By Maler Suresh
In India’s capital, New Delhi, the death toll reached 53 after a four day period of extremely violent religious riots starting on February 23. Tensions had been rising in New Delhi following the Citizenship Amendment Act, which makes it easier for illegal migrants from Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship. Many non-Muslim groups are eligible to gain citizenship, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, but Muslims have been excluded. This bill was passed under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP is a Hindu focused party, and those protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act claim that BJP supporters were targeting Muslims and instigating violence.
Mohammad Shakir, a demonstrator opposed to the law, stated, “This BJP is targeting Muslims. They want to turn India into a Hindu country.” However, the BJP denies any bias against India’s minority Muslims. The latest violence was sparked by Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader who had just lost his seat in an election. He incited a Hindu mob to violently remove a group of Muslims who were blocking a road in north-east Delhi in peaceful protest against the CAA. “If the roads are not cleared …” said Mishra, “we will be forced to hit the streets.” This budding conflict quickly escalated into citywide violence.
On the days of the riots, mosques were burned, Muslim businesses destroyed, and Muslim people burned alive, beaten, and lynched on the streets. Understaffed medical facilities are struggling to keep up with the influx of injured people, with 526 wounded by bullets, metal bars, molotov cocktails, and other weapons. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed “great concern” for the events that have taken place, and the New Delhi police force is facing accusations for getting involved in the violence rather than stopping it. Meanwhile, Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs, has applauded the police for doing their best to halt what is believed to be preplanned violence. “The spread of riots on such a big scale in such a short time is not possible without a conspiracy,” said Shah, “We have registered a case of conspiracy to probe this angle. Three people have been arrested for financing the violence in northeast Delhi.” He also spoke of the government’s request to the Delhi High Court seeking permission to seize the property of rioters to ensure compensation for the riot victims. Unfortunately, the victims no longer feel safe living in Indian neighborhoods where they used to cohabitate peacefully with their Hindu neighbors. One victim and his family said that after the riots they could no longer stay in the city they had called home for decades “We have never felt threatened and always lived peacefully with our Hindu brothers,” he said. “But I don’t feel safe anywhere in Delhi now.”