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Something unprecedented happened in India’s national capital on the 24th and 25th of February. For the first time in over twenty years, the city was witness to major communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. In reality, this was nothing but a violent pogrom on muslims with the aim of destroying the growing movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

By New Wave (BL) India

Background

Not long after the victory of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government in the 2019 elections, they began pushing to implement their long held agenda of imposing an exclusionary National Citizenship Register. The same policy in Assam has caused almost two million Indians to be removed from the citizenship roster and many of them are still languishing in detention centers. Ironically, most of those who had been excluded from the list of of the National Citizenship Register were Hindus, puncturing a long held myth of the Hindutva right.

The BJP having already committed themselves to imposing a similar citizenship register all over the country, was therefore faced with a conundrum. Then came the 2019 elections, which the BJP won with a sweeping majority. Immediately they began pushing for two of their main agendas, the abrogation of Article 370 which gave Kashmir limited autonomy, and pushing for an amendment to the Citizenship Act to provide for a backdoor for Hindus who had migrated from India’s neighboring countries and settled in India to acquire an easy route to citizenship.

That is when the Citizenship Amendment Bill was pushed in the parliament. The proposed amendment would allow members of four religious groups, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, from three countries in India’s neighbourhood (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) to acquire Indian citizenship through an automatic route. The BJP has claimed that this has been done on humanitarian grounds, that these groups are persecuted in these three countries, but this leaves out muslim minorities such as Ahmeddiyas, who also suffer persecution, not to mention the Shias who also face discrimination in Pakistan, as well as various ethnic communities who aren’t oppressed due to their religion. It also completely leaves out Hindu tamils from Sri Lanka who still face discrimination in Sri Lanka.

The protests

Almost immediately after the bill was introduced in parliament there were protests across the country. There were protests organized by the mainstream parties, as well as citizenship groups. In time, the protests outpaced the mainstream ‘secular’ parties, and the biggest protests were being organized spontaneously by the masses and citizenship groups.

The first core of the protests were centered around Delhi and Assam. The latter is doubly significant for the fact that it was the first state to implement the National Citizenship Register and most affected by this. The first thrust of protests came from students around colleges in the country. The state responded by brutally clamping down on protesters in Jamia university where the police had attacked students with tear gas and raided the library as well. That electrified the protests nationally.

For more than 70 days, the masses, especially women, have been coming out in strength to protest the new citizenship law. It was amidst such protests that the Citizenship Amendment bill was passed into law.

The thrust of reaction

From its epicenters in Assam and Delhi, the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act had spread like wildfire across the country. Every major city in India had marathon protests and they still continue. The government was on the backfoot here. Delhi however, proved to be the most radical and impactful of these protests, even providing a model for protesters in other cities.

In the midst of these protests came the Delhi election. The BJP was pitted against the local social-democrat party the Aam Admi party (meaning the common man’s party, AAP for short). Like many of its regional political counterparts the AAP stands for secular politics with a narrative for welfarism and ‘development’ as its core agenda. The AAP emerged from the protests against corruption which had rocked the nation in 2011. Not long after, this new party stormed into the political scene by contesting the state elections for Delhi and winning it, unseating the incumbent Congress Party which had a vice like grip over the politics of the city.

It must be remembered that Delhi is not a federal state, it is a union territory, which gives it far less autonomy than states. Most importantly, the police force is not directly under the control of the local government, a fact that would play a critical role in the way the pogrom unfolded.

The elections earlier this month, ended with a sweeping victory for the AAP. The Congress party had failed to win even a single seat in the Delhi Assembly, and the BJP only won a handful, chiefly a few seats in the East Delhi constituency. During the election campaign the BJP had mobilized its lumpen forces and pursued a reactionary agenda making the protests against the Citizenship law its main target of hate. Leaders like Kapil Mishra had publicly incited people to commit acts of violence against them, “for the sake of the nation”.

Mere days after the elections ended, we began to see the first attacks come in. The first incidents of violence emerged on the 23rd of February, and by the night of the 24th, entire neighbourhoods were being raided by armed gangs of hindutva thugs.(1)

While violence began to spiral out of control the police seemed to deliberately avoid taking any preventive measures . In some videos it appeared almost like the police were assisting the rioters. As on this date, (03/03/2020) while violence has died down, the total death toll from he rioting stands at 48, with over a hundred injured, about 80 shops have been burned down and many have lost their livelihoods. Even members of the police force were affected over the course of the fighting. Shoot at sight orders have been given in parts of East Delhi which saw the most rioting.

In the midst of all this, the biggest disappointment came from the response of the Aam Admi Party. Many liberal and centrist minded individuals had hoped that a “Secular Party” that had built itself through mass movements and that at least appeared to be better than most mainstream parties, would take a principled stand against the riots and the violence. Neither did it have the boldness to take a principled stand in being openly in support of the the protestors, it has failed to do anything against to curb the violence unleashed by the Hindutva mobs and the complicity of the Delhi police in this violence.

Right after winning the elections, the AAP met with the Home Minister Amit Shah, it was likely that they had made a deal with the BJP to allow sedition charges against a popular leftist student leader, Kanhaiya Kumar. This craven surrendering to the forces of Hindutva have exposed the AAP for the frauds they are. Despite their record in implementing anti-corruption and welfare measures which have improved the lives of the citizens of Delhi, they have failed the true litmus test of a party which can champion the interests of the masses. Apparently, if the ‘Aam Admi’ (common man) is being massacred, then the Aam Admi Party will do nothing about it.

Appeal

The protests against the citizenship law is a landmark in modern Indian history, as is the surge of reaction we are witnessing today. This is a critical hour for India, akin to the final days of the Weimar Republic. The mobilized masses are now fighting a battle against the oppressive machinery of the Indian state and we need your help !

The Modi government is one which is justifiably worried of its image before the world. It wishes to hoodwink the world into thinking it is actually a benign force bringing “development” to the people of the country and improving the lives of the people. The opposite is true. The BJP has ruined the lives of millions of people in india through its disastrous economic policies while enriching themselves and their crony billionaire oligarch backers.

We call on workers, peasants, students and all those who want peace and unity, in india and the world, to join in opposing the divisive and violent politics of the BJP and RSS. Let us all unitedly denounce the violence of the Hindutva forces.

Stop Hindutva Violence !

Down With BJP! Down With Hindutva!

Inquilab Zindabad! Long Live the Revolution!

 

NOTES:

  1. https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/9/18369/Delhi-Erupts-in-Targeted-Violence-A-Timeline _