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Anatomy of the communal riots in Delhi: Anti-CAA protestors who provoked violence must be held accountable

Violence continued between the two communities till 26th February 2020. Both communities have suffered. Those who were present at the anti-CAA dharna sites constantly provoking this violence must be held accountable.

Communal riots engulfed North-East Delhi between the 23rd and the 26th of February 2020. Fifty-four people from both communities, Hindu and Muslim, lost their lives in a dance of death engineered by ‘outsiders’ who infiltrated and took over anti-CAA protests in Delhi (and other states in India). The areas where these riots broke out are Muslim majority pockets in a district that has the highest population density in Delhi. Schools that were burnt down by the crazy rioting mobs were largely owned by Hindus and served both communities in the district. Shops and enterprises that were consigned to flames provided livelihood to both the communities. This is an area where both communities lived in close cooperation and mutual respect. What led to the breakdown of this traditional co-existence?

Delhi riots 2020: The First Phase

This is the period immediately after the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act on 11th December 2019 in the Parliament. In this phase, we observed Jihadi, Peoples Front of India (PFI) style protests in Universities. The violence emerging from these protests was radical Islamic in nature. Crowds of students mixed with outsiders clashed with the Police in Aligarh Muslim University and  Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi. Sharjeel Imam made his first speech in Jamia on 13th December 2019. Later his much-publicized second speech was made at AMU on 16th January 2020. Amanatullah Khan makes his hate speech in this phase in Okhla. Large scale public violence is followed by Police action in this phase.

Delhi riots 2020: The Second Phase

After Police action and violence in Universities, the second phase was the escalation of the Shaheen Bagh type dharnas. North-East Delhi is exclusively escalated as one dharna zone. Most of the political parties supported these Dharnas. However, Urban Naxal-Jihadi organizers closed these protests to any outside negotiation. Scheduled Castes were approached to join but apart from the Bhim Army, local Dalits largely remained out of these sites. There were 7 incidents of anti-CAA protestors turning violent in December 2019. FIRs have been filed. Kanwalpreet Kaur of AISA was taken into custody by the Delhi Police from one such protest site on 23rd Dec 2020. Anti-CAA protests which have been touted as peaceful and democratic were neither non-violent nor democratic. 

Delhi riots 2020: The Third Phase

By about 15th January 2020 most of Delhi had dharna sites following the Shaheen Bagh Model. Till 15th February 2020, these sites continued to protest. There was no Police or State action. Over this period most of these dharnas were sites of artists performances, speeches, poems which created a further wedge between communities through their anti- Hindu and radical Islamic protest formats. JNU, AMU, Jamia and premier colleges in Delhi University in Delhi continued to feed these dharna sites. Teachers and students from AISA and urban Naxal organizations escalated these protests. Ample evidence is there in the public domain. Electronic footprints cannot be wished away.

Delhi riots 2020: The Fourth Phase

This phase emerged after the failure of the first three phases. From 15th February 2020 onwards most dharnas entered a violent aggressive phase. On 17th February 2020, Umar Khalid asked people to come out on the streets during President Trump’s visit. Waris Pathan delivered his hate speech in Gulbarga on 20th February 2020. On 23rd February a crowd of around 4000 Anti-CAA protesters entered Malviya Nagar market. In an extremely dangerous move, Azadi slogans were raised in front of the Shiva Temple. Clashes with the police occurred when the Anti-CAA protesters tried to block the main arterial road in the area.

The Immediate Violence in North East Delhi

Muslim protesters, mostly women blocked the two carriageways on road number 66 at Jaffrabad at 2 am on 23rd February 2020. The road is blocked cutting off the entire population of over 25-35 lakh people from Delhi and UP. Around 8 am the crowd at Jaffrabad blocking the road swells to around 3000 men and women. Locals from adjoining areas join the Jaffrabad blockage. The crowd refused to talk to the Delhi Police. Around 12.30 noon this crowd tried to block the Wazirabad road. They also went towards the Petrol pump at Bhajanpura which was subsequently burnt on 24th February 2020. Kapil Mishra came to Maujpur around 3.30 pm. Locals at Maujpur assembled there singing Bhajans and asking that the Delhi Police remove the Jaffrabad blockage after which they would move out too. 

On 24th February, the violence spread to Bhajanpura and other localities. In Bhajanpura, selective Hindu properties were attacked by anti-CAA protesters from Chand Bagh. The Delhi Police was attacked with swords and stones by burkha clad women inside the Chand Bagh anti-CAA protest site. As a result, constable Ratan Lal died by lynching and bullet injuries., DCP Amit Sharma was lynched but survived.

Subsequently Shiv Vihar in Khajoori was engulfed in Iraq–Syria type warfare leading to the death of several innocents. Dalits and nomadic communities were targeted.

All along, the outside elements engineering violence were present at the dharna sites. Certain organisers of Shaheen Bagh have indicated in their social media posts that urban naxals were pushing for violence all along. The posters, slogans and the media coming out of the anti-CAA protest sites have been well documented. They clearly indicate the presence of Urban Naxals in the anti-CAA protest sites. These slogans and posters are clearly not emerging from a Muslim population that lived in close cooperation with Hindus in affected areas.

Violence continued between the two communities till 26th February 2020. Both communities have suffered. Those who were present at the anti-CAA dharna sites constantly provoking this violence must be held accountable. 

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Monika Arora
Advocate Monika Arora is a Supreme Court lawyer and heads GIA (Group of Intellectuals and Academicians), a Delhi based think tank.

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