The pogrom in Delhi is only the start of the spectre looming over India

The pogrom in Delhi is only the start of the spectre looming over India
Comment: The Hindu-supremacist vision of India that Modi has supported for many years is making the country a deadly place for its Muslim population, writes Umar Lateef Misgar.
6 min read
02 Mar, 2020
At least 46 people have been killed in Delhi's anti-Muslim violence [Getty]
The past weeks' anti-Muslim carnage in India's national capital is an ominous sign of what is to come.

In the Hindu-supremacist vision of how the country is to be reconstituted, with the active aid of state institutions, minorities will be systematically subject to pogroms. Particularly Muslims, who form a 200 million strong portion of India's population. 

And this impending mass murder will not just be freely broadcast by its perpetrators over the virtual channels, but the victims will be expected to show maximum restraint and abide by the law, as they await their extermination.

This is the natural progression of a bigoted ideology that derives its inspiration from fascism, its legitimacy from an electoral mandate, and its footsoldiers from the troll factories. 

With one or two notable exceptions, this mission is augmented by a propagandist media that, night upon night, relays Islamophobic dog-whistling under the garb of 'security analysis'. For them, any expression of Muslim identity politics is divisive at best, and terrorist at worst.

On the other end of this narrow spectrum is the media that tries to appear 'unbiased' but actually, to paraphrase the late Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani, tries to strike a balance between the sword and the neck. 

Take the example of how the anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi is being described. While some are calling it a "clash" between Hindus and Muslims, others frame it as a "riot" that conjures up the pictures of aimless killing, burning and looting.

This sanitized framing not only misrepresents the gravity of this pogrom but also disregards the well-documented history of anti-Muslim mass-violence that India's current leadership has consistently encouraged and overseen. In 2002, while heading the regional government in the state of Gujarat, now Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, now India's home minster, oversaw the murder of around 2,000 Muslims.

In Delhi, where at least 46 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed, the immediate origins of this slaughter can be traced to an incendiary speech made by a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Read more: Modi's Crusade: Citizenship Amendment Bill paves the way for an India without Islam

Kapil Mishra, who recently lost in a regional election in Delhi, gave a speech warning the mostly Muslim protestors opposing discriminatory legislation, to clear off the roads. Mishra, standing alongside a top police official, threatened to take matters into his own hands if the protests did not end immediately. 

For months, protesters across the country have been urging the government to roll back the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a law that paves the way for de-naturalisation and mass detention of Indian Muslims. Soon after Mishra's speech, in north-eastern districts of Delhi, attacks against Muslims began.

Armed mobs selectively firebombed Muslim houses, businesses and places of worship. In the Ashok Nagar area of the capital, a group chanting "Jai Shri Ram" (Long live [Hindu deity] Lord Ram) slogans set fire to the local mosque and hoisted Hindu-nationalist flags on its minaret.

Elsewhere, an 85-year-old woman, Akbari, suffocated to death when her house was looted and set ablaze with molotov cocktails. Akbari, according to her family, was eagerly waiting for the birth of her great-grandchild.

In addition, the bodies of 16-year-old Mohammad Hashim along with his elder brother Mohammad Aamir were fished out of a drain after their family frantically searched for the missing siblings for three days. Aamir is survived by two daughters, aged four, and six months.

Musharraf, a 30-year-old resident of Gokalpuri area, was lynched and killed while his daughter pleaded for mercy. Rahul Solanki, a 25-year-old marketing employee, was also gunned down. Rahul had ventured out to buy groceries.  

While the full extent of these crimes will remain unclear, several reports of attacks on women have also emerged. Hindu-nationalist mobs have also reportedly set up barricades demanding commuters strip and prove they are not circumcised.

Out of fear, many Muslim residents in the north-eastern districts have begun to pack up their belongings and leave for good.  

Musharraf, a 30-year-old resident of Gokalpuri area, was lynched while his daughter pleaded for mercy. Rahul Solanki, a 25-year-old marketing employee, was also gunned down. Rahul had ventured out to buy groceries

As this targeted mass-violence unfolded, multiple videos showed the local police either actively aiding the Hindu-supremacist mobs or turning a blind eye to them.

Social media was instantly flooded with SOS messages from Muslim neighbourhoods complaining of police inaction and complicity. In one horrific video, police are seen hitting bloodied young men with batons, ordering them to recite the national anthem. One of these men, Faizan, later died of his injuries. Journalists were also assaulted and injured, one of them, Akash Napa, was shot in the chest.    

The police in Delhi, legally a union territory, is directly controlled by India's home ministry, headed by Amit Shah.

Shah, notorious for his role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and his consistent anti-Muslim bigotry, has so far, chosen to remain silent. Though just a few weeks ago, while campaigning for the BJP in local elections, he consistently demonised the anti-CAA protestors.

Modi, himself, only tweeted out a generic statement urging peace and harmony. When a judge in Delhi's high court ordered the police to file a formal complaint against Kapil Mishra for his speech, he was swiftly transferred off the case. 

Ajit Doval, the national security advisor was also seen parading through the streets of North-east Delhi, flanked by his large security detail. At the end of his walk-through, he declared that the situation was "under control".

This looked like a repeat of Doval's theatrics last year, when he was seen sharing a meal with Kashmiris at a time when the region - India's very own imperial experiment - was under a complete military lockdown. Locals later revealed that they had been summoned by the police and had little choice in the matter.

In Delhi, when Doval was confronted by an eloquent man explaining how the Hindu-supremacist paramilitary group, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), and the BJP's ideological parent, was responsible for this latest mass-violence against Muslims, the national security advisor looked flustered. 

However, an authentic reckoning of the massacre in Delhi has to take the ongoing fascist takeover of India into account. And this long-impending takeover is a devil's child of the RSS that, effectively, now rules the country. 

Orchestrating this anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi was a clear declaration by the Hindu-supremacists that any challenges to their unbridled power and fascist enterprise, from street protests against discriminatory legislation to an election defeat, will be answered with ferocious bloodletting.

As the world watches with an appeasing demeanour, India as we know it is gasping for survival.

Umar Lateef Misgar is a political analyst focusing on Kashmir and the Middle East. His work has appeared in The Independent,, London School of Economics Human Rights Centre blog, and elsewhere.

Follow him on Twitter: @Kaashur

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.