The shooting of a student of the Jamia Milia University in Delhi by a self-claimed Hindutva activist, can only be seen as the immediate result of the provocative rhetoric from the Delhi election pulpit by a range of BJP leaders. The atmosphere that has been built up in the country in the last few months, and especially in the last few days of the campaign in Delhi, was conducive to the targeting of those who are against the government and the BJP and those who protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, with abusive words, hostile action and now by the gun. Earlier this week, Union minister Anurag Thakur made an open call to arms saying that “traitors” should be shot. Who he was calling “traitors” was clear to the BJP’s supporters, such as the Jamia shooter, who are used to receiving dog-whistle messages from the party’s leaders. There have been enough warnings about the dangers of hate and malice-filled political rhetoric. The harm is obviously coming into the open and is there for all to see now. Top BJP leaders, ministers and MPs have resorted to incendiary speech every day. From Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the lowest level, campaigners have sought to present the contest in Delhi in communal, religious and jingoistic terms.
One BJP candidate, Kapil Mishra, called Shaheen Bagh, where protests against the CAA have been taking place for over a month, a mini-Pakistan and compared the Delhi election to an India-Pakistan match. The Shaheen Bagh protests will become a part of both the history of India’s democratic movements and of the chronicle of women’s empowerment. Amit Shah himself told a rally to “press the button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh.” BJP MP Paresh Verma said that the people protesting in Shaheen Bagh would “enter your houses and rape your sisters and daughters and kill them.’’ The penalties imposed by the Election Commission on Thakur and Verma are so mild that they, and their supporters, know they enjoy impunity. Clear incitement to hatred and violence, especially by Union ministers and MPs, warrants exemplary punishment if only our constitutional bodies can summon the courage to act. It was a fundamental mistake on the part of the protest’s organisers to allow leaders of political parties to use their platform to make speeches that not only served partisan ends but also were unnecessarily provocative and sometimes uncivil.
The Hindu Mahasabha, meanwhile, has denied reports appearing in some sections of the media that it will honour the man who shot at a student at the Jamia Millia University on Thursday. The Jamia shooter knew what he was doing and has no remorse about his murderous act. He had readied himself for his act through all the propaganda and indoctrination that is taking place against so-called ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘traitors.’ It should also be noted that Delhi Police, functioning under Amit Shah, stood and watched the shooter and his drama until he himself walked up to them. When a minister who is sworn to uphold the Constitution makes a call for lawless killings, what else will the police do?