While the world has been paying attention to Donald Trump’s first visit to India and the many photo opportunities it provides, New Delhi has been witnessing its worst religious riots in decades.
New Delhi Gripped By Deadly Religious Violence
At least 27 people have been killed in the worst violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian capital of New Delhi in decades. More than 180 people — including around 40 police officers — have also been injured, police said. Since the beginning of the week, different groups with stones and sticks have been attacking each other. Mosques, shops, and cars were also set on fire, as news reports show.
New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, called on the national government to impose a curfew, also writing on Twitter that the situation is “worrying.” Despite all efforts, the police have been unable to control the situation and “create trust.” Kejriwal asked the national government to instruct the army to oversee a curfew. In some areas, the police have also now been ordered to use live ammunition after warning. This firing order is an indication that the situation is considered extremely serious.
Why is Violence Flaring Up Now in India?
The background to the violence is a naturalization law enforced by the Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After its implementation, people took their anger to the streets, which ultimately resulted in street battles between Hindus and Muslims. The violence left a trail of devastation in New Delhi, and besides the casualties and injuries, numerous buildings were also destroyed.
It has been the worst religious clash in India’s capital for decades and evokes memories of past violence between Hindus and Muslims. The violence reflects an increasing polarization between opponents and supporters of the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed late last year. The legislative reform enables citizens of religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who came into the country before 2015 without valid papers to obtain naturalization. However, Muslims are excluded from the new legislative, despite being India’s largest religious minority, accounting for around 14 percent of the Indian population.
India’s Muslims Fear Becoming Stateless and Economically Crushed
Indian Muslims now fear above all that if they are unable to provide documentation that proves their birth in India, they could slip into statelessness– an issue particularly for economically challenged Muslim individuals who seldom possess any documentation at all in India.
The riots coincided with President Trump’s Feb. 24 visit to India and his meetings with Modi during his 36-hour stay. While the two heads of state conducted bilateral diplomacy India’s police struggled to control the chaos on the capital’s street – only two hundred fifty kilometers northwest from Trump and Modi.
Trump’s state visit ended on Tuesday with the mutual commitment between he and Modi to increase the fight against terrorism. Trump also said that both states had signed an arms deal of $3 billion in weapons, including 24 Seahawk helicopters and Hellfire missiles for the Indian Navy.
India has been seeking to modernize its armed forces; above all, to reduce the regional military hegemony China has established. For the United States, too, the deal is not merely a business decision, but a geo-strategic one. The deal is vital to the US, who, with its commitment towards India’s military, wants to not only rebalance the power in the region but to slow down China’s influence in Asia as a whole. The business side of things will be discussed reasonably soon also, however, as Trump stated that a “significant trade deal” was currently in the making. However, talks about tariffs and other trade barriers have long been causing a rift between the countries.
Trump also sought to vigorously promote tolerance and the maintenance of religious freedom in India during his two-day visit behind closed doors, according to US government officials. The timing could not have been any better: religious tolerance is something India could use a lot more of.