India’s opposition politicians have slammed the Hindu nationalist government for the deadly anti-Muslim violence in the capital New Delhi, with the main opposition Congress party calling for the resignation of the interior minister.
But the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended its handling of the worst violence in New Delhi in decades that killed 52 people, mostly Muslims.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of the opposition All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, accused the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of spreading hatred against Muslims – the country’s largest minority.
“What is my dignity when 19 mosques have been destroyed or damaged. What is my dignity when I see a saffron flag being erected on a mosque,” Owaisi said during his stirring speech referring to the flag associated with Hindu far-right groups planted on a mosque minaret during the violence.
Do you have any humanity left in you? ... This is not a question of Hindu or Muslim. This is a question of whether you will rise up to your constitutional duties
“Do you have any humanity left in you? For God’s sake show your humanity. This is not a question of Hindu or Muslim. This is a question of whether you will rise up to your constitutional duties,” said the member of Parliament from the southern city of Hyderabad.
Opposition Congress party members of Parliament walked out after Home Minister Amit Shah praised the police for ending the rioting in northeastern areas of the capital within 36 hours and preventing it from spreading across New Delhi.
"1984, Nellie, Gujarat…whoever presided over these massacres built political palaces on our deadbodies. You have become prime minister on our graves. Shame on you": @asadowaisi sb expressed the anger and grief that many are feelinghttps://t.co/QqP8ZwsFPU
— Aditya Menon (@AdityaMenon22) March 11, 2020
The violence coincided with a state visit by US President Donald Trump on February 24-25.
The violence followed after a series of anti-Muslim hate speeches by the BJP leaders. Hours before the violence erupted, Kapil Mishra warned Muslims protesting against a new citizenship law to wind down their sit-ins in northeast Delhi.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last December fast-tracks naturalisation for minorities of all major faiths in South Asia except Islam.
Muslims and liberal Indians say it is against the officially secular nation’s constitution and is part of Modi’s agenda of Hindu supremacy.
Nobody likes riots. Riots shouldn't take place during any government's rule,
For three days starting from February 24, many areas of northeast Delhi was turned into a war zone with both Hindus and Muslims engaged in rock throwing, arson and killing.
Shah, the home minister, assured the lower house of the Indian Parliament on Wednesday that strict action would be taken against the perpetrators of violence.
“Nobody likes riots. Riots shouldn’t take place during any government’s rule,” said the home minister.
“Today, I want to offer my condolences to family members of every person killed during the Delhi riots, and I also want to assure them that whoever has killed members of their family will not be spared, no matter which religion, caste, or [political] party, they belong to.”
Shah said 300 people came from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state to join the rioting. More than 2,600 people have been arrested or detained and an investigation is under way, he said. He did not say who allegedly brought the 300 people to New Delhi.
He blamed inflammatory speeches by the Congress party and some Muslim leaders for triggering the rioting. He declined to say how many were Hindus or Muslims, but media reports say most of those killed were Muslims.
Muslims have reportedly suffered most of the damages to their properties and religious structures, with many of them living in relief camps.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP member of Parliament, accused a little known Islamist organisation and elements of the ISIL (ISIS) group of organising the violence.
She alleged that the US financier and philanthropist George Soros pledged to donate $1bn to finish India’s nationalism. In January, Soros had accused Prime Minister Modi of “creating a Hindu nationalist state” during a speech at the World Economic Forum.
In light of the scale of violence and consequent loss of lives and property, we strongly demand the resignation of the home minister.
Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, a Congress party leader, accused the police of ignoring hundreds of distress calls from people who were under attack and failing to protect them.
“In light of the scale of violence and consequent loss of lives and property, we strongly demand the resignation of the home minister,” he said.
He also demanded a judicial investigation into the failure of the police to protect people and the prosecution of some BJP leaders for provocative speeches against the Muslim community.
Another senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal accused the government of protecting the guilty.
“We know what will happen. You will punish the innocent and give protection to the guilty. Even when you know who the accused are, no FIRs are filed. Don’t let such a thing happen,” Sibal said in Parliament.
“You can do anything for the protection of cows but nothing for the safety of humans,” he said referring to the cow vigilantes who have killed dozens of people since Modi came to power in 2014.
Owaisi, the member of Parliament from Hyderabad, accused the government of failing in discharging its constitutional duties to save the lives of Indians.
“Do you have any remorse on your faces? Do you have any embarrassment for what has happened right under your nose? No. You have no embarrassment, you take pride on the dead bodies, which are lying in drains,” said Owaisi, who has emerged as a leading voice of Indian Muslims.
“Modi has the distinction of presiding over two pogroms,” he said referring to Gujarat 2002 pogrom when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed under Modi’s chief ministership.
Modi and his close aide Shah have not visited the violence-affected areas of Delhi, with Modi’s only comment being a call for calm on his Twitter handle.