India is often cited as World’s largest democracy, where many faiths and religions have lived together peacefully since Independence in 1947. But every few years, Intolerance and religious sentiments rear their ugly head, resulting into riots and mob violence.
In February 2020, Delhi Riots was one such instance in which about 50 people were killed and more than 200 injured. Let’s recount key developments that can be traced to Delhi Riots.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019, allowed speedy naturalisation as Indian Citizens for immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan belonging to six religions: Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Act was hence seen as discriminatory to Muslims. Discussions on National Register of Citizens (NRC) also added fuel to fire.
Thereafter, several anti-CAA protests were held in New Delhi. In Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, protesters blocked roads 24x7 and sat on roads for weeks to protest.
On February 8, 2020, Delhi Legislative Assembly election was held, in which BJP was defeated by the Aam Admi Party. During the Elections, Politicians made statements that polarized both sides.
Then, on February 22, in Jaffrabad area of North East Delhi, anti-CAA protesters had begun a sit-in which blocked a stretch of the Seelampur–Jaffrabad–Maujpur road. On February 23, 2020, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra demanded the Delhi Police to clear roads that had been occupied by protesters, and threatened to forcefully end the protests if the police failed to do so. This triggered clashes and rioting in nearby areas, which led to more such instances in coming days.
Next morning, on 24 February, the mob pelted stones at security forces and a Police Officer died along with six protesters. On the same day, the mob attacked a petrol pump, chanting slogans of Azaadi (freedom) and carrying petrol bombs, sticks, weapons and burned vehicles. Later that night, a massive parking lot with 170 cars was burned down by a mob.
By February 25, a riot ensued in North East Delhi. According to media reports Hindu nationalist mobs were vandalizing Muslim properties and mosques, carrying saffron flags and chanting Jai Shri Ram. The riot continued for several days and there was widespread destruction of properties.
According to Media Reports, while both Hindus and Muslims were victims of the violence, Muslims were disproportionately affected. In this gruesome incident, many examples of Hindu-Muslim solidarity also emerged. Residents of some localities demonstrated unity by guarding one another and barricading the gate to prevent outside mobs from entering.
Delhi Police was widely criticized for its failure to control the violence.
International Media has criticized the BJP Government for their Pro-Hindu stance. An article in TIME magazine said, “The violence began on Feb. 23 and lasted for several days, leaving at least 46 people dead in Delhi, the majority of them Muslims. It was the worst religious violence in India in years. Though some Hindus too were killed in the riots, it quickly emerged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Delhi police force, his government oversees, had tacitly supported the mobs, who chanted Hindu nationalist slogans as they burned buildings and beat Muslims while police reportedly looked on.”
To maintain the image of India as a peaceful democratic forward-looking Nation, Government and Agencies should take steps that can create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Else, India will suffer a setback on global stage, as well as at home where society is polarized on religious lines thus impacting economy and business too.