By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, March 1, 2020: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Politicians in our country must evoke this famous saying of Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi on his 150th birthday anniversary and put it practice to end the violence in the capital city of Delhi going on for more than two months.

At least 42 people were killed due to the latest media report on the large-scale communal violence in parts of North East Delhi. It took almost 96 hours after communal clashes that began in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and spiralled into bloodshed, arson, and looting, Delhi Police on Thursday transferred the riots probe to the Crime Branch and formed two Special Investigation Teams.

Surprisingly, all these instances of violence have occurred within a radius of just 12 km from India’s most secured area–the Raisina Hill, which houses the Parliament House Complex, the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s Office and the defence and home ministries, Supreme Court of India, the Delhi High Court, Delhi police headquarter of Delhi police, the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy.

Even as the immediate causes of the worst ever violence in Delhi in recent decades are still being debated, by and large it is attributed to the fallout from Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the diabolical oratory by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Delhi city elections early this month et al.

In fact, the published materials so far suggest that that the confrontation began when BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who lost from Model Town constituency in the recently held assembly elections, called his supporters to evict CAA protestors forcefully from sites they were occupying. His call smacked of the politics of hate, intolerance and distrust.

By now it is crystal clear that the security forces have been largely ineffective in keeping the national capital violence-free, even on days when the city was under the lens of the international media in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s two-day India visit.

Scuffles quickly escalated. It began on Sunday as a confrontation between police and protesters. On Monday, it became a Hindu-Muslim riot. By Tuesday, it had become one-sided anti-Muslim violence that reminded everyone of 1984 massacre when Police largely looked the other way as mobs set Sikhs and their properties on fire in Delhi and several other cities.

But this time, Muslims were the primary targets and victims. Witnesses described the police simply standing by like the 1984 riots. A Supreme Court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph Wednesday succinctly observed that the Delhi riots could have been prevented if the police had “independence” to act. The bench further observed that there is a “total lack of independence and professionalism of the police force” in that the police need to take consent for any action even when alarming situations arise.

Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister, Amit Shah’s claim of ‘good governance’, if the much vaunted security personnel in Delhi could not protect citizens living within a radius of 10 km from the Parliament House Complex and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, how can the government protect citizens elsewhere?

The scale of violence that trickled on the streets of Jafrabad, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Jamia Nagar and Seelampur, and the campuses of JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia University, clearly suggests that the Modi and Kejriwal Governments along with intelligence and security agencies, have shown little urgency and pro-activeness in preventing and controlling the violence in Delhi.

This brings us to the question of politicization of security forces. The Home Ministry directly controls the Delhi Police and the paramilitary forces, which failed to take precautionary and preemptive measures to prevent repeated instances of violence in the national capital. With the communal violence flaring up, was it not the responsibility of Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government to write to the Centre seeking Army’s deployment to control riots?

At a time when the government and law-enforcing agencies show incompetence or indifference for obvious reason in tacking the pogroms like the one in Delhi, the judiciary is expected to step in. In the recent case, it took little time and Delhi High Court on Tuesday midnight went for hearing.

True, the violence in Delhi has for the time being subsided after the prime minister deputed National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval to visit Delhi’s troubled streets and ensure that normalcy returned in the earliest. Doval largely succeeded in restoring peace with the same security forces and officials.

But no one is yet sure that the clashes would not be repeated and spread out in cities and towns where protests from sections of the citizenry continue against the CAA and other burning issues related to this agitation. At this critical juncture, what the country needs is independent police that the Apex Court has talked about.

Even after independence, the police in India consider the people as subjects. Further the politicisation of the force clearly hinders fair investigation of crimes and effective maintenance of law and order, which became amply clear in Delhi case.

The ruling party with a partisan force at its disposal calls the shot to take forward its political agenda. To prevent the incidents like Delhi violence, the police need to be depoliticised, professionalised and reoriented to function with a democratic ethos, in which citizens replace subjects.

Our netas must hear the eternal voice of Gandhiji, who said, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

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