AAP sacks Tahir Hussain; BJP stays mum on Kapil Mishra: Political parties should ensure tainted leaders face consequences
In the aftermath of the Delhi riots, the AAP has suspended its municipal councillor Tahir Hussain from primary membership of the party.
The Aam Aadmi Party has suspended its municipal councillor Tahir Hussain from primary membership of the party.
On the other hand, no one from the BJP barring Gautam Gambhir has expressed resentment over speeches made by Kapil Mishra.
Similarly, Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath are both members of the Congress party.
The Aam Aadmi Party has suspended its municipal councillor Tahir Hussain from primary membership of the party. From the terrace of Hussain’s three-storeyed house in Delhi's Chand Bagh, a stash of Molotov cocktails, acid pouches, stones and slingshots was recovered. An FIR has also been filed against Hussain in connection with the killing of Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer Ankit Sharma. The same building that Hussain lived in once served as the office of former AAP leader Kapil Mishra, who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party, and after whose speech armed mobs began attacking civilians in parts of northeast Delhi.
The saffron party hasn’t taken a dim view of Mishra’s open threat to anti-CAA protesters to clear out of Shaheen Bagh and the road next to the Jafrabad metro station. Apart from East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, no one from the party has come forward and expressed resentment over Mishra’s speech. In fact, Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Bagga has tweeted his support for him and BJP MLA from Rohini Vijender Gupta has cleverly passed the buck. Gupta tweeted that those blaming Mishra for inciting riots aren’t questioning the statement about 15 crore Muslims taking on Hindus made by Waris Pathan of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM). Neither has Pathan been dismissed from AIMIM, nor have Thakur or Mishra been pulled up for their inflammatory statements. The AIMIM's Maharashtra unit chief and Aurangabad MP Imtiyaz Jaleel has said that the party doesn’t support Pathan’s statement and is seeking an explanation from him. An unconvincing withdrawal of the remark followed suit. Across the political spectrum, there is a visible absence of a moral rulebook.
The year 1984 had also seen similar violence on the streets of Delhi, after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi. Memories of mobs charging towards people with stones and swords still haunt many. At that time, Charan Singh, a resident of East Delhi's Trilokpuri, lost many family members. He had shaved his head to mislead those who came baying for his blood. Till today, Singh says he doesn’t have the courage to tie a turban around his head and follow his faith with dignity. In 2018, the Supreme Court constituted a committee to re-investigate the riots and even then, the only question he had was: "Why hasn’t the Congress party dismissed leaders who played a role in inciting the riots and protecting rioters?"
Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath are both members of the Congress party. The latter is in fact the present chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and in 2019, the former was even present at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s recent protest at India Gate against police brutality on Jamia Millia Islamia students. Tytler, accused of instigating mobs, was given a clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2014. Congress leader Sajjan Kumar tendered his resignation from the party to Rahul Gandhi only after he was convicted in a 1984 Sikh riot case in 2018.
In 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice of India observed that while rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators, it can surely begin by cleansing political parties. The bench had directed political parties to publish pending criminal cases against their candidates online and urged the Parliament to bring in a strong law to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.
The court had said that the Parliament should frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with ‘heinous and grievous’ crimes. “The nation eagerly awaits such a legislation,” the bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Rohinton Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra had stated.
India lacks a robust framework for electoral disqualifications. The Ministry of Law and Justice had constituted the 20th Law Commission in 2012. In its 244th report, the yardstick for disqualification, conviction or the framing of charges, was debated. SY Quraishi and SK Mendiratta pointed out that the jurisprudence of presumption of innocence until found guilty already has been displaced to a large extent as there are lakhs of undertrial prisoners in the country.
Some people had suggested that any political party that allows a position to a disqualified person should be de-recognised. However, the political fraternity expressed fears that if candidates are disqualified on framing of charges, the provision could enable vendetta. In this regard, senior Supreme Court advocate Pavani Parameswara Rao observed that the presence of tainted people is the main reason for deterioration in the credibility enjoyed by the institutions and admitted that many legislative terms may pass before a court pronounces a verdict in a particular case. Hence, a person under a cloud of suspicion should be dismissed.
A report of the Law Commission in February 2014 had also lamented that the purpose behind Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act (which deals with disqualification of candidates convicted for criminal activities) has not been served. Indeed, if political parties are unwilling to dismiss even those who are accused of very serious crimes, then such a situation threatens the very life blood of democracy.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party, which enjoys a majority in Parliament, has never missed an opportunity to highlight the involvement of Congress leaders in the 1984 carnage, it is also guilty of committing the same crime. Pragya Singh Thakur, who contested and won from Bhopal in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, is one of three prime suspects in a bomb blast that took place in Malegaon in 2008. She has repeatedly and unabashedly made statements extolling Godse. The party's senior leadership, which seeks to appropriate the Mahatma, has claimed to be left shamefaced by her remarks. However, she is still going about her ways, and was even, for a brief period, nominated by the NDA government as a member of the Parliamentary Panel on Defence.
During an election campaign event, Union minister Anurag Thakur was seen chanting the first half of a slogan that called for shooting "traitors." Soon afterwards, a man was seen charging towards the protesters at Shaheen Bagh with a gun. The Election Commission banned Thakur from campaigning for 72 hours, but his party didn’t take any concrete step against him.
In the present scenario, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s immediate sacking of Tahir Hussain is a firm message from him and his party that national security and all matters pertaining to the safety of Indian civilians precede politics. At a recent press conference, Kejriwal also stated that politics and national security cannot and should not be mixed.
The author is a Policy Fellow attached to the Department of Home, Government of Delhi
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