Mosques have been set alight and at least 20 people have been killed in New Delhi. Some police officers are accused of encouraging Hindu nationalist rioters.

Communal violence in India has claimed the lives of at least 20 people as the Indian capital New Delhi struggles to contain its worst religious riots in decades.

Indian website Scroll.in listed the names of some of those killed, the majority of whom appear to be Muslims with several Hindus also including among the death toll.

Of the eight people listed by Scroll.in six died of bullet wounds, with no information provided about the perpetrators. 

Police officers are accused of standing aside or encouraging Hindu mobs to target Muslim communities, who are believed to make up close to 13 percent of the capital’s population.

Photographers captured the moment Hindu rioters set a mosque alight, climbing its minaret to append the Hindu nationalist saffron flag.

In other images and videos, mobs were seen crowding around people suspected of being Muslim striking at the victims with baseball bats and sticks.

The ostensible spark for the violence was the targeting of protests against a recent amendment to Indian citizenship law (CAA), which enables the granting of Indian nationality to all those who seek refuge in the country except Muslims.

Critics argued that the law was yet another measure by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to revoke the India’s secular order and relegate the country’s Muslim citizens to second class status.

The rising tide of Hindu nationalism

For many observers, the CAA was the BJP’s latest step in redefining India along Hindu religious lines.

Part of the party’s religious programme has been the targeting of the country’s Muslim minority.

Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely blamed for his inaction over the 2002 religious riots in the state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister,  which killed 800 Muslims and 200 Hindus. Many have argued that the inaction was deliberate

Speaking on the similarities between Gujarat and the ongoing violence in New Delhi, journalist Rana Ayub wrote: “Narendra Modi let Gujarat burn for days in 2002 and did not call for reinforcements despite being advised by then Director General of police, State Intelligence and Home secretary. He did nothing to rein in VHP  leaders giving provocative speeches. Compare this to Delhi 2020.”

While in power in Gujarat Modi, and his key lieutenant Amit Shah, who is now India's home minister, successfully pushed for a law that made it harder for Hindus to convert to other religions. When the BJP took power in India in 2014, the party made plans to expand the law to the rest of the country.

Another move widely perceived to be targeting the country’s Muslim community was the national register of citizens in Assam. Under the review more than 1.9 million people were stripped of their citizenship because they or their ancestors were accused of infiltrating the country from Bangladesh. 

The majority of these were Muslims but there were many Hindus also included in the list of those not entitled to citizenship. For Hindus, however, the CAA offers a route back to getting citizenship.

India’s media has been criticised for suspending journalistic impartiality in its coverage of Modi, thereby sparing him scrutiny over his policies. A Foreign Policy article from August described how BJP policies were ushered through the media with fanfare, and stories that reflected poorly on the group were omitted. 

Elsewhere, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the BJP government revoked constitutional protections granted to the majority-Muslim region that had once granted it nominal sovereignty. The region was then put under lockdown with internet and other communication services blocked. 

Besides legislation, anti-Muslim lynchings on pretexts such as ‘love jihad’ or the abuse of cows have also increased in India under BJP rule.

Source: TRT World