In the streets of the northeast of the Indian capital, where Hindus and Muslims coexisted, violence raged on Sunday, February 23. Hindu groups opposed a demonstration by Muslims against a controversial citizenship law passed last December. This legislation, considered discriminatory to Muslims by its detractors, is at the origin of a vast protest movement which has shaken India since December. The law crystallized fears of Muslims – 200 million out of 1.3 billion Indians – of being relegated to the rank of second-class citizens. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s critics accuse him of wanting to transform secular India into a purely Hindu country. The Indian head of government, in power since 2014 and widely re-elected last year, called on his fellow citizens on Wednesday 26 February to “Peace and brotherhood”.
Rioters armed with stones, sabers and sometimes even pistols, sowed chaos and terror in peripheral Muslim-majority areas in the northeast of the megalopolis, some ten kilometers from the center. Mosques were set on fire, Muslims were burnt to death in their homes, dragged through the streets and lynched. Bodies lay bloodied next to cars, bicycles, broken glass and burnt stores.
The above photo of 37-year-old Mohammad Zubair, beaten by sticks on the streets of New Delhi by Hindu men, is one of the most shocking images of the riots. “They saw that I was alone, they saw my cap, my beard, my clothes and saw me as a Muslimsaid Zubair. They started to attack by shouting pro-Hindu slogans. What kind of humanity is this? ”
Kapil Mishra, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, the nationalist party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is behind these clashes. He incited Hindu nationalists to oppose the blocking of a road by Muslim women who peacefully protested the controversial citizenship law. “If the roads are not cleared, we will be forced to take to the streets”announced Mishra. Violence quickly spread in the city. Hindus asked to see the identity cards of men they were arresting on the street. The Guardian reports that if a man refused, he was obliged to show whether he was circumcised or not.
Imran Khan, a 30-year-old street vendor, was on his way home on Monday when a group of Hindus arrested him. The man was beaten with iron rods, crowbars and metal pipes until he lost consciousness. A few hours later, he regained his senses and his attackers, believing him dead, had tied a rope around his neck and dragged him into a gutter.
The clashes killed more than 40 people in three days.
Mudassir Khan, 31, was outside his house on Tuesday when he was attacked by a crowd and received a fatal blow to the head. The young man’s parents, friends and neighbors mourned his body during his funeral Thursday in New Delhi.
The police were accused of allowing, encouraging or even joining the Hindu crowd because they did not act immediately, being under the control of the BJP’s interior minister, Amit Shah. The police were not deployed until Wednesday, when more than 20 people had already died.
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