When Union Home Minister Amit Shah rose to speak on the Delhi riots in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, and in Rajya Sabha the next day, he sounded combative and unsparing. He countered the widespread criticism of Delhi Police, which has come under fire for inaction or complicity or both. Delhi Police did its job well, said Shah, in preventing the violence from spreading in a time when “gehri saazish”, deep conspiracy, was afoot. It was not this “hate speech”, but that one, which was the culprit, he said. Shah was defending the provocative rhetoric of his party colleagues, Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, without taking their names, while casting in the dock speeches made by Sonia Gandhi, whom he didn’t name either, and AIMIM’s Waris Pathan, whom he did. More than once, he promised that the guilty would have nowhere to hide, “koi baksha nahin jayega”. In this, the first discussion in the House, days after the violence in Delhi took a terrible toll, the Home Minister’s expressions of sympathy for those who suffered losses seemed too perfunctory and his combativeness too long. And, given the Narendra Modi government’s record on treatment of dissent, his promise that the guilty would be booked by using crowdsourced videos, CCTV footage and face recognition software, was disquieting.
The government has turned a deaf ear to the anti-CAA protests which form the backdrop of Delhi’s communal violence, when it has not sought to deny protesters agency, or paint them as “anti-national”. In Lok Sabha, Home Minister Shah reiterated that the youth and the minorities were being “misled” by spectral others. By refusing to engage with the arguments and insecurities of law-abiding citizens stoked by a law that makes religion a criterion of citizenship, the minister and his government have drawn hardening lines that set the tone for the brutality of the police crackdown in BJP-ruled UP earlier, and now, in Delhi, the apprehensions that innocents could be targeted under guise of pursuing the guilty.
In Rajya Sabha, Minister Shah said that government would impound the property of the rioters, make them pay for the damage. A similar move by the Adityanath government raised serious questions about due process, or its short-circuiting, in UP. The communal violence in Delhi does call for a serious reckoning. But this process must be informed by fairness and compassion of the state on one end, and by the people’s trust on the other. The Home Minister has said “the government will not spare anyone from any side”. This promise will be tested by the quality of justice to those who have suffered and that depends on how the Delhi Police investigate and prosecute riot cases. That they report to him should make monitoring them easier.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines