Anti-Muslim Mob Violence Kills 35 in New Delhi

Critics say that his statement was “too little too late” as 35 people have already been killed. Among those dead is an 85-year-old lady who was burnt to death inside her home which was set on fire by an armed mob on Tuesday.

Critics say that his statement was “too little too late” as 35 people have already been killed. Among those dead is an 85-year-old lady who was burnt to death inside her home which was set on fire by an armed mob on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI – An uneasy calm prevailed on Wednesday in parts of New Delhi, the capital of India, after three days of bloody anti-Muslim violence by Hindu right-wing mobs left at least 35 people dead and hundreds injured. The Hindu right-wing mobs who went on a rampage in localities with considerable Muslim populations committed acts of arson, loot and murder.

The deadliest communal violence in years in the national capital took place at a time when US president Donald Trump conducted his first state visit to India, leaving the right-wing nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarrassed.

For three days the Hindu right-wing mobs patrolled the streets setting fire to Muslim homes, slums, shops, a mosque, and a shrine. Numerous grainy videos that have caught the internet by storm show men mercilessly thrashing and dragging Muslims on streets while they shout pro-Hindu slogans. In one instance, two men can be seen vandalizing the mosque while placing a Hindu flag atop its minaret.

The frightened Muslim residents were making frantic calls to their relatives asking for help but any attempt at a rescue operation for the three days of chaos became almost impossible as the mobs went berserk. Even the journalists who went to the area to cover the violence were targeted. The rioters would ask them to prove their religious identity and some instances they were brutally beaten. Many injured people were left unattended for several hours as ambulances could not reach on time to take them to a hospital due to lack of police security.

Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, who manages the medical section of a civil society group in New Delhi, was at the forefront of rescue operations. It was his team who petitioned in the court to intervene. He said that it was very difficult for them to reach out to injured. While on a rescue mission, Dr Singh recounted: “the mobsters threatened them and tried to set fire to their ambulance.” He said even the doctors were fearful to do volunteer work.

He spent the entire day on Wednesday in the violence hit area and found that the Muslim residents due to fear of violence were reluctant to move out from their homes. “The residents are state of shock and their belief in police has waned,” Dr Singh said.

Government response

The police have been accused of siding with the mobs and exhibited complacency in providing security to the Muslim residents who were left to the mercy of mobs until the court intervened on Wednesday and ordered the police to act quickly and decisively to bring the situation under control.

The Chief Minister of the city Arvind Kejriwal who emerged victorious in the elections held earlier this month also urged the central government to call in the army and impose a curfew. He said the public had lost faith in police and the situation was “alarming”.

Prime Minister Narinder Modi broke his silence and appealed to the public to maintain “peace and brotherhood”. In his first public statement over the crises, Modi tweeted: “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest.”

Critics say that his statement was “too little too late” as 35 people have already been killed. Among those dead is an 85-year-old lady who was burnt to death inside her home which was set on fire by an armed mob on Tuesday. The violence also consumed two security officials as well. One of the two was an intelligence sleuth whose body was recovered from a drain. His inconsolable mother told journalists she never thought destiny would be so cruel to her: “I won’t be able to live without my son.”

History repeated

People are drawing parallels of the current violence with the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the western state of Gujarat when nearly 2000 Muslims were killed on the streets by right-wing Hindu extremists. At the time Modi was the chief minister of the province and years later he went on to become the Prime Minister of the country. Fact-finding missions found ministers from his cabinet backed the mobs, while Modi kept silent.

But the late response to the situation such as this is straight from his own playbook and political observers say that his silence has helped his party, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), make political gains. The violence against Muslims is a consequence of Islamophobia being peddled by politicians who believe in the right-wing Hindutva ideology daily on prime time news programs.

In 2014 when Modi came to power, the right-wingers found themselves emboldened and there has been a spike in instances of mob attacks on Muslims. In the backdrop of this hate and violence, Modi won the second term in 2019 with a brute majority that his party has used to push forward anti-Muslim laws at a frightening speed.

Modi’s Islamophobia

In fact, the current wave of anti-Muslim violence is rooted in the hateful exhortations of leaders of Modi’s party made during this city election campaign. One of his cabinet ministers provoked the public to “shoot the traitors”, a veiled reference to the Muslims protesting against the new citizenship law (The Citizenship Amendment Act), that has been termed by critics as discriminatory in nature.

The ongoing protests led by Muslim women have taken the shape of peaceful sit-ins at several places. However only hours before Trump arrived, Kapil Mishra, a rabid politician of Modi’s party, gave a public ultimatum to the Muslim protesters to wind up a sit-in being held in one of the localities in the riot-hit areas. If the protesters do not do so, Mishra warned, then they (he and his supporters) would not even listen to the police. Hours later, violence broke out and mobs went on the rampage for three days in the localities.

When Trump was asked at a press conference to comment on the violence in Delhi, he replied that he discussed the issue of religious minorities with Modi and was satisfied that Modi’s government will handle the situation on their own.

His statement drew sharp reaction from Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate in the US who is a fierce critic of Trump, saying that Trump’s inaction on the India crisis is a “failure of leadership on human rights”. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the mob violence in New Delhi and urged the world to take action for the protection of Muslim minorities in India.



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