Two Union ministers addressed the media and the Prime Minister tweeted on Wednesday on the riots in northeast Delhi and we are still none the wiser as to why our elected representatives could neither prevent or contain the violence in the capital.
Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad addressed the media in quick succession after interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi held a rare press conference questioning the state and Union government’s actions in the lead up to the communal riots.
Gandhi said the home minister should take responsibility and resign.
Taking more offence to this than to the death and destruction caused by rioters, Javadekar and Prasad did some whataboutery and attacked the Congress and Gandhi instead.
Javadekar asked the opposition party to stop playing blame games and refrain from resorting to “cheap politics”.
“The police investigation will bring out the truth—who prepared with stones, who shot guns, who shot the police, who spread the fire and who has been instigating this for the past two months. The truth will come out and it will not be tarnished,” he said.
To anyone following the developments in Delhi over the past several months, Javadekar’s comments would sound like gaslighting. Multiple BJP leaders have been pulled up for hate speeches in the recent past and the party’s Delhi election candidate Kapil Mishra has been accused by riot victims of instigating the violence that began on Sunday evening.
Home minister Amit Shah, to whom the Delhi Police reports, has made no public statement on the riots yet but Javadekar claimed that Shah had been working non-stop, motivating the police force and giving them directions.
What kind of directions have been given to a police force that has been repeatedly accused of inaction at best and brutality at worst? We don’t know yet.
Both the ministers threw around words like “peace”, “calm” and “amity” without telling us what the government was doing to ensure it.
These are the very details that the Congress Working Committee said it was asking for in its press conference.
However, Javadekar said that the Congress, which was in power during the 1984 riots, had no right to ask these questions.
“In 1984, 3,000 Sikhs were killed in 3 days. Here, the violence has not been allowed to spread beyond a particular area. Congress has the blood of Sikhs on their hands. Who are they to question the success of failure of containing violence here?” the minister said.
Congress is far from the morally upright opposition party India needs right now. But if the largest opposition party in the country can’t ask questions, who is the government answerable to? (Here’s your regular reminder that PM Modi is yet to hold a press conference over two terms)
By the time Ravi Shankar Prasad began speaking, whataboutery had devolved into nonsense. The law minister stuck to attacking Sonia Gandhi.
“We expected Mrs Gandhi to properly understand the sensitive importance of peace. I’d like to gently remind Sonia Gandhi. I don’t want political one-upmanship with her. A lot can be said about the Congress party and will say a lot about the antecedents of the Congress party.”
Then Prasad took a sharp left turn and began an absurd monologue about the Congress’s ego, where Rahul Gandhi and Rajnath Singh sat during past Republic Day celebrations and the absence of Congress leaders including former PM Manmohan Singh from the state dinner for US president Donald Trump.
The minister said he had “consciously” decided to ask these questions today.
“Such a historic and successful visit that propounded Indo-US relations was compromised by the personal ego of the family. Please introspect. Nothing has happened to the country, the country is rising high,” Prasad said.
Both the BJP leaders asked the media to wait for investigations to be carried out for answers.
“Such a historic and successful visit that propounded Indo-US relations was compromised by the personal ego of the family. Please introspect. Nothing has happened to the country, the country is rising high”
While Prasad refused to take questions from the media, Javadekar avoided giving straight answers to a volley of questions on the riots.
Was this violence a failure of the Delhi Police? Was it caused by Kapil Mishra’s hate speech? Was it a ‘conspiracy’ as minister of state for home G. Kishan Reddy said, or ‘spontaneous’ as the home ministry’s press release claimed? Why didn’t the government act in time? Who will be held responsible?
“A 24x7 channel needs immediate answers. But government identifies culprits after proper investigation... Those responsible won’t be spared,” Javadekar said. “Government and society run on identifying the culprits through investigation. A full and immediate investigation will take place and culprits will bot be spared.”
As Indian journalists pressed the government for answers in a way it has not done in a long time, the smile and shrug with which Javadekar left the media interaction inspired no confidence.
“I was giving you the byte, I have given you the byte. Thanks to everyone,” he said.