father’s skull cap and shout at the top of my voice at every tenth step, ‘my name is Shahbaz Rizvi’, hoping for a mob chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ to kill me. This way, they will reserve a place for them in the heaven—and I’ll get rid of this hell.”

The chilling and anguished cry left me cold. Soon I found several other reactions on Facebook, some angry and bitter, some raged while a few seemed resigned. My impulse was to reach out, console them and say that they are not alone. But I checked myself. What credibility will my words have? Why would they trust me?

Videos and images shared on social media showed mobs meticulously marking Hindu households with saffron flags. Some clips showed mobs supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) attacking Muslim houses and shops, shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and expletives in the same breath.

The mayhem that is unfolding in Delhi was in the making since December 14 when a round the clock peaceful protest demonstration against “unconstitutional” CAA started at Shaheen Bagh—which like many other peaceful anti-CAA protest sites, has been labelled as new “Kashmir” and “Pakistan” by the ruling party.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who gave dog whistle in the run up to Delhi assembly polls, recently admitted that provocative comments by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have cost it the elections. Pertinently, Shah’s “electric shock in Shaheen Bagh” vote appeal in Delhi was followed by junior Finance Minister Anurag Thakur and Lok Sabha MP Parvesh Sahib Singh instigating violence in their rallies, calling for shooting the “traitors”.

On Sunday, Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra had given an ultimatum to Delhi Police and the anti-CAA protesters. Standing in front of a police officer, Mishra announced that he would not even listen to the police if protesters don’t end their demonstrations in and around Delhi within three days. He later posted his threat on the Twitter also.

Their words had lethal consequences. Delhi police was seen forcing the brutally thrashed young men, some of them profusely bleeding and writhing in pain on the road, to sing national anthem. In some video clips doing rounds on social media, police personnel were seen encouraging the rioters instead of taking action against them.

Gopal Rai, a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, “the Commissioner of Police – who reports not to the Delhi government but to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs led by the Amit Shah of the BJP – was not answering requests for additional deployment.”

The guidelines on prevention of communal violence framed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, suggest many actions and institutional arrangements at various levels from the police stations to the state government level.

https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/ComHor141008.pdf

“Preventing a communal riot is far more important than containing it. In this context, the district administration should carefully assess the communal situation in the district on a regular basis and prepare a profile of the district,” the guidelines read, asking civil administration to identify and specify areas prone to communal sensitivities and tensions.

The guidelines outline immediate preventive action such as imposition of prohibitory orders, curfew and arrest of the potential miscreants and those indulging in violence, arson if communal incidents are apprehended. There is also an emphasis on the constitution of peace committees and asking for strict action against anyone inflaming passions and stoking communal tension by intemperate and inflammatory speeches and utterances.

The guidelines prescribe the use of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, against the provocateurs. But despite open threats of violence being given by the right wing leaders for the past two months, none of these guidelines were followed by the police or the government.

Activist Harsh Mander had to moved Delhi High Court, seeking FIR against BJP leaders, Mishra, Thakur and Singh. However, Justice Muralidhar who had ordered Delhi police to file an FIR against three BJP leaders within 24 hours on Wednesday, was transferred in the evening.

Categorically, the Home Ministry guidelines direct the administration to set up medical relief teams in such a manner that, as far as possible, members of various communities are represented in it. The teams are supposed to be not only technically competent but should have the qualities of sincerity and empathy for the victims.

Ironically, the 14-year-old Muslim boy who was allegedly shot at by Hindutva supporters of the CAA in the Kardam Puri locality of Shahdara had to wait for an ambulance for almost six hours. According to eyewitness, he received bullet injury at 11 am but the ambulance reached at 5 pm. In several other cases, injured were brought to hospitals on motorbikes and cycle rickshaws.

“What Kapil Mishra wanted, exactly that has happened. He must have been feeling quite satisfied now,” Afsar Khan told media (see video) at GTB Hospital in Shahdara. He was waiting to collect the body of his deceased brother, Mohammad Ashfaq alias Raja, who died of a bullet injury on Tuesday morning. “He (Raja) is gone. Who will look after his two children aged 4 and 5. If he (Mishra) comes across, I’ll chop off his head…”

 

Mishra himself seemed unrepentant. While tweeting with satisfaction that Jaffrabad, another anti-CAA protest site, had been vacated, he complained that he was being called a terrorist and that he was receiving death threats from different places.

Hate crimes have given rise to retaliatory hate crimes in several countries even outside India. And the one-sided violence in Delhi, with the police complicit, has clearly infuriated some of the intended victims, who are baying for blood and revenge. Can they be restrained? Will they listen to good sense, trust the police and the government and allow the ‘law to take its course’?

Sri Lanka’s church bombings, for example, were retaliation for an attack on mosques in New Zealand. Brenton Tarrant, who carried out Christchurch mosque attack told the court that he started planning the attack after visiting Europe in 2017. Specifically, he referred to a lorry attack carried out by an Islamic State sympathiser in Sweden and ethnic diversity in France.

Media reports said, his 74-page manifesto and social media posts indicated he was inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save “Western civilization” from a foreign “invasion.”

Remarkably, the Norwegian Anders Breivik had also recorded similar things in the 1,500-page manifesto before he killed 77 people in 2011. Breivik, according to reports, wanted to punish Europe for its multiculturalism and welcome of Muslim immigrants.

Such justifications for the acts of terrorism bear resemblance to the radical views of those who want India to be a Hindu Rashtra and see others who don’t uphold their idea of India as enemies or “Babur’s progeny”. They also hate composite culture, Ganga–Jamuni Tehzeeb.

No wonder, a hate crime invariably breeds hate crimes. Those supporting targeted violence against Muslims or acting unconcerned, believing hate crimes to be infertile, must know what Rybin, a character in Maxim Gorky’s novel, Mother, held against the oppressive ruling class and its minions: “mercy!”

(The writer is a Delhi based independent journalist)


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