Pogroms in India a backlash against mass opposition to anti-Muslim laws

In recent weeks, India has been rocked with Hindu-fascist mob violence against Muslims in the northeastern region of the nation’s capital city, New Delhi. Since February 23, 46 people have been killed as a result of the terror unleashed on the Muslim communities in Delhi, and over 200 have been injured, many of them beaten half-to-death by the attackers.

Hindu-nationalist mobs armed with guns, iron rods, hockey sticks and cricket bats, ravaged the neighborhoods with impunity. They beat and killed Muslims, sett fire to homes of Muslim families with people still inside them, destroyed Muslim places of worship, looted, vandalized and burned down Muslim-owned vehicles and small businesses. Thousands of people, a majority of them Muslims, are now homeless as a result of the destruction, or are seeking shelter elsewhere out of fear of returning to their neighborhoods.

The pogrom-style violence targeting Muslims today in India is comparable to the Nazi German government’s sanctioned mob violence against Jewish communities. The situation is also comparable to India’s own history of mass mob violence against Sikh people in the 1980s. In the current violence, seemingly spontaneous on the surface, sectarian far-right Hindu groups arranged ammunition and arms, as fascist mobs were fired up by anti-Muslim speeches and agitations made by politicians from the BJP, India’s far-right ruling party. The right wing agitators call for violence against the protestors, many of them Muslim, who have been protesting in the streets for months against anti-Muslim legislation that could potentially impact the 200 million Muslims in India.

Mobs of supporters of the BJP and its mass organization wing, the RSS, have been targeting Muslims while shouting Hindu-religious slogans and reportedly chanting, “shoot the traitors,” referring to the protestors opposing the central government’s discriminatory policies.

Millions protest BJP in recent months

Since December 2019, tens of millions of people across India have been protesting discriminatory anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant legislation, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act  and the National Register of Citizens.

In solidarity with the Muslim population in Indian and in defense of secular democratic rights for all who reside in India, university students, academics, civil and social justice organizations, progressive political parties and state governments, trade unions and others have organized peaceful mass protests, and hunger strikes to demand that the BJP repeal and not implement sectarian policies. The largest ever general strike took place in India in January with 250 million workers across India declaring an all out war against the BJP government and its religious bigotry. Thousands of these protestors have been detained, and tens have been killed to date.

In addition to the CAA and the NRC, the National Population Register is set to go into effect in April 2020. The NPR is a type of nationwide census, which would list the demographic information of all people residing in India, citizens and non-citizens alike. Previously, India’s Census Act protected the confidentiality of the information, but the NPR will reside outside the act, and hence become a tool for citizenship verification in the process of preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens. The NRC will create a category of “doubtful citizens,” those who cannot prove their citizenship via documentation. In a developing country like India, hundreds of millions of people will not be able to produce documentation, with those in poverty, and those living in rural areas being hit the hardest; having been born at home, 38 percent of Indian children under the age of 5 do not have birth certificates.

In what appears to be an attempt to further incite mob violence against those who have protested the discriminatory laws, the  BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has erected billboards with blown up photos of 28 people who participated in the anti-CAA protests. The billboards include the peoples’ names and home addresses. The alleged protesters have also been served for damages to public property caused during the protests which many intend to challenge in court.  (The Wire).

Police and Modi government response to Hindu-fascist violence

The terror that is being unleashed against Muslims by the Hindu supremacists, and anyone else that is being swept up in the frenzy, is a direct state-sanctioned response to the strength of the mass mobilization and mass opposition to the BJP government in recent months. The violent Hindu mobs were reported to have acted with impunity as the police for the most part stood around watching, and not acting against the attackers.

The police response in New Delhi is similar to that which occured during the three day pogrom against Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002. At that time, the police colluded with the mobs, alerting the attackers about the locations of Muslims who called for help. Not so surprisingly, Narendra Modi, now prime minister of India, and the leader of the BJP, was in 2002, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, and allowed the Hindu far-right mobs to attack Muslims with impunity, leaving 1,000 people dead. Because of his involvement, for a year after the Gujarat violence, the U.S. government denied Modi a U.S. visa.

The Modi government did not make any public condemnation of the recent anti-Muslim violence. In fact, it wasn’t until three days after the violence began that Modi tweeted about the situation, calling for so-called peace and harmony. The anti-Muslim violence being in line with the core Hindu supremacy ideology of the BJP, is being endorsed by the ruling party, which has a majority in the central government. Because of this, no proper aid or relief efforts have been coordinated for the victims of the violence and their families by government agencies.

Political character of the violence

The international corporate media’s presentation of the anti-Muslim violence propagated by Hindu chauvinist far-right organizations and fascist mobs, as “clashes between Hindus and Muslims,” and “communal violence,” while highlighting deaths and injuries on “both sides” erases the fundamental character of the bigoted state-sanctioned violence that is being unleashed on an entire section of the Indian population. That Muslims are acting in self-defense is insincerely being presented as both sides being at fault. The terror being unleashed on minority communities in India has a political character, with those in power actively perpetuating divisions and violence against Muslims. It is not simply about so-called religious tensions.

Just days into the start of the anti-Muslim attacks in February, Trump visited India. While Trump was being ceremoniously paraded and celebrated by Modi, just blocks away Muslims were being beaten to death and their streets burned. Given its sham concern for democracy and human rights the world over, the United States government will continue to have a strong relationship with the sectarian, far-right Modi-led BJP government. In the end, what matters to the U.S. ruling-class is not the lives of Muslims, but their strategic interests, their profits, and the well-being of capital. So long as India continues to make billions for the billionaire class in the United States, no number of persecuted Muslims will be enough to get the U.S. government to condemn the Modi government. As the Indian economy weakens following a landslide electoral win by BJP in May, scapegoating Muslims and unleashing terror against minorities will be the tactic of choice for the BJP in its attempt to stay in power.

Unity against fascist terror

The mob violence is a backlash to the powerful working class and pro-secular movement of opposition to the BJP’s bigoted agenda. In the midst of the terror of the pogroms, there have been moving instances of solidarity and unity between communities.  Two Sikh men saved 60 of their Muslim neighbors from the fascist mob; Sikh houses of worship declared themselves open as places of sanctuary for all. In thanks, a Muslim bridegroom in Punjab tied a Sikh style turban at his wedding and the video went viral. (NDTV) All progressive and revolutionary people should condemn the anti-Muslim violence and the BJP’s reactionary legislative agenda.

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