A self-radicalised teenager who opened fire at the anti-CAA protestors in Delhi is the new symbol of hate politics, an inevitable consequence of incendiary speeches made by the BJP leaders. No one should be shocked. This was in the making. The build-up has been systematic with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections in Delhi. Ironically, the 17-year-old boy’s hate-filled rant before and after the attack on the barricaded protestors with a country-made pistol came on a day that marked the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. One wonders whether the extreme communal bigotry that led to the assassination of Mahatma is sought to be revived now to pursue the divisive political agenda. More shocking was the callousness of the Delhi police who stood watching in silence as the youth, brandishing pistol and shouting “Yeh lo azadi”, went about his mission on a road near the Jamia Millia Islamia, one of the key protest sites. The same Delhi police had unleashed terror in the very same area last month when its personnel chased unarmed students and later targeted them in the library and hostels. Two weeks later, a group of armed thugs rampaged through the JNU, attacking students as Delhi police personnel remained mute spectators. Many of the attackers have been identified as members of the ABVP but not a single person has been arrested so far. Again, the same police showed enormous alacrity in tracking down and arresting Sharjeel Imam, a JNU student, for his allegedly seditious speech.
The violence in Jamia and JNU was preceded by vilification campaigns involving Hindutva right-wing groups and senior BJP leaders. The pursuit of communal politics will prove disastrous for a pluralistic and secular country like India. It will produce radicalised youth like the gunman at Jamia. Unfortunately, such self-radicalised youth do not understand how they have been mobilised for electoral benefits, creating hatred and then reaping its rewards. Though the Election Commission has banned Union Minister Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from campaigning in Delhi for their hate speech, it is not much of a deterrent. In the context of protests against the CAA, the term “traitors” has been lobbed at those opposing the new citizenship law. The fact that a young gunman opened fire days after Thakur made the incendiary chant “Desh ke gaddaron ko…” at a Delhi rally points to the dangers of divisive politics. The political atmosphere has been vitiated with senior ministers speaking contemptuously of protestors as ‘tukde tukde’ gang who deserve to be shot. Home Minister Amit Shah even went to the extent of asking voters to show such anger while pressing the EVM button that the residents of Shaheen Bagh feel the current.