Why it’s important to get to the bottom of the Delhi violence
Forget the politics, answering key questions about the riots could prevent a repeat
North-east Delhi was incident-free on Thursday, as people picked up the pieces of their lives and livelihoods after the worst communal violence Delhi has seen in at least three decades. While it would be too much to expect political parties not to politicise the issue — narratives and counter narratives are already at play — it is imperative that the home ministry, the National Security Adviser (whose entry seems to have played a major part in normalising the situation), Delhi Police, other law enforcement agencies, and the state government work together to answer key questions that could shed light on just what happened.
Given that both the pro- and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) groups whose clash sparked off the communal riots were extremely well organised — the pro-group was bussed in from neighbouring states, according to one theory; and both appear to have been well-armed — some of these questions have to do with the identity of the individuals and the organisations behind the protests, and the source of funding and arms. Were local leaders of political parties involved? As a corollary, it is also important to get to the underlying motives. Was the motive, as some believe, to embarrass the Narendra Modi government during the visit of United States President Donald Trump? If so, who was behind the effort? Or was it to vitiate the situation in the national capital? And who could gain from that?
There are other questions as well. For instance, on the role of hate speech in inciting the riots. While this may not have lit the spark, did it, for instance, heat things up to the extent that a fire was inevitable? Or on the role of the unresolved and open-ended protests against the CAA (with protesters sticking to their stand, the home ministry not keen on engaging, the courts, deferring both the larger issue of the law and the smaller one of a protest at Shaheen Bagh on a public road)? Some hard questions will also have to be asked about gaps in the police’s intelligence-gathering and risk-assessment processes, and their near- glacial pace of response to initial skirmishes. After all, it is becoming clear that a better and faster response on Saturday, when the clashes started, may have prevented events of Monday and Tuesday, which saw the most casualties. Many of these are tough questions. Some are inconvenient. But we owe it to the 37 dead as of Thursday evening (across both Hindus and Muslims), the hundreds of injured, and the thousands whose livelihoods have been affected to ask them — and then, to sincerely try and answer them.