How Amit Shah’s Police Turned Against Muslims: A New York Times Report

Kaushar Ali, 49, who was beaten up by Delhi police officers on Feb. 24, was visited by his relatives at a hospital earlier this month. (Image Courtesy: New York Times)
Amit Shah, Home Minister of India proudly claimed in the parliament on Wednesday that how his Delhi Police tackled riots and controlled riots in 36 hours in which more than 50 died, more than 500 injured, about 13 mosques and one dargaah burnt. How Delhi police controlled the situation, the New York Times reports:

Kaushar Ali, a house painter, was trying to get home when he ran into a battle.

Hindu and Muslim mobs were hurling rocks at each other, blocking a street he needed to cross to get to his children. Mr. Ali, who is Muslim, said that he turned to some police officers for help. That was his mistake.

The officers threw him onto the ground, he said, and cracked him on the head. They started beating him and several other Muslims. As the men lay bleeding, begging for mercy — one of them died two days later from internal injuries — the officers laughed, jabbed them with their sticks and made them sing the national anthem. That abuse, on Feb. 24, was captured on video.

“The police were toying with us,” Mr. Ali said. He recalled them saying, “Even if we kill you, nothing will happen to us.”

So far, they have been right.

India has suffered its worst sectarian bloodshed in years, in what many here see as the inevitable result of Hindu extremism that has flourished under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His party has embraced a militant brand of Hindu nationalism and its leaders have openly vilified Indian Muslims. In recent months Mr. Modi has presided over a raft of policies widely seen as anti-Muslim, such as erasing the statehood of what had been India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir.

Now, more evidence is emerging that the Delhi police, who are under the direct command of Mr. Modi’s government and have very few Muslim officers, concertedly moved against Muslims and at times actively helped the Hindu mobs that rampaged in New Delhi in late February, burning down Muslim homes and targeting Muslim families.

  • Several videos showed police officers beating and throwing rocks at Muslim protestersand waving on Hindu mobs to join them.
  • A police commander said that as the violence erupted — at that point mostly by Hindu mobs — officers in the affected areas were ordered to deposit their guns at the station houses. Several officers during the violence were later overheard by New York Times journalists yelling to one another that they had only sticks and that they needed guns to confront the growing mobs. Some researchers accuse the police force of deliberately putting too few officers on the streets, with inadequate firepower, as the violence morphed from clashes between rival protesters into targeted killings of Muslims.
  • Two thirds of the more than 50 people who were killed and have been identified were Muslim. Human rights activists are calling it an organized massacre.
  • Though India’s population is 14 percent Muslim and New Delhi’s is 13 percent, the total Muslim representation on the Delhi police force is less than 2 percent.

India’s policing culture has long been brutal, biased, anti-minority and almost colonial in character, a holdover from the days of British rule when the police had no illusions of serving the public but were used to suppress a restive population.

But what seems to be different now, observers contend, is how profoundly India’s law enforcement machinery has been politicized by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist governing bloc.

Police officials, especially in states controlled by Mr. Modi’s party, have been highly selective in their targets, like a Muslim school principal in Karnataka who was jailed for more than two weeks on sedition charges after her students performed a play about a new immigration law that police officials said was critical of Mr. Modi.

Some judges have also seemed to be caught up — or pushed out — by a Hindu-nationalist wave.

Delhi judge who expressed disbelief that the police had yet to investigate members of Mr. Modi’s party who have been widely accused of instigating the recent violence in Delhi was taken off the case and transferred to another state. And at the same time that the Supreme Court has made a string of rulings in the government’s favor, one of the judges, Arun Mishra, publicly praised Mr. Modi as a “visionary genius.”


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