The death toll in Delhi’s worst riots in more than three decades climbed to 38 as the violence ebbed but did not subside completely and thousands of people began picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and livelihoods.
Four days after communal clashes that began in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and spiralled into bloodshed, arson and looting, the body of a man was found in a drain in Johri Enclave and there were scattered incidents of vehicles and shops being set on fire in Maujpur, Bhajanpura and other areas.
While there was no precise figure for the number of arrests, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the Delhi High Court that 48 FIRs were lodged in relation to the violence.
Delhi Police transferred the riots probe to the Crime Branch and formed two Special Investigation Teams.
The opposition Congress took the issue to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Accusing Home Minister Amit Shah of “abdication of duty”, a Congress delegation led by party chief Sonia Gandhi urged President Ram Nath Kovind to call for his resignation and remind the Centre of its “raj dharma“.
“The situation is returning to normal. We are here to reassure people that we are with them,” newly appointed Special Commissioner S N Shrivastava, who visited the affected areas, told reporters.
Delhi violence outcome of ‘instigation’ by opposition leaders, including Sonia Gandhi: BJP
The BJP on Thursday said the violence in the city is an outcome of “instigation” by opposition leaders and sought to link Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s call for “aar par ki ladai” (fight to the finish) during a rally last year against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to the outbreak of violence in northeast Delhi.
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar also referred to certain comments made by Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and highlighted the presence of a large amount of stones and alleged petrol bombs at an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader’s residence to target opposition parties.
Addressing a press conference, Mr. Javadekar accused the Congress and the AAP of “politicising” the riots, which have claimed 38 lives, so far, in the national capital.
He said AAP MLAs should have been out in the field to restore peace but instead the Delhi Chief Minister identified riot victims by their religion in the Delhi Assembly.
The violence is not about what transpired in “two days”, Mr. Javadekar said in an apparent reference to February 24 and 25 when the highest number of casualties occurred, but the “pot was put on the boiler for two months”.
At a rally in the national capital against the CAA, Sonia Gandhi gave a call for “aar par ki ladai”, he said.
Mr. Javadekar was referring to the Congress chief’s rally against the amended citizenship law on December 14 last year.
“She said ‘now we have to decide, choose your side’. Is this not instigation? Priyanka Gandhi said ‘hundreds of people will be put behind bars’. Is this not misinterpretation [of the CAA]? Rahul Gandhi said ‘Don’t worry. We are with you’. They stoked fears and instigated people,” Mr. Javadekar said.
He likened Sonia Gandhi’s comments to the “justification” of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had said that the earth shakes when a big tree falls, a reference to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
When asked about the alleged provocative statements made by BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, he said the matter is in court and added that AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan and AIMIM leader Waris Pathan made speeches that incited people too.
“Riot factory has been found at AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain’s house. Why is the Congress and the AAP silent on this?” he asked, in a reference to the recovery of stones and alleged petrol bombs from there.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said legal action should be taken against any leader found involved in the riots, and the violence should not be politicised.
Mr. Javadekar also accused opposition parties of being silent on the attack on police personnel and journalists besides the death of Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma.
The duty of all political parties right now should be to work to restore peace but they are doing “petty politics”, he said, referring to Congress’ demand for Home Minister Amit Shah’s resignation during its delegation’s meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind.
Defending Mr. Shah, Mr. Javadekar credited his effective handling of the situation and the Delhi Police for the “return of peace” in the area in the last two days.
“The situation in northeast Delhi is under control. Arrests have been made, inquiries have been fast-tracked to identify culprits behind this violence,” he told the media.
Opposition leaders “instigated” people and stoked fears among them against the amended citizenship law by spreading falsehood, he said.