Updated: January 31, 2020 9:15:42 am
On Thursday, as the Who’s Who of New Delhi made their way to Rajghat to mark the anniversary of the Mahatma’s assassination, a youth, two months short of 18, stepped on to the road outside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, shouted yeh lo azadi, and fired at barricaded students. He then turned around and walked to Delhi Police personnel who stood watching. Because of his age his name is withheld, but as he was bundled into a police car he identified himself as “Rambhakt” and chanted “Delhi Police Zindabad”. No one should be shocked or ashamed. This was coming.
A month-and-half ago, the very same area witnessed Delhi Police personnel charging at unarmed students and later, targeting them in their library and hostels. Two weeks later, a group of armed thugs rampaged through JNU, attacking students in girls’ hostels and elsewhere, as Delhi Police personnel watched, almost indulgently. Many of the attackers have been identified as members of ABVP, the students’ wing of the RSS, but not one person has been arrested so far. The lone FIR filed has named JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh, who suffered head injuries in the vicious assault. In marked contrast, the Delhi Police was quick off the wicket this week to track down and arrest Sharjeel Imam for his allegedly seditious speech. “Rambhakt” only echoed a perception when he shouted, Delhi Police Zindabad.
But to only blame the Delhi Police is to not look at the bigger picture. The violence in Jamia and JNU was preceded by extended vilification campaigns where Hindutva right-wing groups and senior BJP leaders, including those who hold high public office, have aggressively pitched in, effectively egging on their lumpen supporters to target students and young people. Campuses the nation should be proud of have been framed as a den for “urban Naxals” and “jihadis”. The EC Thursday banned Union Minister Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from campaigning in Delhi for their hate speech but, clearly, that’s not much of a deterrent. Indeed, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while promising stern action against the gunman, said at a rally barely hours later that the election is about choosing between a Prime Minister who took firm action against Pakistan and those who stand with Shaheen Bagh. Shah is a past veteran of seeing the Pakistan hand in Indian elections but today it is his Ministry that calls the shots in the Delhi Police. That’s why maybe the only excuse Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik has — as he got an extension Thursday — for the shameful conduct of his force is: What can he or they do when their masters urge frenzied crowds to say maaro goli saalon ko and hope for a “current” to course through Shaheen Bagh.
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