First Jamia, now Shaheen Bagh.
On Saturday, 1 February, the Delhi Police had to take into custody a man who fired in the air at Shaheen Bagh, where protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, have been going on for over a month.
The man was heard saying on video, “Humaare desh meing aur kisiki nahi chalegi, sirf Hinduon ki chalegi (In our country, only Hindus will have their way, nobody else). According to ANI, the man has identified himself as Kapil Gujjar.
This incident came only two days after a firing incident at a protest near Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, against the CAA, on the anniversary of the day when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. In the incident, a protester was injured in the arm after the gunman (alleged to be a minor) shot him.
While both gunmen have been apprehended, the question that needs to be asked at this point is whether these are isolated incidents, or whether they are part of a larger problem: the instigation of violence at rallies by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, as part of their campaign for the Delhi government elections.
Incendiary Speeches by Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma
On 27 January, MoS Anurag Thakur made a speech at a rally in Rithala, Delhi, during which he led the crowd in sloganeering. Chanting “Desh ke gaddaron ko...”, he waited for the crowd to shout “goli maaron saalon ko.” This roughly translates to “Shoot the traitors to the country.”
A day later, BJP MP for West Delhi Parvesh Verma, son of former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh said of the protesters at Shaheen Bagh: “These people will enter your house, will abduct your sisters and mothers, rape them, kill them, that’s why today is the moment... Modi ji won’t come to save you tomorrow, Amit Shahji won’t come... Today is the time, if people of Delhi wake up, it will be good for them.”
Former Election Commissioner SY Quraishi urged the Election Commission not just to take action against them under the Model Code of Conduct, but also file criminal complaints against them under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 153 of the IPC deals with “Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot”. A person who makes an illegal, provocative statement “intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause the offence of rioting to be committed” are guilty under this provision – even if no riot happens (though the punishment is more severe if a riot actually happens).
While the actions of the shooters do not amount to rioting, a reasonable case could be made that their actions show that the speeches are actually sufficient to indicate incitement of actual violence.
Similarly, the police need to investigate if the speeches can be considered abetment of the actions of the shooters – the definition of abetment under Section 107 of the IPC includes instigation of acts.
The Jamia Alumni Association has filed a complaint with the New Friends Colony Police Station alleging that these speeches did have such an effect, so the police don’t even need to take suo motu action. There is no guarantee that they will be found guilty, of course, as a link will still need to be established in the case of abetment, while in the former, the court will need to consider the language used carefully.
However, it is important that this be taken forward, given the consequences of this kind of speech being normalised.