In the wake of the Delhi riots (Feb. 23-25, 2020), tension or mistrust between the Hindus and the Muslims was bound to rise. At the same time, however, scores of people on both sides were willing to throw themselves into the charged atmosphere to calm the situation. The need of the hour is to salute them on behalf of the nation, bring them together and empower them for the sake of peace and harmony in the community and the country.
The Western press and biased reporting suggested that there was only one-sided killing of the Muslims by the Hindu rioters. However, many visual accounts explained that the two sides engaged in a pitched battle in a vast neighborhood consisting of Jafrabad, Maujpur, Babarpur, Chand Bagh, Shiv Vihar, Bhajan Pura, Yamuna Vihar, and Mustafabad that lasted for over 48 hours.
In these accounts, it’s clear at some spots the Hindu rioters were successful in inflicting loss to the Muslims’ life and property and in some areas the Muslim rioters were overwhelming with their preparation and subjected the Hindus to indiscriminate loot and killing.
From a plethora of reporting, it also emerged that many Hindus were protected by their Muslim neighbors and many Muslims were defended by their Hindu friends. As one Hindu died saving the lives of a Muslim family, rioters were prevented from entering a lane that had a Muslim mosque and a Hindu temple side by side.
The saner elements on both sides agreed that the Delhi police utterly failed in anticipating the gravity of the tension building up. Or, if it did, it didn’t swing into action.
On Sunday, 23 Feb 2020, the day clashes occurred between the anti-CAA protesters (mainly the Muslims) and the police, the common man didn’t have much involvement. At the end of the day, however, a Hindu head constable of the Delhi police, Ratan Lal, was killed by the protesters.
That was enough of a triggering point as the pro-CAA people and the general public (mainly the Hindus) were already enraged at the sit-ins (the dharnas) going on in the neighborhood for some time. These sit-ins were on the pattern of the Shaheen Bagh. After the two major roads going in and out of the trans Yamuna area were blocked and objections were raised, the police must have acted decisively under the Section 341 of the Indian Penal Code which dealt with wrongfully restraining a person or persons from moving to a place or direction where they had a right to go.
According to the account of Yogendra Yadav, an anti-CAA protester himself, the sit-in people (largely the Muslims) shouldn’t have left their positions and must not have blocked the roads -- he did try to clear up some parts of the roads himself. But the protesters didn’t heed him.
The killing of a Hindu constable and closure of the roads added to the rage and put more fuel to the fire. The police should have sensed the seriousness of the moment.
As a former federal police officer, Uday Sahay, pointed out, in such a situation, an officer heading the area police station was empowered enough on his own to take the required preventive administrative steps.
Surprisingly, no measures were taken by the police even when the situation climaxed to the third level of “public disorder,” that is, in the police parlance, two notches up from the “crime-related disorder” and the “law and order-related disorder.” The police could have used all legally available tools in its arsenal without even asking for permission, Uday Sahay emphasized.
To the disappointment of all, more information on police mismanagement is leaking out. One of them being the differential in treatment the three regions of the national capital receive: the trans-Yamuna area is considered as the third lowest region, the arm-pit, by the wealthy ruling elites of all political parties. The illicit or the underworld activities in this area, that grew out of what was at one time a sprawling slum zone occupied by illegal settlers, were treated as insulated enclaves and were allegedly a source of bribe for the police. In simple words, crime and corruption flourished in this under-developed zone inhabited by the toiling poor Hindus and the Muslims.
Now, from the ruins of the riots must emerge a community of people who can bring everyone around and adopt measures to avoid becoming victims of false propaganda, misinformation, caste, communal or political manipulation. As citizens of the country, they have to rise to the occasion, for the sake of the future generation.
The Hindus will have to assure their Muslim neighbors and friends that they will not be victimized just because they were Muslims; they will have to be protected and treated as co-equals. At the same time, the mainstream Muslim majority and their leadership will have a huge responsibility to exhibit that they really spurned and isolated the Islamists and criminal anti-nationals who masqueraded themselves as their representatives.
The political parties will always use the Muslims for their own electoral benefit and the Islamist religious leaders, the mullahs, will continue to radicalize them. For their narrow interest, they will leave the average Muslims weak, uneducated and vulnerable.
The young enlightened, educated and patriotic Muslim citizens will have to free their community from the clutches of the master manipulators.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.