Riots in the Bhajanpura neighborhood of New Delhi on Monday.
Chaos has gripped New Delhi, the capital of India, where since Sunday clashes between Hindu radicals and Muslim protesters have caused 27 deaths and more than 200 injuries. The authorities have deployed this Wednesday thousands of militarized police officers in the city, of nearly 18 million inhabitants, which today was experiencing a disturbing calm after several days of sectarian violence. Three days after the clashes between the country’s two main religious communities began, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for peace while the courts point to the authorities for not having acted earlier.
“Peace and harmony are core values of our philosophy. I call on my brothers and sisters in Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times,” Modi wrote in a tweet today, breaking the silence maintained during the three days of clashes in New Delhi, which coincided with the official trip of donald trump The US president left the Asian country on Tuesday without mentioning the violence in the streets. For its part, the United States International Commission on Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) urged the Indian government to “stop the mobs and protect religious minorities.”
Since Monday, three predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in northeastern New Delhi have been the battleground for clashes between their residents and radical Hindu groups, who have attacked two mosques and torched homes and businesses chanting “India for Hindus.” . “Some of those admitted here had gunshot wounds,” Rajesh Kalra, a doctor at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, explained on Monday.
Neighbors accuse Modi’s party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, in power) and the extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of organizing a veritable pogrom against Muslims. “People were chanting Jai Shri Ram (“Glory to God Ram”), we don’t know where they came from,” said Rahu, a local resident, referring to a slogan that has become the rallying cry of Hindu nationalism.
Given the inability to contain the clashes, New Delhi police officers, among whose ranks one of the 20 dead has been recorded, had to use pellets, tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse the crowd. Yesterday, the Minister of the Interior, Amit Shah, responsible for the forces of order, increased the number of troops. Meanwhile, the head of the regional executive of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, requested in a tweet that the central government impose a state of siege and deploy the Army.
The bloodiest days of sectarian violence experienced in the Indian capital in decades were unleashed just one day after Kapil Mishra, an elected politician for the BJP, threatened participants in anti-government rallies via Twitter, who withdrew the publication. Earlier, during the election campaign for the Delhi State Assembly earlier this month, members of Modi’s party publicly called for the use of violence against one of the longest peaceful sit-ins in the history of India’s democracy. Since the end of 2019, hundreds of residents of an area in the northeast of the city, mostly Muslims, have led demonstrations against the amendment to the citizenship law, which grants the possibility of requesting asylum in India to refugees as long as they are not followers of the Islam.
The new citizenship law allows irregular immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to seek asylum in India, provided they entered the country before 2015 and are not Muslim. The norm does not affect Muslim Indians —they are the largest religious minority in the country, about 14% of the population—, but they see a threat in the combination of this law with the National Registry of Citizenship (NRC), which will force that each citizen proves his residence in India for generations. 90% of Muslim Indians – some 200 million – are poor and 74% illiterate, so the residence of millions of Indian citizens would be at risk as they do not have documents or be able to request asylum. As the protests increased, the Government decided not to execute its announced citizenship registry, at least in 2020. And at the beginning of the year,
The Modi Executive denies discriminating against the country’s Muslim minority. But since his landslide general victory in May last year, he has focused his policies on completing his political-religious program. The criticized citizenship law was preceded by the division of Kashmir —the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, bordering Pakistan— after eliminating its special status of autonomy. This controversial decision was followed by the equally applauded court order to build a Hindu temple on the remains of a mosque torn down by Hindu radicals in the city of Ayodhya in 1992.
The images of this Tuesday in which Hindu nationalists climbed the minaret of one of the mosques attacked in New Delhi to display their saffron flag, the color of Hinduism, have a special resemblance to those of almost 20 years ago, when the destruction of the mosque of Ayodhya caused the death of 2,000 people, mostly Muslims. Then, as now, politicians were criticized for advocating violence and security forces for their lack of effectiveness in containing the crowd. This Wednesday, the High Court of Delhi has referred to the inflammatory comments of politicians, while the Indian Supreme Court questioned the lack of professionalism of the police in the capital. Local media reporters even claimed to have been victims of radical Hindu groups,