Former Delhi Police Commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma on Saturday castigated the Delhi Police for the violence around the Citizenship Amendment Act and said he would have immediately arrested Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra for their inflammatory speeches, The Wire reported.

At least 42 people were killed and over 200 injured in the large-scale communal violence between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act in North East Delhi. In some cases, the police have been accused of either inaction or complicity in the violence against the attacks, mostly on Muslim neighbourhoods.

“Police should have acted when these speeches were being made,” Sharma who was in charge from 1999 to 2002 said. “A person should have recorded these speeches and action should have been taken after the speech is completed. Home Ministry should have been informed and the minister should have been arrested.”

In the run-up to the Delhi elections last month, Union minister Anurag Thakur had exhorted a crowd at a rally to shout “shoot the traitors”. Verma had told an audience that the “lakhs of protestors” who have gathered at Shaheen Bagh would enter their homes to “rape their sisters and daughters and kill them”. Kapil Mishra is accused of instigating people after he gave a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi Police to ensure that the streets of Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh were cleared of those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

When asked about Deputy Commissioner of Police (Northeast) Ved Prakash Surya standing next to Mishra when he made the remarks before clashes between two groups began, Sharma said he would have immediately demanded an explanation from Surya and if it was not satisfactory he would have suspended him.

Sharma, who was also former director-general of the Border Security Force, said he agreed with Supreme Court judge KM Joseph’s observation that the “lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem”. He said the police allowed the situation to develop and become a riot. “If they had acted earlier this could have been prevented,” he added.

He said the first mistake made by the forces was to allow protestors to gather at Shaheen Bagh locality. “It occurred on public property and no one has a right to block roads and create inconvenience,” Sharma said. “If the police had acted on the very first day the Shaheen Bagh gathering began, a lot that thereafter followed could have been prevented.”

Apprehending that the police may have become communal, Sharma said a riot was the second most important challenge a country could face after an attack from enemy. He added that Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik faced a tough test but he did not pass it.

Sharma said that the police seem scared of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and their failure to tackle the violence suggests that they have come under “damaging political influence”.