How silence fans the communal flames

To lay the blame entirely on the illegally settled Bangladeshis and Rohingyas is to absolve those in the majority community, including the community’s act of taking out an emotionally charged armed procession without police approval. The questions to be asked are: Were all the victims Bangladeshis and Rohingyas? Were they living there illegally? Where is the evidence that they were responsible for the clashes?

Madhu Bhaduri

A blame game is on over the merciless bulldozing of homes and livelihoods of poor people living close to the mosque in Jahangirpuri in north Delhi. Some dare say the obvious: that the intention is deepening communal division and hatred. Some even point out the class angle: the bulldozing of unauthorised structures happens only in very poor localities, but could never happen where the rich live.
Despite the orders issued by the Supreme Court against doing so, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) went on for two hours, destroying households and livelihoods of mostly poor Muslims. Some Hindus who had been living peacefully with them for years in the locality as neighbours were not spared either.
But one group was conspicuous by its absence: the political parties, especially from the Opposition. The lone politician who arrived at the scene to stop the bulldozers was Brinda Karat of the CPI(M). The MCD — which had started the operation of bringing down what it claimed were illegal structures surrounding the mosque — stopped at the temple nearby which too had illegally encroached upon public space because Karat stopped the operation. This was the explanation given to a TV reporter.
Leaders of various Opposition parties are present in Delhi and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in power in the Capital. The AAP isn’t just any political party in Delhi. It is the elected government. So, particularly shocking has been the AAP reaction.
The first disturbing similarity between the AAP and the BJP was immediately noticed by many. The Chief Minister of Delhi has maintained total silence, like the PM. The Deputy CM is reported to have said: “In the last eight years, the BJP has got the Bangladeshis and Rohingyas illegally settled in different parts of the country. Why were they settled in the country? These people have been settled with BJP’s own people. After getting them settled, riots are conducted as per a script.” Similar statements were made by other AAP leaders, Raghav Chadha and Atishi Marlena.
In short, the AAP is blaming, firstly, the Muslims (Rohingyas and Bangladeshis) who are non-voters. Secondly, it is blaming the BJP for having misused them. The bulldozed area surrounding the mosque was not visited by the AAP leadership. Instead, the leaders of the Delhi government flippantly talked about bulldozing residences of BJP leaders to produce some suitable sound bytes to hide their own ploy. Blame the Muslims as troublemakers, but keep your religious vote bank intact with some suitable sound bytes against the BJP, seems to be the AAP attitude.
The AAP leaders have asked why the encroachment was tolerated for so many years by the municipality. But they have not asked why no notice was given to those who had encroached on public space before the demolition. What was the urgency to bring in so many bulldozers, that too immediately after a violent eruption of communal tension in that area?
Citizens of this country, especially those living in Delhi, would like to ask the Delhi government about the role of the Delhi Police. The AAP blames them vaguely but does not ask the most obvious question to the Delhi Police: about the cause of the violence. Why was a procession allowed on Hanuman Jayanti without police permission and why were the men wielding swords, guns and lathis in that procession not arrested immediately? For what purpose were Delhi police personnel, moving along with the emotionally charged procession, carrying weapons? Was it to protect the men in the procession?
Some policemen suffered injuries when the clashes happened. This too could have been avoided. Is it the job of the police to accompany a procession, that had not been given their approval, carrying swords, guns and lathis?
The AAP has been saying that it is not answerable for the conduct of the Delhi Police as the latter are accountable to the Central government. True, but the Delhi government can ask the Delhi Police and the Central government for an explanation for its actions. Questioning is not only AAP’s right, but also its constitutional duty to the citizens of Delhi and India. It is vital in the current politically poisoned atmosphere of communal hatred.
Not to ask the obvious questions is to be party to the communal crime, if not by commission, certainly by omission. On the contrary, the AAP is not more concerned than the BJP on bringing down communal violence. If anything, it is echoing the BJP.
To lay the blame entirely on the illegally settled Bangladeshis and Rohingyas is to absolve those in the majority community, including the community’s act of taking out an emotionally charged armed procession without police approval. The AAP has echoed the BJP in laying the blame of the Hanuman Jayanti clashes on the minority community. The two parties have cleverly directed the blame towards the minority community, specifically on those who do not have voting rights, in the hope that its Muslim votes will not be adversely affected.
It is significant that following the demolition in full public view, no AAP leader visited Jahangirpuri. While it is not surprising that no one from the BJP visited the area, why the AAP leaders also did not do it is surprising. On the loss of property and livelihoods of those who faced the bulldozers despite the Supreme Court’s stay orders, the AAP leadership has said nothing to console, compensate and help the victims.
The questions to be asked are: Were all the victims Bangladeshis and Rohingyas? Were they living there illegally? Where is the evidence that they were responsible for the clashes? There is a studied silence on these questions from the Delhi government.
The AAP, like the BJP, should know that this silence on the violation of crucial issues of the Constitution and of human rights has become the most dangerous form of hypocrisy facing the country.