We cannot let another 1984-like event happen in this country, Justice S Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court said today, in a strongly-worded message to the government – at the centre and in Delhi – to work together to combat unrelenting violence that hit parts of the national capital for a fourth consecutive day today.
The court’s comment came after it watched a video of BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who has a history of making hate-filled communal rants, make yet another incendiary speech in northeast Delhi’s Maujpur neighbourhood on Sunday afternoon.
At least 23 people have been killed, including a Delhi Police officer and an Intelligence Bureau officer, and over 180 have been injured in the clashes, which began Sunday afternoon as groups for and against the controversial citizenship law clashed in Maujpur, where Kapil Mishra was speaking.
“We can’t let another 1984 scenario happen in this city; not under the watch of this court”, Justice Muralidhar observed, adding, “We heard that one IB officer has been attacked. These things should be immediately looked into”.
The court was referring to anti-Sikh riots that killed over 3,000 people in Delhi alone.
The court also urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to visit affected areas for “confidence-building measures”, and instructed Delhi Police to ensure safe passage for the injured to medical institutions with adequate facilities.
Tensions ran high in the courtroom this afternoon as the High Court grilled Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Delhi Police, over Mr Mishra’s video and a plea, filed late last night, seeking lodging of FIRs and the arrests of those involved in the violence. The plea referred to the BJP leader’s video and held him responsible for inciting and orchestrating violence.
On being asked if he and Delhi Police had seen the video in question, Mr Mehta claimed he did not watch television. A senior police officer in the courtroom said he had seen speeches by Union Minister Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Parvesh Verma – both of whom have also repeatedly made hate-filled communal rants – but not that by Kapil Mishra.
Justice Muralidhar remarked: “I am really amazed at the state of affairs of the Delhi Police” and asked the court staff to “play Kapil Mishra’s video clip in the courtroom.”
Speeches by Mr Mishra, Mr Thakur, Mr Verma and several other BJP leaders – made during campaigning for Delhi Assembly elections this month – have been heavily criticised by the opposition and civil society for appearing to encourage violence against those protesting the citizenship law.
Mr Thakur was caught on video urging people to “goli maaro” (gun down) traitors”, shortly before lone gunmen opened fire at anti-CAA protesters in Delhi.
Unprecedented levels of violence have enveloped Delhi over the past four days, at a time when US President Donald Trump was being hosted in the capital a mere 15 kilometres from the clashes.
In a tweet this afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed people in the national capital to “maintain peace and brotherhood”. Mr Kejriwal and Delhi Police issued similar appeals last night.
The Union Home Ministry, which on Monday evening said the situation was under control, repeated those assurances yesterday, even as it ruled out calling in the army. The ministry said adequate forces were available, contradicting statements by senior police officers.