At least seven people including a Delhi Police Head Constable have died in the violent clashes that initially started as minor incidents of stone-pelting between pro and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Sunday, soon swept the north-east Delhi.
Since the new citizenship law was passed in December, several protests have been organised across the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) leaders have not just continuously questioned the motives of the protesters but have also made communal and incendiary remarks against them, and yet no action has been initiated against them.
In the case of the northeast Delhi violence, tensions began with incidents of stone-pelting on Sunday, February 23, following a rally by BJP leader Kapil Mishra to oppose the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the area.
At the rally, Mishra even issued a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi police to clear the area and said that after the ultimatum, he would not listen to the police. At the protest site, he can be heard saying, "We will be peaceful till (Donald) Trump leaves. After that, we won't listen to even you if the roads are not cleared."
He added that if in three days, the roads are not cleared "We will have to hit the streets."
In light of the violence, many have called out Mishra for instigating violence. Indian National Congress spokesperson Sharmishtha Mukherjee asked LG Anil Baijal to arrest Mishra for inciting violence.
However, this is not the first time that Kapil Mishra has garnered media attention for his communal remarks. At a pro-CAA rally on December 21 last year, he chanted "Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro salo ko(shoot the traitors)"
Later on January 24, 2020, ahead of the Delhi assembly elections, Mishra equated the polls to an 'India versus Pakistan contest' and in a tweet said, "India vs Pakistan 8th February Delhi. There will a contest on Delhi Roads between India and Pakistan on February 8".
Another tweet read: "Pakistan has already entered Shaheen Bagh and small pockets of Pakistan are being created in Delhi."
Alarmingly, Mishra is only one among a line-up of BJP leaders who have made communal remarks in the recent past. And when it comes to the accountability of people in power, surprisingly, their speeches aren't offensive enough to attract any action.
BJP Leaders' Continued Incendiary Statements
On January 27, BJP leader and Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur, encouraged the audience at a rally in Delhi's Daryaganj to shout the same incendiary slogan. In the video of the incident shared online, the minister can be seen asking his supporters to chant "desh ke gaddaron ko…"
Just a day after the incident, BJP MP from West Delhi constituency, Parvesh Verma, said that if the prevailing situation at Shaheen Bagh continued, the protesters would enter their homes and rape women.
Close on the heels of these remarks, the same day; an armed man entered the protest site at Shaheen Bagh and threatened the anti-CAA agitators. However, he was overpowered by the protesters.
BJP's national secretary Tarun Chugh on January 29 said that the protesters are using ISIS-like module and referred to Shaheen Bhag as 'Shaitaan Bagh' (devil's place). He added that the slogan 'Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro.... (shoot the traitors of the country)' was not wrong.
On January 31, a youth fired two rounds at protesters outside Jamia Millia Islamia, injuring one student. On February 1, a man named Kapil Baisala opened fire at Shaheen Bagh protest area.
Later, unabated by the gun violence that had occurred in the country, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath joined the bandwagon of BJP leaders suggesting the use of bullets against dissenters. While addressing a rally in Delhi on February 1, Adityanath said that those who attack Kanwariyas (devotees of Lord Shiva) will have to face bullets.
"We do not obstruct anyone's festival or faith. Everyone should be able to celebrate their festivals but within the law. 'Lekin Shiv bhakto par goli chalayega koi vyakti, danga karayega, boli se nahi manega, toh goli se toh maan hi jayega' (If anyone opens fire at devotees of Lord Shiva, causes riots...If they don't listen to talks, they will surely listen to bullets)," the CM had said.
Furthermore, on February 2, another incident of firing was reported at an anti-CAA protest at Jamia.
Even after three incidents of gun violence in just four days, that came closely after the hate speeches of these prominent leaders, no serious action was taken against them. The most that happened was the Election Commission imposing a ban of 72 hours and 96 hours on Thakur's and Parvesh Verma's election campaigns, respectively, for the Delhi assembly elections. A similar campaign ban was also imposed on Mishra.
Most recently, on February 24, following the arrest of a young woman on sedition charges for raising 'Pakistan Zindabad' slogans, Karnataka's agriculture minister BC Patil called for a "shoot at sight" law for those who speak ill of India.
"In my opinion, there is a need for a law that has to be brought in India - Shoot at Sight law has to be brought in India for those who speak ill of India or raise pro-Pakistan slogans. It is very much needed," he had told ANI.
The Logical Indian Take
The BJP leaders, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have condemned the hate speeches, but no punitive action has been taken against them. When the elected representatives openly promote violence, should they not be tried in the court of law like a common man?
On one hand, the Prime Minister defends, Public Safety Act being slapped on Omar Abdullah, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, based on a satirical website but fails to act on his ministers when they spew venom during the election campaign.
Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad is repeatedly put under 'preventive detention' for holding peaceful protests but Kapil Mishra's rally where children are encouraged to chant violence instigating slogans are ignored. In the Sharjeel Imam's case, the police registered a case based on the fact that his speeches had "potential to harm the religious harmony and the unity and integrity of India".
Do the statements from those in power not fall in the category of 'inciteful remarks'? If yes, then why wasn't Anurag Thakur booked under the NSA when a youth brandished and fired a gun at Jamia students barely days after the union minister's remarks?
It is much expected if the elected representatives move beyond the petty party politics and do its job. It is time for the government to identify and take action on its leaders who spew hatred.