For seventy days and seventy nights, spanning the months of December through February, hundreds of thousands, but more likely millions of Indians of all faiths and creeds, joined hands to protest against the government’s anti-Muslim citizenship laws, otherwise known separately as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The protests had been entirely peaceful and inclusive. The protesters had not agitated for revolution or advocated hateful and violent chants, but rather demanded nothing more than the restoration and fulfillment of the country’s secular democratic ideals.
Demonstrators against India’s anti-Muslim citizenship acts remained law abiding even when New Delhi police officers stormed Jamia Millia Islamia University in December and viciously assaulted Muslim students.
The demonstrators remained law abiding even when a small army of New Delhi police officers, accompanied by radicalized Hindutva street goons, stormed the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia University in December and viciously assaulted and intimidated predominately Muslim students. The protestors remained calm and organized, denying the government and its supporters an opportunity to marginalize the anti-CAA movement, and Muslims writ large, as violent and disorderly.
Growing frustrated with their inability to suppress anti-CAA protests, or change the national conversation and move ahead with their effort to disenfranchise the country’s 200 million Muslims, members of the country’s ruling party, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, began smearing Muslim protesters as “traitors.” Meanwhile others, including members of Modi’s cabinet, such as Union Minister Anurag Thakur, called for them to be shot.
Pro-government, pro-CAA thugs attacked Muslims and their homes, businesses, and mosques throughout New Delhi on February 24.
On February 24, the day of US Donald Trump’s first official visit to New Delhi, pro-government, pro-CAA thugs did exactly that and attacked Muslims and their homes, businesses, and mosques throughout the city, while chanting Hindu slogans “Jai Shri Ram” (Victory to Lord Rama) and “Hinduon ka Hindustan” (India for Hindus).
In the end, more than 50 Muslims were killed, including some who were burnt alive. Survivors will most likely spend the rest of their lives dealing with severe physical, psychological, and sexual traumas. More troubling still is the fact that realms of video evidence reveals a large number of the city’s police officers were enthusiastic participants in the violence, even escorting radicalized Hindus to their Muslim targets.
“The police is with us,” a Hindu man said in a video posted online, as he and his colleagues threw rocks at mostly Muslim anti-CAA protesters.
India’s worst anti-Muslim pogrom in nearly two decades was the inevitable result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand of militant Hindu nationalism.
There is no questioning the fact that the country’s worst anti-Muslim pogrom in nearly two decades was the inevitable result of Modi’s brand of militant Hindu nationalism. Under Modi, Muslims have not only been bashed in the streets, but also in the country’s courts and legislatures, a reality shared by the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and countless other human rights bodies and international groups.
The United Arab Emirates’ English language newspaper Gulf News, however, expressed a starkly different take in an op-ed titled “Stop Blaming Modi for Delhi Riots and All Things Evil in India.”
“When more than 50 lives are lost in communal riots in the national capital of the second-most populous nation on the planet, then obviously it is a conscience-call for all right-minded people to not just sit up and take note, but raise the pitch for communal harmony, peace and demand that wrong-doers on either side of the religious divide are dealt with the full force of law. However, if even for one second you think that it is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is to be held responsible for this bloodshed, then think again,” reads the opening paragraph to the article penned by the newspaper’s Senior Pages Editor Sanjib Kumar Das.
The Gulf News op-ed makes no secret of its intent to defend and rehabilitate Modi’s reputation after he presided over the worst single day for India’s Muslims since the Gujarat riots of 2002.
That Mr. Das is of Indian ethnicity matters less to this story than the fact the editorial team of the UAE’s flagship newspaper chose to publish the piece. The op-ed makes no secret of its intent to defend and rehabilitate Modi’s reputation in the Muslim world soon after he and his Hindu nationalist government presided over the worst single day for India’s Muslims since the Gujarat riots of 2002.
It is worth noting that Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the violence, and that the Bush administration subsequently banned him from travelling to the United States for his complicity in the murder of more than 2,000 Muslims.
It’s almost impossible to imagine Gulf News is unaware of these realities, and it’s thus more probable that something more sinister explains its decision to run a propagandized puff piece on behalf of the “Butcher of Gujarat.”
It’s fair to speculate the newspaper’s editorial decision traces its roots to the role Modi’s government played in the kidnapping of Princess Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The Princess, who was forcibly taken from a yacht by Indian commandos off the shores of Goa in 2018 was sent back to the UAE to face her abusive father, a man found guilty of imprisoning his wives and mistreating his daughters by a UK court last week.
You can “join the dots between India sending back Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa to UAE two years ago and the Gulf countries siding with Delhi on everything from oil to Kashmir,” observes Jyoti Malhotra, a columnist with the Indian newspaper The Print.
The UAE has not only become India’s largest Arab Gulf partner, but also the Emirati state has gone as far as to praise India’s Modi-led government for its repressive measures in Kashmir.
The UAE has not only become India’s largest Arab Gulf partner, with Indian investments in the UAE surpassing $55 billion, but also the Emirati state has gone as far as to praise India’s Modi-led government for its repressive measures in Kashmir. Indeed, the Emirates’ Ambassador to India, Ahmed al-Banna, parroted New Delhi’s propaganda in claiming its stripping of Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status would “improve social justice and security…and further stability and peace.”
Barely two weeks after the Indian military put Kashmir under lockdown, Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MbZ) bestowed upon Modi the UAE’s highest civilian honor by awarding him the Order of Zayed on August 24, 2019. This gesture alone signifies the importance the monarchy places on its relationship with India even as the Asian country carries out grotesque human rights abuses against Muslims. This should be enough to explain why Gulf News published such a stubbornly defiant and unconscionable defense of the Indian prime minister.