We are deeply saddened by the deaths of at least 27 people in violence that has erupted in Delhi over the last three days over India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Act allows all non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to be eligible for Indian citizenship, hence it is reasonable to expect Indian Muslims to be worried about their own status. Thus the protests against the Act, which as far as we know have been peaceful, should not have warranted such violent reactions from supporters of the CAA. But the reports coming in from Delhi show that the situation has escalated dangerously. In fact, the violence, it seems, has been allowed to spiral unnecessarily for which the state can no longer absolve itself of responsibility. Ominously, Muslims have been the main targets of the violence.
Mosques and mazaars have been burnt, with slogans of hatred chanted against Muslims, and neighbourhoods have been terrorised compelling people to be confined in their homes. What is most objectionable, however, is police inaction during the acts of vandalism, arson and violence against Muslims as reported by the Indian and international media. Even the Indian Supreme Court has criticised the role of the police as being unprofessional.
It is tragic that a city like Delhi, which is characterised by communal harmony but had seen tragic eruptions of violence, should be turned into a battlefield by inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric that has unleashed such terror. The central and Delhi governments must take all necessary measures to prevent further escalation of violence and hold the police and other civil administration bodies accountable for their failure to control the violence and prevent so many deaths and injuries. The perpetrators of the violence should be identified—this should be easy as there is enough footage despite attempts to prevent journalists from taking pictures and videos—and they should be arrested.
From the inflammatory hate speeches of certain politicians that instigated violence, it is clear that a certain quarter of the Indian ruling party deliberately allowed the situation to reach such a frightening level. They encouraged individuals to act on their communal hatred and the police played a partisan role by looking the other way while the violence took place and, in some cases, they even encouraged it. Needless to say, the Indian authorities must step in and control the situation, ensure the security of all groups, especially the vulnerable, and open a dialogue with those opposing the CAA while issuing stern warnings to those who are instigating and carrying out violent attacks on the protesters. Such violence that clearly has a communal tinge is a threat to India's democracy.