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Ominous portents

Delhi riots have taken a disturbing political direction with increasing participation of youth and increased instances of riots breaking out on communal and religious lines

Ominous portents

By the fourth day of riots in parts of northeast Delhi, 27 people have lost their lives and over 200 have been grievously injured. Armed mobs continued to rampage through the streets until the third night when a shoot on sight order was put into effect and a large number of police forces were deployed. The people's confidence in the police administration has been greatly eroded either due to their absence from the scene of rioting — in some cases up to 48 hours — or their lapses even during their presence. All of these seem to be politically orchestrated but the most alarming aspect of these riots is the participation of younger boys from 15 to 25 years of age in large numbers.

The Centre must think over the situation that has been created by politicians setting one community against the other for political gains, in which both the Muslim and Hindu communities are suffering. One of the special characteristics of these riots is that only those areas of Delhi have been affected where the ruling party, representing the Hindutva forces, won most of the seats in the recently concluded Delhi Vidhan Sabha Elections. Out of eight seats that the party had won, six of them are in these areas. The rest of Delhi is in peace, even Rohini and Badarpur which were won by the very same party.

Let us have a look at the political geography of the region where the riots took place. The region is bordered by Uttar Pradesh, where Hindutva forces are in power. Anti-clock wise, BJP has won Karawal Nagar, Ghonda, Gandhi Nagar, Lakshmi Nagar, Vishwas Nagar, and Rohtas Nagar Vidhan Sabha Seats. Kejriwal's AAP has won Seelampur situated between Ghonda and Gandhi Nagar and Krishna Nagar between Gandhi Nagar and Lakshmi Nagar, breaking the complete encircling of the riot-affected areas. The Vidhan Sabha seats within this circle are Mustafabad, Babarpur, Shahdara, Seemapuri, and Gokalpur which were won by AAP. Out of 12 Vidhan Sabha Constituencies in the riot-affected area, only five have more than 20 per cent Muslims. They are Mustafabad, Babarpur, Seemapuri, Seelampur, and Gandhinagar. The most affected areas in the region are laid out in what appears to almost be an S-shape- Gokalpur, Karawal Nagar, Chandbag, Bhajanpura, Yamuna Vihar, Maujpur, Kabir Nagar, Babarpur, Zaffarabad, and Brahmapuri.

Tension in the region had already started brewing up in December after the CAA fiasco came into existence. Anti-CAA and pro-CAA sentiments were blown up by the political parties to sharply divide the voters on communal lines. The ones most influenced by such ideology were those of the younger generation which is reflected not only during the elections but also during the riots in which they took part in large numbers. It is a disturbing trend because they could not see the politics behind it, rather they were made to see the other community as the enemy.

The anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh was started at the beginning of the Vidhan Sabha election process. Low to top-level BJP politicians went on portraying the protestors — both Muslim and Hindus — as anti-nationals, even though the protests were not targeted against the nation but against an act that they believed was enacted in violation of the democratic ethos of the nation. The ruling party asked for votes in the name of defeating the 'enemies' of the nation. However, Delhi rejected them by giving an overwhelming 62 seats to AAP and only eight to the BJP.

Anti-CAA protest continued even after the election results and spread into the areas that are presently riot-affected. The BJP leaders demanded that the protestors be removed from streets. One of the leaders even threatened that if police administration does not remove them, the people (read as the Hindutva forces) would remove them forcefully. Anti-protest agitations were started by such leaders and their supporters, leading to clashes between

protestors and anti-protestors that soon enough turned into a riot between Hindus and Muslims.

What was witnessed during the riots was an incessant blame game. The BJP leaders and supporters blamed the AAP government for the riots despite the fact that the police administration is directly under the Union Government. If there is any lapse in the maintenance of law and order, the Central government is responsible. Chief Minister Kejriwal was unfairly blamed for it. It has also been reported that certain ruling party leaders and supporters were telling the people that you have voted for Kejriwal and now you face the consequences. It amounts to threatening the people, to either vote a certain way or else face the consequences. It's an ill omen for democracy, especially in the backdrop of the tendency for political hegemony observed at the Centre. It indicates the new political direction of the country which must be changed for good.

Inflammatory speeches seem to be allowed, though illegal and immoral, from both the ruling and the opposition political parties. Proper actions are not being taken against politicians making such inflammatory speeches even the causation of harm to the common people. In this era of vote-bank politics, this common tool is used to consolidate votes, without considering its long term effect on the human mind that set a man against the other. This kind of politics must not continue, and the prime responsibility rests on the Prime Minister.

If politics is the art and science of doing most sensible things in a given situation and if our Prime Minister believes in it, he must stop erratic elements within his government and party from creating more social unrest. His talks of good governance must be reflected in his deeds in restraining himself, his supporters or anyone else from speeches and actions that ignite fires that engulf innocent lives. We must also take care of our younger generation and find out the reasons behind their propensity for rioting or violence alongside a remedy for the same.

Views expressed are strictly personal

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