Why Delhi Police Did Nothing to Stop Attacks on Muslims

Officers have reason to believe that looking away or abetting the rioters will be rewarded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government - NYT

By Hartosh Singh Bal | NEW YORK TIMES | INDIA |

NEW DELHI — Forty-six people have been killed, more than 250 injured and four mosques set on fire in the sectarian violence in Delhi that coincided with President Trump’s visit to India.

The violence, which lasted over three days and nights and was mostly directed at Muslims in northeastern areas of Delhi, was not surprising. Over the past six years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his colleagues in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, their armies of social media trolls and a vast majority of India’s television networks have consistently been building an atmosphere of hatred, suspicion and violence toward India’s Muslim minority.

The pogrom in Delhi follows in the wake of the discriminatory citizenship law that Mr. Modi’s government passed in December. Indians, especially Muslims, have been protesting the law. Before the killings in Delhi, 19 people were killed when protests broke out in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, which is administered by the B.J.P.

In recent elections in Delhi, Mr. Modi’s party ran a dangerously sectarian campaign. Its leaders equated the protests against the citizenship law with treason and called for the murder of protesters. The B.J.P. lost the Delhi elections and the protests continued. On Feb. 23, Kapil Mishra, a leader of the B.J.P., incited mobs in northeast Delhi to remove a group of Muslim women who were holding a sit-in and blocking a road to protest the citizenship law. Violence erupted soon after.

A week later, the detailed accounts of violence raise fundamental questions about the role played by the Delhi police in abetting the Hindu mobs and targeting Muslims. When Mr. Mishra gave the speech that lit the fire, Ved Prakash, the deputy commissioner of police for northeast Delhi, stood beside him and did not intervene. The next day, as the mobs swung into action, Mr. Prakash and other police officers were shaking hands with a Hindu mob, which shouted slogans celebrating the Delhi police and its support.

Top police officers casually expressed their support of the Hindu mobs and their fear of Muslims. “Jai Shree Ram,” the old devotional chant praising the Hindu deity Ram, has been adopted as a war cry by the Hindu nationalist mobs in the past three decades. There were reports of the Delhi police personnel charging at Muslim neighborhoods while shouting, “Jai Shree Ram!”

A particularly gruesome video, which has been fact-checked and verified, shows Delhi policemen standing around five badly injured Muslim men lying on the road, forcing them to sing the national anthem. They can be heard hurling abuses. One of the men has died of his injuries.

To read the full story, ‘Why Delhi Police Did Nothing to Stop Attacks on Muslims’ (New York Times, 3 March 2020), go here.

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor of The Caravan magazine in New Delhi and the author of “Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada.”


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