In the wake of a second night of sectarian riots that have resulted in six fatalities, riot police have been deployed in urban neighborhoods near India’s capital. The unrest began in the predominantly Muslim district of Nuh, approximately 75 kilometers south of New Delhi, when mobs attacked a Hindu religious procession, setting cars ablaze and hurling stones. The violence escalated further the next day in the satellite city of Gurugram, a significant business hub hosting the Indian headquarters of multinational corporations like Nokia and Samsung.
During the attacks, a mob of around 200 armed with sticks and stones targeted several meat shops and set fire to a restaurant while chanting Hindu religious slogans. As per the state police, two of the deceased were security personnel en route to contain the unrest in Nuh. In response to the escalating tensions, authorities have arrested 116 individuals and increased security in some regions of New Delhi as a precautionary measure.
The initial spark for the riots seems to have been the announcement by Hindu nationalist activist Monu Manesar, associated with the radical right-wing group Bajrang Dal, that he would participate in Monday’s procession in Nuh. Manesar is currently wanted by the police for his alleged role in the lynching of two Muslim cattle traders in another part of Haryana state. His online presence further fuels the fire, as he regularly shares videos celebrating attacks on Muslims accused of handling or harming cows, which hold sacred significance for Hindus.
The situation underscores the recurring communal tensions between India’s majority Hindu population and its sizable Muslim minority, numbering around 200 million. Critics have accused the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of marginalizing the Muslim community since coming to power, with instances of religious riots in New Delhi resulting in 53 fatalities in 2020. The most notorious incident occurred in 2002 during Modi’s tenure as Gujarat’s chief minister when over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, lost their lives in violence.
The recent events have drawn international attention, with tax officials raiding the BBC’s India office following the broadcast of a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions during the 2002 riots. However, a probe appointed by India’s top court in 2012 did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by Modi.
As the country grapples with the aftermath of the sectarian violence, authorities have pledged to bring those responsible to justice and ensure public safety. However, concerns persist over the marginalization of minority communities and the potential for further outbreaks of violence in the future.