India is one of the most diverse countries. It’s a melting pot of different religions, ethnical backgrounds and cultures. The country of which Swami Vivekananda said, “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.” However, violence based on community, language and ethnicity is not uncommon in India. Riots are a common crop of said “violence”. So how to riots start and are they always religiously motivated in India.
The most recent example of a riot is Delhi Riots 2020, when following the famous anti-CAA protests, riots broke out, resulting in injury, loss of life and property. It all started with the Union Home Minister presenting a bill in Lok Sabha proposing Amendment to ‘Citizenship Act of 1955’. Throughout the protests and the subsequent riots the biased attitude of the police was more than apparent. Actions of both, government’s subordinates and administration, suggested that violence was premeditated and incited, be it Anugrag Thakur’s slogans of “Goli maro saalon ko”, Police brutality in Jamia Millia Islamia or various by right wingers open firing on the protest site with minimal consequences.
Protests are defined as a public expression of objection, disapproval or dissent towards an idea or action, typically a political one. But in Delhi, protests were redefined. There were protests held by BJP‘s members to support the CAA. These two parallel protests often clashed and, expectedly, turned violent. Provocative remarks against the Muslim community were made by BJP leaders in presence of the police and so called “security forces”.
Rioting started in the morning of 23rd February and soon spread throughout South East Delhi. Reports said out of all reported deaths 35 were identified as Muslims, still the right-leaning populace refers to this as a ‘Hindu genocide‘.
We can also consider 1984 anti-Sikh riots when talking about the worst riots in the history of independent India. Sikh genocide in Delhi started on 31st October 1984 soon after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. Conditions for a mass genocide were ripe in northern India since the start of the Punjab insurgency. Already many Sikhs had been killed in Delhi and Haryana as a retaliation for Killing of non-Sikh Punjabis by Damdami Taksal.
Many Congress leaders were seen gathering crowds distributing arms and inflammables during the night between 31st October and 1st November. According to government estimates about 2800 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and 3350 nationwide, while independent sources claim deaths to be around 8000-17000. Police was nothing more than a silent spectator, in some places they have allegedly helped mobs to kill Sikhs. Meanwhile, when number of citizens were burnt alive, women were raped and houses were looted, countries Prime Minister passed his infamous remarks about “collateral damage“. Congress MP Sajjan Kumar famously declared: “Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them. Whoever kills Roshan Singh and Bagh Singh will get 5,000 rupees each and 1,000 rupees each for killing any other Sikhs. You can collect these prizes on November 3 from my personal assistant Jai Chand Jamadar.”
Noticeably, the number of crimes against minorities have increase just before elections. In the past few days, we have seen mob-lynchings of Muslim vendors and traders.
Following MP, UP has become the centre for crimes against minority communities, both states have seen a dramatic growth in lynching cases, more than two dozen cases were reported in both the states in the month of August. Its interesting to see that the UP Assembly elections are upcoming in less than five months. Famous Economist, Philosopher and Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen writes about violence in his book, ‘Identity and Violence’:
“Violence is fomented by the imposition of singular and belligerent identities on gullible people, championed by proficient artisans of terror.”
Each and every riot, specifically in India, serves someone’s political interests. Riots may start from temple or mosque, may take place on streets but it is, surely, planned and sponsored at the places far from the common man’s reach. And whenever political parties come in power, they rescue “their people” from weak grip of law and order. Riots are a permanent scar on the lives of many. Sometimes in the name of country, sometime in the name of religion the population is tried to be polarised. Famous Pakistani revolutionary poet Habib Jalib has rightly said:
“Watan ko kuch nahi khatra Nizam-e zarr hai khtre mein,
Haqiqat me jo rahzan hai wahi rahbar hai khatre mein,
Agar tasvish lahaq hai to sultan’on ko lahaq hai,
Na tera ghar hai khatre mein na mera ghar hai khatre ME.“
(Country is not in danger but their system of wealth is,
Who is actually a robber, that leader is in danger,
If anxiety is contiguous it is for emperors,
Neither your abode is in danger nor mine.)
Syed Mohammad Ali is a student pursuing Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nidhi