India enters 21 days of lockdown after more than 43 people, mostly Muslim, were killed in Delhi at the end of February. The country is entering a standstill and attempting to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 after thousands more were injured from violence sparked by rhetoric from Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government.
An inflammatory remark from Kapil Mishra, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official who lost a recent election, sparked the violence at the end of the month. “If the roads are not cleared… we will be forced to hit the streets,” Mishra said at a rally. He was referring to a road blocked by a group of moslty Muslim women peacefully protesting, who were then attacked by Hindu nationalists.
The women were protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Passed in December, the CAA is a law that grants citizenship to refugees of major South Asian religions except for Muslims. It is seen by many as one of the most egregious and blatant offenses made by the Modi administration, as well as the repeal of Kashmir’s statehood, India’s only Muslim majority state.
For four days, mosques and Muslim business have been set on fire by Hindu nationalists. Muslims are being lynched in the streets. Armed with makeshift weapons such as metal pipes, Hindu mobs have stopped citizens suspected of being Muslim and asking to see ID cards or forcibly checking for circumcision, something some Muslims practice while most Hindus do not.
Tensions in India have been rising as Modi’s administration continues to deploy Islamophobic rhetoric and Hindu nationalist sentiment. Many in the BJP and its supporters believe that India should be a Hindu state, despite over 200 million Muslims living in the country, making up 14% of the population.
While Delhi’s government is run by the progressive Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Delhi police is controlled by the BJP. Local law enforcement authorities have also been accused of either standing by or actively contributing to the increased violence against Muslim groups. More recent footage reveals police actively attacking and beating Muslims as well as encouraging groups of Hindu nationalists to attack protestors.
Since the passage of the CAA, millions have taken to the street, Muslim and Hindu alike, to protest the law. As violence between groups rises, many Indians see nationalism as a threat to India as a secular state and the world’s largest democracy.
Read more about what’s happening in Delhi here.
For more on the violence of police in Delhi read here.