By Patrick Cockburn
On 9 to 10 November 1938 the German government encouraged its supporters to burn down synagogues and smash up Jewish homes, shops, businesses, schools. At least 91 Jews – and probably many more – were killed by Nazi supporters egged on by Joseph Goebbels, the minister for public enlightenment and propaganda, in what became known as Kristallnacht – “the Night of Broken Glass”. It was a decisive staging post on the road to mass genocide.
On 23 February 2020 in Delhi, Hindu nationalist mobs roamed the streets burning and looting mosques together with Muslim homes, shops and businesses. They killed or burned alive Muslims who could not escape and the victims were largely unprotected by the police. At least 37 people, almost all Muslims, were killed and many others beaten half to death: a two-year-old baby was stripped by a gang to see if he was circumcised – as Muslims usually are, but Hindus are not. Some Muslim women pretended to be Hindus in order to escape.
Government complicity was not as direct as in Germany 82 years earlier, but activists of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, were reported as being in the forefront of the attacks on Muslims. A video was published showing Muslim men, covered in blood from beatings, being forced to lie on the ground by police officers and compelled to sing patriotic songs. Modi said nothing for several days and then made a vague appeal for “peace and brotherhood”.
The government says that Judge Muralidhar’s transfer had already been announced and claims that its speedy implementation of the move had nothing to do with his remarks.
The rest of the world has been slow to grasp the gravity of what is happening in India because the Modi government has played down its project to shift India away from its previous status as a pluralistic secular state. The sheer number of people negatively affected by this change is gigantic: if the Muslim minority in India was a separate country then it would be eighth largest state in the world by population.
The violence in Delhi this week stems from the fear and hatred generated by the government-directed pincer movement against Muslims in India. One pincer is in the shape of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), under which non-Muslim migrants can swiftly gain Indian citizenship but Muslims cannot. Even more threatening is the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is likely to deprive many Indian Muslims of their citizenship. It was the non-violent protests and demonstrations opposing these measures that provoked the Hindu nationalist mobs into staging what was close to a pogrom earlier this week.
Just how far Modi and the BJP will go in their anti-Muslim campaign is already in evidence in Jammu and Kashmir, the one Indian state with a Muslim majority. It was summarily stripped of its autonomy last August and has been locked down ever since. Mass detentions and torture are the norm according to the few witnesses able to report what they have seen.
For 150 days after the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the internet was cut off and it has only been restored to a very limited degree since January. The security forces detain who they want and distraught family members complain that they cannot find their relatives or that they are too poor to visit them in prisons that may be 800 miles away.
There has been an encouraging, though fiercely repressed, wave of opposition in India to the degradation of its non-sectarian traditions. The danger here – and the mobs in Delhi may be a sign of this – is that Modi and his government will respond to these protests by playing the Hindu nationalist card even more strongly.
In one respect, Modi is in a stronger position than Germany after Kristallnacht. President Roosevelt responded with a statement denouncing antisemitism and violence in Germany and promptly withdrew the US ambassador. President Trump, on a two-day visit to India at a time that Muslims were being hunted down and killed a few miles from where he was sitting, said he was satisfied that Modi was working “really hard” to establish religious freedom. SOURCE : The Independent