Continuing Nightmare

The scars of the riots in Delhi are as yet fresh and will take a long time to be healed. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is astute enough not to allow any discussion on it right now and to ask the Opposition to wait till the celebration of the holi festival. Loss of lives and destruction of property on a mass scale do not matter to the Speaker or to the Modi-Shah combine; to them, the holi festival is much more important. It is crystal clear that the bloodbath was allowed to continue by the home ministry, and the police was made to remain a silent spectator. The fact is that most of the killed were Muslims, whatever the propaganda of the persons like Kapil Misra, who instigated the riots. It was a planned genocide, and had it not been for the rebukes of two apex court judges and a high court judge, who admonished the police in stern language, the carnage would have continued unabated. Had Amit Shah, who controls the Delhi police, possessed any sense of shame, he would have resigned. Instead he, along with Narendra Modi, has maintained a studied silence, while keeping his chair. His government, however, is doing its utmost to shield the culprits. The quick transfer of a judge, who directed the government to file FIRS against four BJP masterminds of the massacre, is one proof. The other is the Speaker's request to celebrate the holi first and then discuss the riot. Such swinish behaviour is conceivable only in a fascist state.

What is shockingly noteworthy is the passivity of the AAP and its Chief Arvind Kejriwal. It is true that the police forces of Delhi are under the control of Amit Shah, not of Kejriwal. But Kejriwal and his party could at least have engaged their numerous activists in the task of preventing riots. Such a move might not have paid in the short run, but Kejriwal and his party's image would have been magnified in the long run. But they did nothing, possibly fearing a Hindu backlash and loss of popularity among Hindu voters. It may be recalled that on the eve of the Delhi assembly polls, Kejriwal tried frantically to prove his Hinduness and kept silent on issues like the NRC, NPR and CAA. Be that as it may, this sort of passivity reflects a kind of crass opportunism and brazen cowardice.

Such opportunism and cowardice show that the role of non-state resistance to such ugly faces of majoritarian communalism, which is oriented towards turning India into a fascist state, is becoming increasingly important. Imposition of a full-fledged German-type fascism in India is difficult, because unlike Germany under the Nazis, Modi's India is gripped by a severe economic crisis with falling economic growth and high unemployment, and no amount of statistical manipulation on the part of the Modi government can hide the stark truth. The Indian fascists' success lies in that it has been able to spread the venom of hatred of Muslims and anti-Pakistani hysteria to many corners. That must be checked by a nationwide counter-campaign.

Post-riot trauma for hundreds of people, belonging to the minority community is more troublesome than what was witnessed during the rioting. They have no access to proper medical help and it is one area that deserves serious attentions.

From the night of February 24, 2020 till date, North East Delhi has been unprecedented violence, directed especially against minorities in the areas of Ashok Nagar, Mustafabad, Jafrabad, Seelampur, Maujpur and Shiv Vihar. Mosques have been attacked, houses brunt, and people hunted down in the streets by mobs. As in any incident of mass violence, in this situation too, the role of the health system has been critical. Far from providing healing from the trauma that victims have faced, the public health system itself has ended up inflicting secondary trauma through acts of commission and omission.

Paitents narrated their gruesome experiences of violence to medical volunteers from the night of 24th February 2020 onwards. Some reported being onsaed by mobs and beaten with lathis, their vehicles being stopped and passengers being attacked with swords, mobs burning shops and houses. Assailants were said to be people not belonging to the area, but had come from outside. The police's role has been particularly highlighted by all paitents.

While the conflict was ongoing, injured had no means to reach hospitals even when they were able to escape the violent mob alive. In the case mentioned above, the two persons burnt by acid escaped and hid in a mosque and then walked almost three kilometers to a point where they could find a private vehicle to get to the hospital. The time lapse bewteen the assault and reaching the hospital was about 8 hours—precious time in cases of burns. Further, it has already been reported that mobs were not allowing ambulances to reach hospitals, and so some patients who needed to be referred to tertiary care from small private health establishments closest to the site of violence, were not able to seek care. This situation was relieved after the Delhi High Court order of February 26. A charitable hospital that has been proactively providing care to injured persons is struggling to provide free care, as they have no received an official notification from the Delhi government regarding the extension of the Farishtey scheme to riot victims. Families are struggling to raise finances through volunteers and well wishers to ensure admission.

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Vol. 52, No. 39, Mar 29 - April 4, 2020