General Bipin Rawat on Thursday weighed in on the highly politicised issue of Citizenship Amendment Act and the nationwide protests against it, while addressing an event in his capacity as the Chief of the Army Staff.
Rawat, while commenting on protests against the CAA, said "It is not leadership if leaders guide masses, comprising university and college students, to carry out arson and violence in our cities."
#WATCH Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat: Leaders are not those who lead ppl in inappropriate direction. As we are witnessing in large number of universities&colleges,students the way they are leading masses&crowds to carry out arson&violence in cities & towns. This is not leadership. pic.twitter.com/iIM6fwntSC
— ANI (@ANI) December 26, 2019
"Leaders emerge from crowds but are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions," added the Army chief while addressing a gathering at a health summit in Delhi. He said leaders are those who lead people in the right direction.
Rawat's comments come in the backdrop of a debate that has pitted the nation on two sides: While many fixate on the instances of violence during protests and the resulting loss of public property, the other side is highlighting reports of police excesses, indiscriminate crackdown and even events of opening fire on unarmed crowd of protesters.
According to most reports, the most bloody riots took place in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh and Assam which reported 18 and five deaths respectively by the end of the last week's protests. After that West Bengal reported heavy rioting, where loss to railway and government property was reported, but no deaths took place because police managed to control the crowd without stun grenades, or opening fire.
Another point worth noting is, that contrary to what Rawat's comments indicate, no violent protests started in any of the varsities or college campuses. In fact, even in the case of notorious Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia face off, the police later said it suspected 'outside elements' perpetrated violence. In case of police forcefully entering Jamia, the official stance remains that the police entered the campus while chasing 'outsiders' who entered the university from gate number 7, whereas the instances of police action were reported from the institute's library where unarmed students, who claimed they were not part of any protests, were studying for their exams.
Likewise in AMU, a fact-finding team of rights' activists reported that police used "stun grenades" against the "peacefully" protesting students which are normally used only against terrorists and dangerous criminals. The report also claimed that even ambulances, which rushed to move the injured students to hospitals, were attacked by the cops and the drivers and paramedical staff were attacked and manhandled and asked to stay away from the injured students. Several students reported critical injuries, suffered brain hemorrhages and fractures, while one student's limb had to be amputated after his palm got blown off in a blast.
The Uttar Pradesh government, however, has maintained that there were no police excesses while handling the violence at AMU and the personnel only did their lawful duty.
On the contrary, kind gestures by protesters like forming a human chain to protect Muslim protesters offering namaaz while sitting on protest, Jamia student protesters cleaning up Delhi roads after themselves, and thousands of students marching in protest, parting in two neat rows to allow an ambulance pass have won the hearts of many.
Besides, barring the two well-known incidents where police action made headline, students in all 40 central universities and a number of IITs, IIMs, National Law Universities, private colleges and state universities also protested in solidarity with Jamia and AMU students. But none of these protests turned violent, neither were any reports of arson and vandalism received. Most incidents of violence are reported from streets where, in most cases, police have picked up local community leaders and politicians, or those who have a past criminal record. Students were detained in hoards but very few have been charged with conspiracy or arson. Latest reports suggest three in Jamia have been booked for heading protests, while the Uttar Pradesh Police has booked over 13,00 students en masse for allegedly trying to snatch a revolver from a cop and 'stealing' five 9 mm cartridges on the night of 15 December.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 26, 2019 15:06:05 IST