The northeast of New Delhi woke up painfully this Thursday. Deserted streets, closed shops, remains of burned down buildings… Since the beginning of the week, the popular suburbs of the northeast of the Indian capital have been subjected to serious violence, by Hindu nationalists armed on people and places identified as Muslim. A final assessment reports 33 dead and more than 200 wounded, most of them by bullets.
This outbreak of violence is the worst to hit the capital since the 1980s. At the origin of the conflagration, Hindu nationalists who opposed, at the request of one of their local leaders, the blocking of a road by Muslim women to protest a controversial citizenship law passed last December.
But more broadly, this violence is part of a rise in Hindu nationalism for several years, embodied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his ruling party the BJP, Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party).
What does the law against which Muslims demonstrate?
On December 11, the Indian Parliament adopted a nationality law, one of the amendments of which sparked the anger of Muslim populations. The latter plans to authorize the naturalization of illegal immigrants from three neighboring countries, provided that they are not Muslims.
Muslim citizens therefore see much more than just another immigration law. This opinion is shared by Ingrid Therwath, journalist and doctor of political science specialist in India. "Basically, the objective of this law is not to welcome more refugees, but to make Indian Muslims understand that they are second-class citizens," she explains to the Parisian.
Since the vote on this reform, Indian Muslims have been demonstrating across the country to defend the principles of secularism and equality. “These are peaceful demonstrations. Muslims are demonstrating not with copies of the Koran, but the Constitution in hand, the journalist said. Many Hindus, Sikhs and Christians have also protested this law. ”
Who is responsible for their violence
"Since the violence has erupted, we have heard a lot about inter-community riots , but that is not it," says Ingrid Therwath. For her, these are not confrontations between Hindus and Muslims, but rather violence committed specifically against Muslims by extreme right groups close to the government. She even goes so far as to use the word "pogrom".
Proof that this violence goes beyond the community conflict: on the spot, the Hindu neighbors of the targeted Muslims provided them with their help and support. “They helped us to sprinkle the fire. They brought buckets of water. They make tea for us. They keep asking us if we need anything, ”said AFP Bilkis, a Muslim mother of seven, whose home was largely damaged.
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For Ingrid Therwath, this violence is the work of Hindu nationalists from the BJP and the Association of National Volunteers, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), an ultra-nationalist organization created in 1925, modeled on European fascist militias from the beginning of the Twentieth century.
They defend the ideology of the Hindutva who wants to make India an exclusively Hindu nation. The RSS has branches in different areas of Indian society, from media to unions. The BJP itself is an offshoot of it, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi got his start in the student union of the RSS.
What is the political context?
This violence therefore takes place in a political context. "It is not conjunctural, but the fruit of a constructed ideological approach", insists the specialist of India.
In New Delhi, regional elections have just ended. They saw an opposition party win against the BJP. But the northeast districts of Delhi, where the violence occurred, are where the government party has won victories. Neighborhoods where the BJP campaigned with hate speech against opponents of the nationality law, likening them to "jihadists". Some have even called for their imprisonment or slaughter.
More broadly, the nationalist party in power since 2014 is working to “Hinduize” society. "This involves rewriting story books in certain regions," explains Ingrid Therwath, where we now demonize Muslim invaders and remove pioneers of secularism, such as Nehru (Editor's note: one of the leading figures in the struggle for the independence of India) ".
Another example, before Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Ministers used to celebrate the end of Ramadan with Muslims. The current head of state has stopped doing so. "This is to ban Muslims from society," says the journalist.
What was the reaction of the authorities?
For Ingrid Therwath, the BJP is therefore indirectly responsible for the violence that has agitated New Delhi in recent days, by the ideas it conveys.
But also because the government has taken time to intervene to put an end to the clashes. Only on Wednesday, two days after the clashes began, Narendra Modi finally called on his fellow citizens to "peace and brotherhood".
During the first days of the violence, several witnesses reported seeing the police watching the violence with their arms folded, without intervening. In this region, the police report directly to the Ministry of the Interior, not to the federal state. Amit Shah, the interior minister from the BJP and close to Narendra Modi, did not deploy the security forces until Wednesday, when more than 20 people had already been killed.
Heartbreaking video of Muslims in Delhi fleeing their homes, carrying their belongings. The Hindutva mob violence has displaced so many in just a matter of days.
Modi & Trump have blood on their hands yet again. # DelhiViolence # DelhiRiotspic.twitter.com / nj48JRW7g6
This Thursday, the northeast of New Delhi knew a return to calm. But images of Indian Muslims fleeing the city, their belongings on their backs, have been widely circulated on social networks. For Ingrid Therwath, this is exactly the effect sought by the nationalists: "It is a symbolic elimination," she says.