RAF passing next to the burned shops at Khajoori-Bhajanpura road in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)
The last few days have been tumultuous for the residents of Delhi, with violence breaking out in parts of the city. It is sad that instead of dousing the fire that it started for political gains, the opposition is busy stoking it further and blaming the BJP in a clear bid to misguide people.
The theory that the Congress and other opposition parties are trying to push is that it is the BJP which instigated violence because it is a communal, anti-Muslim party. This is the same theory that the Congress has been pushing for decades. It is still at it because the party has nothing new to offer. Post-Independence, the Congress has existed by feeding on the insecurities of religious and sectarian communities. This is not part of the BJP’s ethos, which stands committed to “sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas”, coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is important for the BJP to puncture holes in the theory that the opposition is pushing, not for political one-upmanship but to differentiate fact from fiction.
The timing of the spurt in violence itself is indicative of who stands to gain from it. The clashes began on Sunday night, just hours before US President Donald Trump was to land in India. It served the Congress well to try and embarrass the government on the global stage.
Opposition leaders, who have a vested interest in keeping Delhi on the boil, have gone to town referring to the speeches made by some BJP leaders as “provocative”. None of these people care to take into account that those speeches have been condemned at the highest level of the party, with Home Minister Amit Shah himself speaking out against them. Blaming “provocation” for what is unfolding in Delhi is a clever diversionary tactic. The violence seems to be well-orchestrated with ample crude bombs, handguns and stones being stocked. The preparations to disturb Delhi’s peace had been underway for months.
The people who armed the rioters are the same people who have been misguiding the masses to protest in Shaheen Bagh since mid-December. The government’s handling of the Shaheen Bagh protest was so deft that the opposition found itself outsmarted. The opposition also instigated protests in Muslim majority areas in the name of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The CAA was passed by Parliament. Opposing it is tantamount to opposing the democratic values on which India was built. The violence we are seeing in Delhi is a result of the fear being spread among Indian minorities. The opposition must answer: Who is spreading this fear? How have the security forces, deployed to restore peace, come under attack in these “peaceful” protests? How has public property been destroyed? To call the protests Gandhian is a disservice to Gandhi himself. The opposition must know that when security forces in a country come under attack it leads to despair and then drives the society towards anarchy.
The fact that the protests were not about the CAA from day one is reflected in the fact that no Muslim refugees have been part of these agitations. Asked to explain how the citizenship law was anti-Muslim, the opposition was seen fumbling for answers. So, they tried to stoke passions at protest sites by raking in issues of the clashes at JNU, lynchings, triple talaq, Ram Temple and Kashmir in their speeches. All the speeches had one central theme — the Modi government is against Muslims and so, people must organise against the government. The government has clarified on umpteen occasions that the CAA is not against any community, that it only aims to protect the persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries, and that there is no plan in the offing for a countrywide National Register of Citizens.
Unable to accept the fact that the plot set in Shaheen Bagh to destabilise the central government is a dud, the opposition chose Trump’s visit as the time to strike and then shift the blame on the BJP.
The charges against the BJP would have been laughable if lives were not involved. It is time for the opposition to realise that political power is not an end in itself. In politics we seek power to serve people. This applies to both incumbent governments and those in opposition. To try and misguide people, to seek votes through fear-mongering, comes at a price. In Delhi, this price has over 30 lives, including that of police constable Ratan Lal, who has left behind an eight-year-old son.
The government is working round-the-clock to ensure that normalcy returns. The home minister has held meetings with Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwal and senior Delhi Police officials. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is traversing the city’s troubled zones and taking stock of the situation. The BJP will live by its commitment to douse the fire started by its rivals.
In a democracy, anger and protests are legitimate. Violence and anti-national activities are not. It is the BJP’s sincere hope that in the face of the rising death toll, the opposition will help the government in restoring order and stop spreading unfounded fears.
This article first appeared in the print edition on February 28, 2020 under the title 'The guilty of Delhi'. The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and BJP National General Secretary.