Pogrom of Muslims in Delhi as Modi feted Trump nearby

24th Mar 2020
Pogrom of Muslims in Delhi as Modi feted Trump nearby

Standing with his mother and wife, Mohammad Arif (R) inspects his ruined factory, set ablaze on February 25, by Hindu mobs in Shiv Vihar, Delhi

(Credit: Javed Sultan/Anadolu Agency)

Sajeda Haider

Even as the leader of the ‘greatest’ democracy in the world, Donald Trump, was being feted by the leader of the ‘largest’ democracy on the planet, Narendra Modi, in the Indian capital, 10 miles (16 km) away in northeast Delhi, Muslims were being killed for demanding the basic civil right to be treated as equal citizens.

On February 24, riotous Hindu nationalist mobs descended on this middle-class area of the capital and wreaked havoc for four days, killing more than 50 people – mostly Muslims – injuring hundreds and burning scores of Muslim homes and businesses.

Thousands of Muslims fled their homes in fear for their lives and sought refuge with friends and relatives in ‘safer’ Muslim dominated areas and until now most of them are too frightened to return to their homes.

According to official figures, 16 mosques were attacked and damaged in what is being called the worst sectarian or religious riots that Delhi has seen since 1984. But just as the violence in 1984 was not a riot which normally means a clash between two groups, but a massacre of the Sikh community carried out by supporters of the ruling Congress Party, angry at the assassination of Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguard, so this too was not a riot but an anti-Muslim pogrom.

The recent violence in Delhi was more reminiscent of the anti-Muslim pogrom carried out in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when thousands of Muslims – men, women and children – were killed, their homes and business looted and burnt, women raped and killed and hundreds of thousands left their homes, forced to seek refuge in relief camps dotted across the state.

The Gujarat pogrom was ‘punishment’ for a fire in a train carrying Hindu pilgrims at Godhra Station in which 59 people died. The Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State Government, then led by Modi as Chief Minister, decided, without any evidence, that the train was set ablaze by Muslims and ministers incited Hindu mobs to take revenge on Muslims across the state.

So, what was the trigger for the recent Delhi violence? The BJP has been angry at the months-long sit-ins against the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which discriminates against Muslims and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which will help the Government mark Muslims as “infiltrators” or “doubtful” citizens and push them into detention camps.

The sit-ins started by Muslim women have been peaceful and patriotic. They have also become a fulcrum for dissent and protest against the BJP’s ideology and policies, joined by Muslims, low caste Hindus, socialists and secularists across the country.

Upset at the support the protestors have received, the BJP has tried to demonise them portraying them as “traitors” and exhorting their supporters to “shoot the traitors” and making them prime targets for vigilante attacks.

On February 24, a BJP leader and former Delhi legislator Kapil Mishra gave a call through Twitter for people to gather at Jaffrabad metro station to remove the anti-CAA/NRC protesters and gave an ultimatum to the Delhi police to clear the roads of protestors or he and his supporters would take the law into their own hands. Very soon after this hate-speech, the violence began.

During the Gujarat violence, the State and police had played a partisan role and this time in Delhi too, the Central Government and the police are being accused of the same. It has emerged that the Delhi police force, which reports to Modi’s Government tacitly supported the mobs as they looted and burned buildings and beat up Muslims while the police watched from the sidelines. In some cases, the police were even accomplices.

An extremely disturbing video of the violence has emerged of a group of five Muslim men lying on the street groaning in pain after they have been beaten and the police standing over them, kicking them and prodding them with canes forcing them to sing the national anthem. Subsequently, one of these youths, Faizan, died of his injuries.

Neither Modi nor Home Minister, Amit Shah, to whom the police reports, did anything to rein in the murderous mobs or the police. Shah went so far as to commend the police for doing a great job in a debate on the violence in Parliament. Mishra, who fuelled the violence, has been given a special category of security instead of being booked for instigating violence.

Muslims, who were the victims of the pogrom, are being accused of rioting and have been arrested, while the police lodged cases against ‘unknown mobs’ even when some of the Muslims identified those who perpetrated the violence.

Senior Indian journalist and commentator Vidya Subrahmaniam said, “Last month’s attacks mark the beginning of a new frightening chapter in Indian history. Hindu mobs, empowered by the Hindu-nationalist central government, no longer appear to need a reason to attack minorities.”

“This signals that for minority communities in India, the future is now darker and more frightening than it has ever been before,” she adds.

 

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