Delhi riots are defaming the image of our country all over the worlds, we are facing criticism by many nations and international organizations. India has always been an advocate of Human rights, secularism, and democracy on every forum, but today we are facing the same allegations. Today we will try to categorize the riots of Northeast Delhi.
If we go by the history of riots, where do the recent Delhi riots stand? And what is the political significance of these?
The first thing is numbers tally. These statistics show that the recent riots of Northeast Delhi are the biggest Hindu-Muslim riots of Delhi since 1950. When Partition happened, the capital was the site of gruesome communal violence, and narratives are also present about leaders like Nehru jumping into rioting crowds trying to stop the violence. But reliable numbers of casualties are not present. But after 1950, the tally is present.
During the 1950s, Delhi had several small riots, but given how resolutely the state fought what it called the “communal poison”, the sparks didn’t turned into fires. It was only after November 1966 and May 1974 that riots caused more than 5 deaths. Delhi’s largest communal riots took place after the destruction of mosque at Ayodhya. Recorded deaths number was 39 in December 1992.
In terms of numbers, the Delhi riots of 2020 have already crossed the tally of Delhi riots of 1992, even though the numbers are not yet final as many are still battling for their lives in hospitals. The scale is only exceeded by the Delhi riots of 1984, when horrific anti-Sikh violence shook the city. Scholars are convinced that the anti-Sikh riots were pogroms, defined by experts of social sciences as a special class of riots when the state machinery, instead of acting neutral, looks on while majority mobs go on vandalism and rampage against minorities, or state explicitly helps such violent mobs.
This takes us to the larger political significance of recent Delhi riots. A burning issue in the ongoing debate is whether the recent Delhi riot is a pogrom, not simply a riot? For some people, this may be merely an academic debate, which is not going to alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims. There is considerable strength in this claim, but only if we only constrict our analysis to the current victims. If we think of the future, the significance of how to categorize the riots will become transparent. If recent Delhi riot is a pogrom and it reappears elsewhere, let us be clear that the future victims will be abjectly helpless. Pioneers of a pluralistic India should be ready for a consequence of the worst kind.
If we go by the reports of the incident, the first day of Delhi violence was not a pogrom. It was the classic form of a riot, defined by conflict scholarship as a violent clash between two groups or mobs, in this case, one in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) and another one was against it. But the next two days began to look like a pogrom, if we go by some video clips the police were watching the attacks on the minority group, it was either unable to intervene, or not willing to do so, while some Policemen were clearly abetted the violence. By luck, before this could be turned into the horrors of Delhi riots of 1984, the violence came to a halt.
Ashutosh Varshney in a column of India express gave three fundamental political points which are worth noting here. First, after Kashmir, Delhi is India’s most heavily guarded city. Delhi is also comprehensively covered by both the national and international media, capturing every newsworthy slice of the unfolding reality. Delhi cannot be compared to the villages of Muzaffarnagar where, in September 2013, miscreants could overpower the minimal police presence. If such violence can happen in Delhi, it can easily take place at every corner of the country. Muslims in the BJP-ruled states are more vulnerable. Leaving aside Delhi, India’s police is under state, not central, control. If the BJP states mobilize the police against the Muslims, only the conscientious cops will resist. One cannot imagine the atrocities and the suffering, especially in the remote areas, away from the media coverage.
Second, the argument about police failure, raised in some quarters, is highly suspect. It implies that the cops were committed to neutrality as a functioning principle, and to the maintenance of law and order as a professional imperative, but could not deliver, even though they tried. It is hard to draw an inference if police allowed the politicians of the ruling party to spew hateful provocations in their presence and later told the media that they get no instructions to act, even as violence took control of the streets. Even if we go by protocol, no directions from the government are necessary for the police to stop the violence. The police can act on its own.
Third, why would top leadership allow riots in its great moment of diplomatic glory? The leader of the world’s most powerful nation was in the country to pay tribute to India, the pictures of Trump, his family, and India’s leader were on the front pages, and it seemed as though India’s rising power was given an exuberant broadcast all over the world. Even China was monitoring closely. Within the next 48 hours, Delhi’s riots covered the front pages. Glory instantly turned into concern, even shame.
We witnessed what social scientists call the principal-agent problem in its ugliest form. When bigoted leaders are chosen to lead state governments when terror-indicted foot soldiers are picked to run for Parliament when ministers raised slogans like “goli maaro saalon ko… (shoot the traitors)” go unpunished, a recognized clear incentive structure is created within the party. Those displaying larger communal bigotry, those publicly abusing political dissenters as seditious traitors, think that they will be rewarded by the party. The tap can be turned off by the bosses, as happened after three days last week, but the agents below can also turn on the tap without any explicit instructions from the principals above. Violence is ultimately turned into a model that legitimates bigotry and implied dissent with anti-national activity. Indian leadership wants to overturn the constitutional order. Regime partisans are already calling it a “civilizational war” — to hell with the Constitution, they imply. India’s citizenry is well and truly into a battle for constitutional values, which must be fought, most of all, with non-violent determination and vigor.
Delhi violence is not only communal but psychological, it is clash of egos and political agenda that has been branded as communal riot. The people who lost their lives do not belong to a specific community. It gets hard to determine heterogeneous society like that of India, to trace the source of problems due to the diversity of the people and their notions. It is also difficult to explain meaning out of action, that is why India requires brilliant intellectual to give insights from history, psychology to establish the reason behind such human acts. This will further prevent destruction and provide a reliable solution in the context of ongoing situations. In an environment like this, academics is the only reliable resort for the people of India. Neither Media nor government can be trusted; also people with political affiliation and associations are no more trustworthy.