During his ongoing visit to India, President Trump has heaped praise upon its right-wing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and championed India for its tolerance, but the violence that broke out even as he was saying those words told a very different story.
Thirteen people have been killed and over a hundred and fifty have been injured in sectarian riots in the Indian capital of New Delhi. The city has been wracked with protests over the Indian Parliament’s passage of the “Citizenship Amendment Bill,” which amends a 64-year-old law in order to fast-track the citizenship of undocumented immigrants from three neighboring countries…unless they are Muslim. This is the first time, however, that the protests have turned violent.
Modi and his party claim that the exclusion was for “religious freedom” purposes in order to help religious minorities from neighboring Muslim countries, but seeing as the head of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party openly refers to undocumented Muslim immigrants as “infiltrators” and “termites,” it’s clear that “religious freedom” is being used to excuse religious persecution.
Trump and Modi are both far-right wing leaders who exploit nationalism and tropes of ethnonationalist supremacy (white and Hindu, respectively) to cement their hold on power. They are deliberately undermining the founding values of that their nations were founded on; Donald Trump is systematically undermining the rule of law and delegitimizing the institutions which enforce it while Modi’s new law directly ties citizenship to religion in an existential attack on the secularism that holds India together. Both of them have found Muslims to be a convenient scapegoat.
In a horrifying display of unprecedented racist violence against Muslims in New Delhi, mosques were allegedly burned and gangs of pro-Modi Hindus attacked Muslims in the streets of New Delhi.
The horrors of the Trump Presidency extend far beyond our own borders. The consequences of a lack of American leadership in pressuring our allies like India to tone it down with their plans for anti-Muslim race war are making themselves horrifyingly clear pic.twitter.com/5fQw4D1GdN
— Colin Taylor (@ColsBols) February 25, 2020
]The New York Times described how “a mob of Hindu men, their foreheads marked by a saffron stripe, angrily patrolled the streets carrying iron bars, clubs, and a bright blue aluminum baseball bat. They were itching for a fight.” The riots continued for hours in Muslim neighborhoods of the city, the police standing by or in some cases even egging them on while Hindu mobs burned Muslim businesses.
The Times spoke to Shoaib Ahmad, a Muslim businessman who runs a tire repair shop. He told them” his shop was burned down Monday night by a Hindu mob as he stood on the roof of his house. ‘All my dreams were destroyed in those flames,’ Mr. Ahmad said.”
Is this the face of the new India @narendramodi and your governance? @DelhiPolice falling under the order of the Gujarat model? Anyone who stands for their rights against @BJP4India is labeled a terrorist while their terrorists run riots in the name of hindutva?#DelhiRiots2020 pic.twitter.com/9q9b7EhXEw
— Shaheen Bagh Official (@Shaheenbaghoff1) February 25, 2020
In Delhi, a mosque was set on fire late on Tuesday afternoon.
A mob shouting 'Hinduon ka Hindustan' (India is for Hindus) paraded around the burning mosque, and a Hindu flag was placed on the minaret of the masjid.
— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) February 25, 2020
Re-posting this video after verifying its authenticity. It is from Delhi. Men marching on top of a mosque, vandalising it and placing a saffron flag over it. pic.twitter.com/bScgJMxKc3
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 25, 2020
It seems hard to write off this explosion of violence as sporadic when it coincides so exactly with the visit of another virulently anti-Muslim right-wing nationalist leader like Donald Trump. With the open support of the United States, Modi and his fellow Hindu supremacists are free to take their anti-Muslim discrimination campaigns to the next level — and these riots are just a tiny glimpse into the appalling orgy of violence that will unfold if they do.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.