Riots in India & Hindutva

As if the Coronavirus was not a big enough threat to the world, Muslims are being faced with another threat with the ongoing and exacerbating riots in Delhi. Being led by Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India, Hindu extremists are making life in India impossible for Muslims.

Why the riots started

The riots started on 23rd February in the Jaffrabad area of Northern Delhi which led to deaths of 46 people and over 200 injured. The riots were started after the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) was passed on 11th December 2019. This act gave a chance of citizenship to illegal immigrants who were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi and also Christians who had run away from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh before 2014. However, Muslims did not get any such favor in this act. This was the first time when openly just one religion was singled out as a criterion for Indian citizenship. The amendment was severely criticized for being biased towards just the Muslim minority, with the UN labeling it as ‘fundamentally discriminating’.

The passing of the CAA led to peaceful protests of candle-lit vigils, public readings, and sit-ins throughout the country. However, on 23rd February the protest escalated into a full-fledged riot. The government was seen as being more at fault by not even wanting to suppress the riots.

What is going on there?

The peaceful protests escalated into horrific attacks and riots after Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader, Kapil Mishra issued a 3-day ultimatum to the police to clear the ongoing protest against CAA by women seated at the Jaffrabad Metro Station. The road had been blocked from Saturday night by the women protestors. BJP supporters wearing saffron headgear and raising saffron flags (a sign of Hinduism); raised havoc in the peaceful protest areas. After the first day of the riot, it was clear that the police instead of calming the situation down was abetting the BJP rioters.

Journalists reported that the police officers were not doing anything to help the situation; instead, they were participating with the BJP extremists. Stones were pelted, the property was burnt, and people and even children were attacked with rods and even torched. Houses and shops of Muslims were shattered; petrol pumps and numerous tires and vehicles were set fire. Although shoot at sight orders was presumed to be in force, rioters barged into homes screaming Hindu chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and vandalized personal properties. 2 mosques were reported to also be vandalized and the Hindu saffron flag was raised on them.

Even journalists who were at the scene were attacked and intimidated to not report the Delhi riots as it was in reality. As if this was not enough, even ambulances were not allowed to pass to save the injured. Only those who were Hindus were saved from the attackers; the rest especially Muslims were all disposable. The government took no serious action to this blood-shed and continued to turn a blind eye to it.

Ironically, the USA president Donald Trump was welcomed with a great celebration during this time and he praised Prime Minister Modi for his aptitude for ‘religious tolerance’.

BJP ideology and history

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a pro-Hindu political party established after post-independence. This party enjoys support from the higher Hindu castes, especially in northern India. However, now even low caste members are supportive of it as they have been elected to prominent positions in the party.

The BJP goes back to 1951 when it was known as Bharatiya Jana Singh (BJS). They believed in the ideology and advocated rebuilding India with Hindu culture domination and wanted a strong, unified Hinduism based state.

BJP was formed after BJS was reorganized by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishan Advani, and Murali Manohar Joshi. The BJP is strongly against the secular policies of the Indian National Congress and seeks to define an Indian culture centered on the Hindu values and customs. The BJP, even with its controversial ideologies, started to get a strong foothold in the Lok Sabha in 1991.

The demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 was also associated with the BJP and caused a major backlash for the party. It was seen with skepticism by many who wanted a contemporary India. In 1998, BJP along with allies finally formed a government led by Vajpayee. In 1999 again it was successful in getting majority seats. However, in 2004 elections, BJP lost to Congress Party and Vajpayee resigned.

In 2014, BJP led by Narendra Modi, the long-time chief minister of Gujrat won an overwhelming victory in the elections and made Modi the Prime Minister of India. BJP ruled India with a mixture of economic-related policies at the same time promoting Hindutva such as banning the sale of cows for slaughter as well as the demonetization policy. In 2019, again BJP led by Modi was re-elected to the government.

Hindu extremism

The BJP, a very openly pro-Hindu party and also regarded as a militant group has grown exponentially popular since being led by Modi. The reign of Modi from 2014 has been a horror some time for Muslims and other religious minorities with hate crimes escalating by Hindu extremists. Some of the Hindutva actions the BJP has carried out over the years are:

  • The President of BJP, Amit Shah had threatened in April 2019 to expel all Muslim immigrants from India terming them as infiltrators and termites.
  • A 2006 commission revealed that Muslims were disadvantaged informal economic opportunities as well as access to basic education.
  • structural inequity has increased over the past decade instead of decreasing.
  • BJP banned the triple talaq form of Muslim divorce in 2017.
  • They constructed a Hindu temple in the place where a masjid once stood.
  • The Babri masjid fiasco in 1992 after a rally turned into violence.
  • The most controversial bill by the BJP is that only Hindus be provided Indian citizenship as it is only Hindu right to be citizens of India.

Ray of Hope

Amidst all these religious biases, there is still a ray of hope although very small for the Muslims of India. When Muslims fled their homes during the riots or were forced to flee, several Gurdwaras in North Delhi opened their doors to the homeless. Many Hindus stood up for the Muslims especially those who were neighbors. Since only Hindus were allowed to leave the riot area, many took injured Muslims in their vehicles to the hospital. In the Brijpuri area, Muslims and Hindus together did a unity march.

The situation is still very much tense in India and it is very evident where the loyalties of the government lie. There is no way with the current government that Muslims can get recognition or even safety and equality in the country and its laws. It is sad to think that a country that was home for thousands for several decades is going through such low measures to kick the citizens out just due to religious differences. Only Quaid-e-Azam was far-sighted enough in the 1900s to recognize the problems that Muslims would face in the subcontinent and helping them make a Muslim country, Pakistan for themselves where Muslims can be safe.

Afshan Riaz Bhayani
Afshan Riaz Bhayani


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