Dozens arrested in India as Hindu extremists rampage through Muslim neighbourhood
At least 24 people in India have been arrested following violent riots that broke out in a suburb of New Delhi over the weekend in the latest spate of communal violence targeting Muslims.
Hindus and Muslims threw stones at each other during a Hindu religious procession, injuring a civilian and eight police officers, authorities say.
Clashes broke out after a Hindu mob, which had been marching through a mostly Muslim neighbourhood armed with clubs and batons and under police escort, rallied in front of a mosque at prayer time.
"It was almost like what was played out elsewhere in the country, where a bunch of Hindu fanatics brandishing swords and holding saffron flags pass through Muslim neighbourhoods shouting anti-Muslim slogans," Majid Khan, a shopkeeper in Delhi told French radio station RFI.
The majority of those arrested were Muslims, local media reported.
Hardline Hindu nationalists in India have long adopted an openly Islamophobic stance, preaching violence against the country's Muslim minority that makes up 14 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people.
Indian Muslims have been targeted in multiple attacks in recent weeks, carried out by right-wing Hindu groups celebrating the Ram Navami festival that marks the birth of Lord Ram, one of the chief Hindu deities.
On 10 April, a procession for a Hindu festival turned violent when Hindu extremists brandishing swords and sticks marched through Muslim neighbourhoods and outside mosques. Videos showed the mob dancing and cheering in unison to songs inciting violence against Muslims.
Hindu extremists then attacked Muslims and burned down a mosque while police reportedly stood by. At least 24 people, including six police officers, were injured in the violence.
Following the riots, authorities bulldozed homes and shops belonging to Muslims accused of throwing rocks at Hindus.
Similar incidents took place in other Indian states including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, and West Bengal, with gangs taunting Muslims and attacking their property.