Late February saw an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in New Delhi, the urban area around the Indian capital.
Although reports vary, they suggest forty-three dead and many hundreds hospitalised. Muslim homes, businesses and mosques were attacked, burned, and destroyed. Most of the dead and injured were Muslim.
The trigger for the attack was President Trump’s visit to the city. On Sunday 26 February, a local leader of India's governing part, the Hindu-chauvinist BJP, Kapil Mishra, speaking at a rally, demanded that police clear protests in the city against the BJP’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act before Trump’s visit ended. The CAA is part of a drive to deny Muslims Indian citizenship if they can't produce adequate paperwork, as many poorer people in India can't.
Mishra particularly focused on the women’s Shaheen Bagh protests, occupying an arterial road in New Delhi. He stated that if the police would not move the demonstrators, then his mob would.
That came after the BJP’s campaign in the election for the local Delhi legislative assembly early in February. Although the BJP hold the national seats in Delhi, local power is held by the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The AAP is non-sectarian and has broadly social-democratic welfare policies, although it is socially conservative.
The BJP’s campaign in the election attempted to ramp up scapegoating against the minority Muslim population, calling them traitors and anti-Indian. The BJP failed to make major inroads into the AAP’s local support - the BJP increased its vote from 32% to 39%, but the AAP won more than half the vote and most of the seats in the local assembly - but the campaign did stoke up anti-Muslim feeling.
The mob that the BJP whipped up went on the rampage on Sunday 23 February, and included members of the right-wing Hindu Sena (the “Hindu Army”). Armed with iron bars, chains, knives and some fire arms, they attacked not only the anti-CAA demonstration but Muslim neighbourhoods.
The police (controlled by the central state, not locally) stood by, and there are some reports that they joined in the attacks. Shops were ransacked, people dragged from their homes and beaten, pregnant women were kicked to the ground.
As well as the dead, one hospital has seen more than 500 injured including knife and gunshot wounds, acid burns and mutilated genitalia. There was no official action against the attacks for days.
Only on 26 February did the BJP prime minster, Nahendra Modi, call for calm and send in paramilitary police to restore the semblance of order.
The BJP has benefited from the collapse since 2014 of the sclerotic and corrupt Congress Party, which had been India's major ruling party since independence. It is imperative that socialists and working class activists build a secular alternative to Modi and the BJP.