The report has been accepted by India's home minister despite a 'torrent of misinformation'.
What happened in New Delhi across six bloody days in late February was unmistakably an anti-Muslim pogrom.
The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is desperately trying to blame Muslims for their own deaths, injuries and damages, a move that not only further erodes India’s proclaimed secular democratic character, but also creates a culture of impunity in which radicalised Hindu nationalists will feel they have a green light to attack Muslims without fear of punishment.
In recent months, the United States, European and Gulf nations have expressed growing concerns toward the plight of 200 million Muslims as the Indian government pursues its Hindu-nationalist agenda with a merciless disregard for the country’s constitutionally prescribed laws and values.
The international community has watched on in horror as Muslims have been falsely accused in mainstream discourse for deliberately spreading the Covid-19 virus.
It should now be doubly concerned that Home Minister Amit Shah has accepted a “fact-finding” report on the Delhi riots by the Delhi based non-governmental-organisation (NGO) Call for Justice, a report that has been slammed for reproducing already debunked misinformation, sourcing dubious web based information, and presenting a misleading sequence of events.
Worse – it essentially blames Muslims for their own deaths, holding them almost exclusively responsible for the pogrom, despite the fact the attacks were coordinated against them by radicalised Hindu-nationalist individuals and groups, and with the support of police in many instances.
The report even cited a debunked online conspiracy that falsely accused Muslims of having “prior knowledge” of the violence by claiming Muslims had pulled their children out of school earlier than usual.
The report also blames women’s rights advocates and human rights activists, accusing them of “brain washing, programming and wiring (sic)” communities for violence. It also suggests mosques and imams played a role in agitating protesters, and it calls for a government crackdown on Internet usage and availability.
The one-sided nature of the report, however, is best illustrated by the fact that of the twenty-seven eyewitness testimonies gathered, twenty-one are from members of the Hindu community, a glaring discrepancy given nearly two-thirds of all casualties during the six days of violence were Muslim, and that the overwhelming number of properties destroyed were Muslim-owned.
The goal of this “fact-finding” report is clear: to whitewash the BJP's role and that of Delhi Police during the violence by erasing and rewriting the historical record.
A fact-based summary of events that took place leading to and including the dates of the riots would read like this: confronted with nationwide protests against recently legislated anti-Muslim citizenship bills, known separately as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), members of India’s ruling party - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – called for protesters to be “crushed,” which prompted police and pro-government thugs to attack students at Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi on December 15, and other protest sites across the country.
These attacks against peaceful protesters grew in frequency and ferocity throughout January and February, as did the frustrations of the Hindu-nationalist BJP, which suffered a heavy defeat in Delhi’s Assembly elections on February 11.
One of those defeated was Kapil Mishra, who vented his anger at an anti-CAA rally by threatening that should police fail to crush anti-government protesters, who were blocking a main road in his neighbourhood, then he and his supporters would take matters into their own hands.
Within hours, mobs were roaming the streets with steel rods, bats, rocks, guns and a hunger for violent confrontation, leaving scores of Muslims beaten, shot and burnt to death. CCTV cameras even captured Delhi Police officers participating in the violence or turning a blind eye to it.
“Kapil Mishra should be in jail,” Rupesh Bathla, a businessman and childhood friend of Mr. Mishra, told The New York Times. “He started communal riots. He planted hatred in other people’s hearts.”
Until recently, the Modi government had falsely characterised the violence as “spontaneous” to absolve the actual culprits, including itself, of responsibility. But in now blaming Muslims for their own victimisation, the future for the country’s religious minority has never looked so grim, given it exacerbates a culture of impunity that has simmered since Modi took office in 2014.
A 2019 report by Human Rights Watch found that 90 percent of religious-based hate crimes in the last decade have occurred in the past five years, with 66 percent in BJP-run states, with most perpetrators going unpunished.
“In almost all of the cases, the police initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes. Instead of promptly investigating and arresting suspects, the police filed complaints against victims, their families, and witnesses under laws that ban cow slaughter. In several cases, political leaders of Hindu nationalist groups, including elected BJP officials, defended the assaults,” observes Human Rights Watch.
Hate crimes, pogroms, genocide and ethnic cleansing constitute the worst imaginable crimes against humanity. To deny or whitewash such acts makes one a party to the slaughter and encourages a repeat of cruelties.
The aim of Hindu nationalists is to make life for Muslims and other religious minorities as intolerable as possible in the hope that they will self-evict.
In accepting a distorted and manipulated version of events that took place during the bloodiest days New Delhi has seen in decades, the Modi government is essentially normalising ethnic violence.
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