Throughout his two-day visit to India, President Donald Trump heaped praise on the nation’s leader, Narendra Modi, and ignored a spasm of violence against Muslims unfolding on the streets of the Indian capital, New Delhi, prompted by the Indian prime minister’s sectarian policies.
At least a dozen people were killed in New Delhi during Trump’s visit, Reuters reported, as mobs of Hindu supremacists and the police confronted Muslim protesters demonstrating against a new law that threatens their status as equal citizens, based on their religion.
Trump nevertheless hailed Modi as a champion of “religious freedom,” even as the nation was gripped by images of Muslims being attacked in the capital, with the apparent assent or cooperation of the police, and video circulated online of Hindu extremists climbing the minaret of a mosque to pull down its loudspeaker and hang a flag depicting the Hindu deity Hanuman.
The Reuters correspondent Devjyot Ghoshal reported that the Delhi police even seemed to encourage mobs of Hindu supremacists to attack Muslims with rocks, and stood by as the mob lit vehicles on fire.
Asked about the law introduced by Modi’s Hindu nationalist government that sparked the protests — and opens the door to treating India’s 200 million Muslims as second-class citizens — Trump refused to condemn it. “I don’t want to discuss that,” he told a reporter. “I want to leave that to India, and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people.”
As the violence intensified, Modi feted Trump with a series of lavish events apparently designed to appeal to his vanity, starting with a mass rally at a cricket stadium in Gujarat, where “Macho Man” was played in his honor.
Trump then rewarded his anti-Muslim host, and thrilled a crowd of Hindu nationalists, by saying that the United States and India were joined in a fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Speaking in Ahmedabad, President Trump has declared that India is America's "premier defence partner", and that the two countries are "firmly united" in their "iron clad resolve" to defend their citizens against terrorism.— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 24, 2020
Read more about Trump's visit: https://t.co/fHFQ9saAwf pic.twitter.com/PAeJ3aE2K0
Trump and Modi both attained political power by inciting hatred of Muslims. Modi was even banned from traveling to the United States for nearly a decade before he became prime minister, for his role in failing to stop a pogrom that left hundreds of Muslims dead in 2002, when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat.
“On the whole, Delhi riots of this week are now beginning to look like a pogrom, a la Gujarat 2002,” Ashutosh Varshney, an expert on ethnic conflict in India observed on Twitter. “Pogroms constitute a special class of riots when state police, instead of acting neutrally to crush riots, (a) looks on while mobs go on a rampage, or (b) explicitly aids violent mobs. Enough evidence of (a) from Delhi this week, and some of (b) as well.”
Indian journalists covering the torching of Muslim homes in the northeast of the city on Tuesday by gangs chanting Hindu slogans and Modi’s name, reported that Delhi police had refused to intervene, and were even filmed mixing with the attackers.
I'm at Mustafabad, near the Loni Border, and new fires (set post-9pm) are burning in front of our eyes - Muslim jhuggis and tempos, according to onlookers - by masked men shouting JSR. Delhi Police are present saying they are unable to intervene. pic.twitter.com/tXT6k2qcXB— Raghu Karnad (@rkarnad) February 25, 2020
Several journalists also reported that they were beaten by Hindu nationalists who demanded that they reveal their religion.
As the sectarian chaos mounted on the streets of the capital, Modi treated Trump to a guided tour of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram and a 21-gun salute at the Indian presidential palace.
An Indian opposition politician, Tapas Dey, noted that the message Trump left in the guest book after the visit to Gandhi’s home made no mention at all of India’s anti-capitalist, pacifist founder, and instead was dedicated just to Modi.
Perhaps inspired by Trump’s routine denial of reality, Indian authorities initially denied that video of the mosque in New Delhi being sacked was genuine. Later on Tuesday, however, video obtained by the Indian verification site Alt News showed that the attack had been recorded from multiple angles by witnesses.
Update Ashok Nagar, Delhi 6.00pm: A mosque has been vandalised by Hindutva terror forces, as they brazenly revisit their demolition tactics. We see complete inaction from @delhipolice, @HMOIndia , @PMOIndia and @arvindkejriwal.#DelhiRiots #DelhiBurning #DelhiViolence pic.twitter.com/jOsrAzVCP8— Shaheen Bagh Official (@Shaheenbaghoff1) February 25, 2020
Journalists for TheWire.in, another local news site, also witnessed the aftermath of the attack. “I personally saw the flag on top of the minaret of the mosque,” Naomi Barton, a Wire reporter, tweeted. “The mosque had been burned, and a footwear shop underneath it was looted in front of my eyes,” she added.
Video clips recorded by her colleague, Avichal Dubey, showed firefighters putting out the blaze and the Hanuman flag on the minaret after the attackers fled.
Alt News also confirmed the authenticity of video that showed Delhi police offices forcing captured and bloodied Muslim protesters to sing the national anthem.
When the protector turns perpetrator, where do we go?!— Shaheen Bagh Official (@Shaheenbaghoff1) February 25, 2020
Shame on @DelhiPolice for disrespecting the value of human life. Is this how the Delhi Police fulfills its Constitutional duty to show respect to our National Anthem?
(Maujpur, 24 Feb)#ShameOnDelhiPolice #DelhiBurning pic.twitter.com/QVaxpfNyp5