Delhi is burning

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The death toll in Delhi violence has already reached 23 and the North-East Delhi continues to remain on edge as it was three days back. Killings, attacks, arson, loot on massive scales have been reported from this part of Delhi. Besides 21 deaths, nearly 200 people have been injured. Properties worth billions have been razed to the ground. Chaos and confusion is spread all over. There is anarchy and lawlessness spread in these areas. Though the union government has been making continuous claims that the situation is under control but the ground situation says some different story. Whatever claims the government may make, the fact of the matter is that police has miserably failed in containing the violence and in certain cases, as media reports suggest, has been partisan. Some TV channel reporters, who were attacked by rioters, too expressed dissatisfaction about the police presence and police action. Most worrying was the statement of a reporter who said that while under attack by rioters when the attackers came to know that he was from a particular community, he was let go.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on Delhi Police for not doing enough to check violence that has gripped the capital and also the inflammatory speeches that provoke mobs. The observations were made while the court was hearing the Shaheen Bagh matter. The court also said that the violence in Delhi would not have happened had police not allowed instigators to get away. The Solicitor General appealed to the Supreme Court bench not to make any adverse observations relating to Delhi violence as it will demoralise the police force. Justice KM Joseph gave the example of police in US and UK to say the police in these countries act professionally as per law if something goes wrong. Taking a cue from SC’s observation, he union government needs to ensure the safety and security of every citizen. Rioters cannot be allowed to have a field day.

Whatever has been happening from past three days reminds one of Saadat Hassan Mantoo’s short story “Mistake” written in the backdrop of communal riots of 1947. A man is killing another man. He swishes his knife through the other man’s belly. As the knife goes below the navel, it cuts down other man’s trouser belt. As the trouser falls down, the killer realises that he has made a mistake. The other man belongs to the same religion as the killer. The killer feels a sudden remorse and mutters, “Chi chi. I’ve made a mistake.”

Manto doesn’t tell the religion of the killer or the killed. It is immaterial for him. Monsters residing in common people come out once they become part of a mob. Manto wants to show that. The mindless violence is still punctuated by a bit of remorse. The killer feels sad that he made a mistake. That was 1947 and now we are in 2020 but unfortunately we are still witnessing the repeat of the same story after intervals. It is a challenge to the intellect of every citizen of India.

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