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EDITORIAL: In its recent report on the deadly anti-Muslim violence that broke out in Delhi last February, Amnesty International confirms what several news and fact-finding reports, including one by the Delhi Minority Commission, have established: that the violence was sponsored and orchestrated by the ruling BJP through its acolytes and the Delhi police. It may be recalled that the trouble started when Hindu extremist mobs attacked a weeks-long peaceful sit-in protesting a new anti-Muslim citizenship law, injuring hundreds of protesters. In the ensuing riots that went on for a whole week, 52 people, an overwhelming majority of them Muslim, were killed and their homes and shops destroyed. The 20-page report based on victims and eye-witnesses accounts and analysis of several users' generated videos finds a "disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi police."

These violations "include police officers indulging in violence with the rioters; torturing in custody; using excessive force on protesters; dismantling sites of peaceful protests; and being mute bystanders as rioters wreaked havoc." The rights group also documents the contents of a deeply disturbing video showing officers "kicking and hitting a group of five wounded men [one of them later succumbed to torture]... poking them with rifles and asking them to sing the Indian national anthem." The victims obviously were Muslims whose loyalty to the state is being questioned by proponents of a 'Hindu Rashtra' to render them second class citizens. It is worth noting that the Delhi police only reports to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); the Delhi chief minister has no jurisdiction over police. That the MHA was complicit in what the police did comes out from the way speaking in parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah gave the police a pat on the back for a "commendable job" in "controlling and putting a full stop to it." Who had the motive to resort to violence is clear enough.

Amnesty International, though, has lamented that" till now, not a single political leader who made hate speeches advocating violence in the build-up to the riots has been prosecuted." Surely, the ruling BJP is not going to prosecute its own. Chief Minister of India's most populous state, UP - home to a large Muslim community - Yogi Adiyanath, specializes in delivering hate speeches against Muslims. In the present instance, he threatened to take "revenge" from those he accused-Muslims, of course - of destroying public property, adding that their property will be confiscated to make up for the losses of public assets. It was no empty threat. Soon afterwards on his order the police identified "wanted" people, all Muslims, and displayed posters of these wanted men everywhere. Prime Minister Narnedra Modi himself has built his political career on hate speeches and actions targeting Muslims. Who can forget that as chief minister of Gujarat he presided over the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom? And that one of the first things he did at the beginning of his prime ministerial second term was to revoke the constitutional autonomy of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and create a human rights crisis in that disputed region. He also introduced the new discriminatory legislation, Citizenship Act and National Registry of Citizens, both aimed at sidelining Muslims. What happened in Delhi last February, therefore, is part of a considered and orchestrated policy to exterminate Muslims living in India. No surprise then that the message to the police and politicians spewing communal hatred is that they can get away with violations of Muslim rights and their murder in the future as well.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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