NEWS
03/03/2020 1:18 PM IST

'Pogrom', 'Hindu Nationalist Rampage': Foreign Media Doesn't Hold Back On Delhi Riots

Here's a look at how foreign publications like The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Washington Post and The New York Times have covered the violence in Delhi.

Even as northeast Delhi continues to reel in the aftermath of a violence that cost 46 lives, the Narendra Modi government has mostly been silent. Government representatives who have spoken in public since the riots broke out have preferred to blame the opposition rather than condemn BJP leaders accused of hate speech, or even to comfort the victims.

This inglorious list includes home minister Amit Shah and at least two other Union ministers. In his first public address since the riots broke, Shah—to whom the Delhi Police reports—preferred to blame the opposition, saying they were “spreading misinformation” on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The Modi government has repeatedly pushed the discriminatory CAA as a law that seeks to give citizenship to oppressed minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But combined with the National Register of Citizens, it has the potential of stripping India’s Muslims of their citizenship. 

Activists carrying out relief efforts have said both the central and state governments are missing from the ground. HuffPost India’s Akshay Deshmane reported on Monday on a Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan report, which said that public healthcare has inflicted secondary trauma on victims of the riots due to lapses in providing timely and good quality treatment. 

Many foreign media outlets have minced no words about the Modi government’s complicity in the violence, which broke out as US President Donald Trump was in town. Calling out Modi’s silence and members of his party for fanning anti-Muslim sentiments, the foreign media has squarely put the responsibility on the NDA government . 

On February 28, The Atlantic published a piece titled What Happened in Delhi Was a Pogrom by Mira Kamdar, which recounts how “armed Hindu mobs” went on a rampage during Trump’s visit. 

“In all these cases, mobs targeting a single religious group were allowed to run riot, unchecked by police. This is the definition of a pogrom.

More than an echo of the past, the recent violence in Delhi is a lesson aimed at Indian citizens who, since December, have dared to resist the transformation of the secular Republic of India into a Hindu state, a transformation accelerated by Modi’s reelection last May.”

It also pointed out that the newly elected Arvind Kejriwal government has also been largely silent and how Delhi high court judge Justice S. Muralidhar’s transfer was immediately notified after he pulled up the police for failing to file cases against BJP leader Kapil Sharma for the hate speeches he made.  

“The message from the BJP is clear: Elect whomever you like. We are still in power. Call the police; they work for us. Appeal to the courts; we’ll neutralize any judges who don’t toe our line. Continue to dissent, and we will set the mob on you.”

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The New York Times, in an article titled In India, Modi’s Policies Have Lit a Fuse,” Jeffrey Gettleman and Maria Abi-Habib write that the violence in Delhi was inevitable as a result of building “a dangerous Hindu-nationalist ecosystem.”

“As mobs swept through neighborhoods, burning homes and killing people, the police often stepped back if the crowd was Hindu. But when it was Muslims, witnesses said, the police could be vicious.

In one especially disturbing incident filmed on video, police officers beat a group of badly wounded Muslim men and ordered them to sing the national anthem as they begged for mercy. One man later died.

“This is not a couple of bad apples,” said Saket Gokhale, a civil rights activist in Mumbai. Instead, he said, the abuse was institutionalized.”

The article also highlighted how the Modi government was losing sight of the booming economy they had promised when they came to power in 2014. 

“These days, Mr. Modi speaks less about the development and reforms he once promised. The economy is reeling, with unemployment at a 45-year high and growth slowing to the lowest rate seen in nearly a decade.

Privately, some officials say that Mr. Modi’s government is so focused on its ideological aspirations that it is losing sight of the economy.”

In an article titled “What next for India’s Muslims? More suffering and a further crackdown on their rights by the Modi government”, The Independent’s Gareth Price writes: 

“Social dynamics also imply that the violence in Delhi may well be a harbinger of what’s to come. Youth unemployment stands at around 10 per cent according to the International Labour Organisation, though some studies put the figure substantially higher. Equally troubling is the societal implications of the highly skewed male-female ratio in India (along with China) resulting from female infanticide. The existence of these “bare branches”, noted a prescient article from 2004, is likely to aggravate “societal instability, violent crime and gang formation”.”

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The Guardian called the violence a “Hindu nationalist rampage” in an article by Hannah Ellis-Peterson, “Inside Delhi: beaten, lynched and burnt alive”. 

The article said that while there has been violence between Hindus and Muslims since India’s partition in 1947, it had widened since the Modi government came to power. 

“The BJP is the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation that has been accused repeatedly of orchestrating attacks on Muslims. The BJP, which believes that India should be a Hindu, not a secular, nation, has fostered an environment of hate in India. Lynchings of Muslims began and Muslims have been gradually relegated to second-class citizens in their own country.”

The Washington Post said in its article What Delhi’s worst communal violence in decades means for Modi’s India” such violence will only benefit the Modi government that wants a Hindu rashtra. 

“Research on religious violence in India suggests that Modi’s party has little political incentive to prevent such clashes. Researchers at Yale University who examined Hindu-Muslim riots in India from 1962 to 2000 found that when such riots took place, the BJP increased its share of votes in the next state-level election. When state legislators from the opposition Congress Party were elected, the probability of riots in their districts in the following years fell by a third.”

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