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Hindu nationalist BJP supporters’ ‘pent-up anger’ behind deadly Delhi riots

A burnt car lies overturned at a damaged fuel station after it was set on fire by a mob in a riot affected area after clashes erupted between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 26, 2020.
A burnt car lies overturned at a damaged fuel station after it was set on fire by a mob in a riot affected area after clashes erupted between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 26, 2020. © Rupak De Chowdhuri, Reuters

At least 24 people were killed and almost 200 injured in three days of clashes in Delhi, with the death toll expected to rise as hospitals continue to take in the wounded, authorities said Wednesday. One analyst told FRANCE 24 that the “pent-up anger” of BJP supporters was behind the violence after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party lost a state election there on February 8.

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This week's battles between Hindus and Muslims have seen mobs armed with swords, guns and acid raze parts of a northeastern district of the Indian capital. The clashes, which also left almost 200 injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda.

They exploded into brutal violence on Monday and Tuesday, with residents forced to flee their homes after seeing dwellings destroyed, a mosque attacked and a tyre market and two schools set ablaze.

“Since December, you’ve had relatively consistent demonstrations going on in Delhi and then in many other towns in India as well,” Subir Sinha, a senior lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told FRANCE 24. “These were completely non-violent demonstrations, in which women had taken part in large numbers. This became far more volatile when the BJP, especially its senior leader Amit Shah – also the home [interior] minister – as well as leading BJP politicians in Delhi began to use the protests against the citizenship act as part of their campaign for the Delhi state elections.”

During the campaign, prominent BJP figures used highly charged language, Sinha noted: “Amit Shah made highly provocative speeches, where he said that each and every vote for the BJP will pass an electric current through the demonstrators. One of the prominent BJP politicians, Kapil Mishra, led mobs in Delhi as part of his election campaign, where he promised to shoot dead everyone who was involved in this particular movement.”

“If we look at where these incidents of killings of Muslims have taken place the most – in north and northeast Delhi – these are areas that were focused on by the BJP with highly inflammatory speeches from top BJP ministers and politicians in the run-up to that election,” Sinha continued. “So what we see is the pent-up anger of BJP supporters who have lost the election very badly in Delhi and are effectively taking it out on the Muslim residents of these relatively poor parts of the city.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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