Inside Delhi: beaten, lynched and burnt alive

Violence in India’s capital has left more than 40 dead and hundreds injured after a Hindu nationalist rampage, stoked by the rhetoric of Narendra Modi’s populist government, reports The Observer

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Hindu mob attacking a Muslim in North Delhi in 2020 (Photo: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)
By Hannah Ellis-Petersen | THE OBSERVER | INDIA |

He lay in a bloodied ball on the floor, but the baton blows kept on coming. As the 30 strangers beat him without stopping, Mohammad Zubair closed his eyes, brought his forehead to the ground and prayed.

“The blows kept raining on my head, hands and back,” said Zubair, 37. “I did not ask them to stop beating me. I became silent, tried to hold my breath and stiffen my body.”

As he spoke, tears rolled down his face. “First I asked, ‘Why are you attacking me? What wrong have I done?’ But they did not listen to my words and went on hitting me from all sides. They were shouting maro shaale mulleko [kill the bastard Muslim] and jai Sri Ram [a Hindu nationalist slogan]. There were many other men who stood by who did not come to save me.” The photo of Zubair being ruthlessly beaten in broad daylight in the streets of Delhi by a mob of young Hindu men was one of the most shocking images of the brutal religious riots that engulfed Delhi, where Hindus were pitted against Muslims, thousands were injured and 43 people killed.

The violence raged across the north-east of India’s capital for four days as mosques were set alight, Muslims were burned alive in their homes or dragged out into the streets and lynched. Muslim businesses and property were also set alight. In streets where Hindus and Muslims had lived peacefully side by side, bodies lay bloodied alongside discarded and burned-out cars, bikes, shattered glass and smouldering shopfronts. The police have been accused of enabling, encouraging or even joining in with Hindu mobs.

Hindu mobs were stopping men in the streets demanding to see their ID cards. If anyone refused, they were forced to show whether or not they were circumcised, as is common among Muslim men. Imran Khan, 30, a street hawker who lives in Shiv Vihar, north-west Delhi, was walking home on Monday evening when a group descended on him.

“Some of them forced me to pull down my trousers,” he said. “They started beating me violently as soon as they became sure that I was Muslim.”

Armed with iron rods, crowbars and metal pipes, the Hindu mob beat Khan unconscious. When he came to hours later, he found that the attackers, assuming he was dead, had tied a rope around his neck and dragged him into a gutter.

Read the full story, ‘Inside Delhi: beaten, lynched and burnt alive’ (The Observer, 1 March 2020), here.

 

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