Delhi Riots: Narendra Modi Finally Breaks His Silence, Toll Rises to 22

Kusum Tewari

New Delhi: More than 48 hours after violence broke out in parts of the national capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on the Delhi riots. At least 22 people have now lost their lives, with the latest reports saying that the body of a man who works with the Intelligence Bureau was found in a drain in North East Delhi’s Chandbagh.

In two tweets on Wednesday, Modi said he had reviewed the situation and that the security agencies were doing their job. He did not acknowledge the numerous reports and criticism – including from the Supreme Court and Delhi high court – that the police had not been doing their job.

The prime minister also made broad claims about peace and harmony, without mentioning that several leaders from his party, the BJP, have been accused of instigating Hindutva mobs.

It is not unusual for the prime minister to take his time with making public remarks when minorities are at the receiving end of violence. When Kashmiris were being targeted after the Pulwama terrorist attack, Modi waited for at least 40 such cases to be reported before saying anything at all.

Earlier on Wednesday, the MD of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) hospital, Sunil Kumar Gautam confirmed that riots in the national capital have now claimed 20 lives.

The Delhi Police on Wednesday morning used water cannons to disperse students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, members of the Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia (AAJMI) and Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) who had gathered outside Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.

The students, who had assembled outside Kejriwal’s house around midnight, were demanding a meeting with the chief minister and wanted to submit a charter of demands over the violence in the capital to him. The students later alleged that they were detained by the police and taken to nearby Civil Lines police station.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi Police for its handling of the ongoing violence in the capital while deferring the hearing on a plea to shift the Shaheen Bagh protesters. Justice K.M. Joseph while hearing the petition also slammed the “lack of professionalism” in the police force.

The national capital has been in the throes of violence since Sunday evening after BJP leader Kapil Mishra demanded that anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters clear the sit-in demonstrations in Jaffrabad and Chandbagh. Over 150 people have been injured and several violence-hit areas have also been victim to arson and vandalism.

Also read: Delhi Riots: AAP Criticised for Focusing on Optics; Women’s Delegation Meets Kejriwal

Kejriwal on Wednesday also said that despite all efforts, the police had been unable to control the situation. “Army (should) be called in and curfew imposed in rest of affected areas immediately,” the AAP chief tweeted and said that he would also write to home minister Amit Shah in this regard.

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, however, told NDTV that there were enough forces on the ground and no one needed to fear. “People were doubting the capabilities and intentions of Delhi Police. This needs to addressed. People need to trust the man in uniform,” Doval said.

Doval, who visited areas affected by the violence, like Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Maujpur and Gokulpuri Chowk to review the law and order situation and meet police officials, late in the night on Tuesday, February 25, said, “no law-abiding citizen would be harmed anyway by anyone”.

He is expected to brief the Cabinet Committee on Security, the final decision-making body on matters related to the country’s security, later today on the issue.

The Delhi high court has directed the police to respond by 12:30 pm on Wednesday to a plea seeking the lodging of FIRs and arrests of those involved in the violence that occurred in parts of Delhi.

Also read: Delhi Riots: Give Injured Muslims Safe Passage, HC Directs Police in Late Night Order

A bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Talwant Singh said a senior-level police officer, who is aware of the facts, should be present before it at 12:30 pm with instructions. The court said that the police did not need its direction to take action in relation to the violence and police should take suo motu action as “this is very important”.

The matter was mentioned for urgent hearing before Justice Muralidhar’s bench by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for human rights activist Harsh Mander.

Hours before, in an urgent sitting that ended at 1:42 am on Wednesday morning, the Delhi high court had ordered the Delhi Police to immediately escort injured persons from Mustafabad to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital for treatment. The order, by a bench comprising of Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice A.J. Bhambhan, directed the police to ensure the safe passage of the injured to hospitals after hospital authorities had earlier in the evening expressed their predicament after they failed to secure the support of the police for the injured patients.

In view of the ensuing violence, private and government schools in violence-affected areas will also be closed on Wednesday, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia announced on Tuesday. CBSE has also postponed the Class 10 and Class 12 exams in north east Delhi scheduled for Wednesday.

Student bodies have also said that they will stage a protest march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament on March 3 against the Citizenship Amendment Act and to condemn the communal violence in northeast Delhi.

The Young India Coordination Committee, comprising of student bodies, also urged the Union home minister Amit Shah and the Delhi Police to take action to control the violence.

They also demanded the arrest of BJP leader Kapil Mishra for inciting violence. Mishra, who led a pro-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rally at the Maujpur Chowk on Sunday, has been accused of delivering a “provocative” speech at the event.

(With inputs from PTI)

You can read The Wire‘s full coverage of the Delhi riots here.

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