After 73 years of bloody partition, the Delhi riots and bloodshed have recalled the horrors of Indo-Pak partition. Like bungalows and mansions were burned and looted, women were raped, children were killed in front of their siblings. After decades Delhi is facing the same violence and chaos under the fascist government of Narendra Modi.

India’s capital is grappling with the aftermath of the worst communal violence in Delhi in decades. The group, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), is the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which was founded 94 years ago by men who were besotted with Mussolini’s fascists, the RSS is the holding company of Hindu supremacism of Hindutva. According to the role and its size, it is difficult to find an analog for the RSS anywhere in the world. In nearly every faith, the source of conservative theology is it’s hierarchical, that theology is recast into a project of religious statecraft elsewhere, by other parties. Hinduism, though, has no principal church, no single pontiff, nobody to ordain or rule. The RSS has appointed itself as both the arbiter of theological meaning and the architect of a Hindu nation-state. It has at least 4 million volunteers, who swear oaths of allegiance and take part in quasi-military drills. The word often used to describe the RSS is “paramilitary”. In its near-century of existence, it has been accused of plotting assassinations, stoking riots against minorities and acts of terrorism. (Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in 1948 by an RSS man, for having a soft corner for Muslims.) The RSS doesn’t, by itself, engage in electoral politics. But among its affiliated groups is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party that has governed India for the past six years, and that has, under the murderous Prime Minister Narendra Modi, been remaking India into an authoritarian, Hindu nationalist state.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Muslims have been facing mounting threats to their status in the Majority- Hindu country. A week back they were walloped by new worrisome development. The new legislation of the “ Citizenship Amendment Act “which is closely linked with “India’s National Register of Citizens” has turned religion into means of deciding whom to treat as an illegal immigrant and whom to fast track for citizenship. This act is bringing chaos and religious war in the whole state. Delhi the capital of India has been shrouded with the blood of Muslims.

These riots and massacres with Muslims in India have enough resemblance with Nazi revolt when Hitler deprived Jews of their fundamental rights. In 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 and burned alive Muslims who could not escape and the victims were largely unprotected by the police. At least 137 people, almost all Muslims, were killed and many others have 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 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”.

Under the slogan of “everything is fine” the government’s real attitude towards the violence was shown when it instantly transferred a judge critical of its actions during the riots. Judge Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court was hearing petitions about the violence when he said that the court could not allow “another 1984” to happen, referring to the killing of 3,000 Sikhs by mobs in Delhi in that year after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Accusations of fascist behavior by present-day political leaders and their governments, similar to that of fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, and Spain in the 1930s and 1940s, should not be made lightly. Yet Modi and the BJP appear closer than other right-wing regimes to traditional fascism in their extreme nationalism and readiness to use violence. At the center of their agenda is their brand of Hindu nationalism and a relentless bid to marginalize or evict India’s 200 million Muslims.

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 the 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. Mass detentions and torture are the norms according to the few witnesses able to report what they have seen.

Yesterday it was Kashmir and Assam, today its Delhi, now what’s next for millions homeless Muslims? India’s rapid saffronisation threatens the secular and democratic ethos India has cultivated over the decades. Though this genocide and communal violence in the state, is bringing a radical break with this history and has greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of fascist democratic India.

Shahrukh Mehboob

Attorney at Law