Starting February 23, for nearly a week, law and order collapsed in the north eastern district of the Indian capital as it was gripped by communal violence. Delhi witnessed the familiar Indian pattern of communal violence as mobs ransacked areas and the police colluded with rioters to attack minority neighbourhoods. According to political scientist Ashutosh Varshney, this qualifies the Delhi violence to be categorised as a pogrom.
Given this blatant administrative communalism, the rioting saw Muslims suffer grievously, with most of the dead, injured and property damaged belonging to the minority community.
However, the prejudice did not restrict itself to outright violence. Even after the riots, the messaging in the media as well as by the administrative machinery maintained a strong majoritarian bias.
Although much of the violence occurred against Muslims, there is little focus on that facet of the riot. Instead, there is an inordinate emphasis on Muslims accused of violence.
The media has concentrated on Aam Aadmi Partry councillor Tahir Hussain’s role, with some outlets even going so far as to call him the “kingpin” behind the violence. This is the case even though a Scroll.in report found that even in Hussain’s own neighbourhood, Muslim property was the primary target of mob attacks.
In one egregious example, even when the Delhi Police had confirmed Hussain’s alibi on record, the wire service ANI ran a supposed “clarification” from an anonymous source.
The police later put out another statement that still did not resolve this discrepancy.
This pattern extends to the adminstration as well. Take the case of Shahrukh Khan, a man accused of pointing a gun at a policeman during the riot. While the Delhi Police made sure to address a press conference on his arrest, there is no information from the police on who killed more than a dozen people using guns during the riots.
A similar pattern emerges in identifying victims. Much of the mass media focus on the tragedy of the violence has elided its Muslim victims. Here too there is a majoritarian bias with the media focusing on the murder of Ankit Sharma, an employee of the Union government’s internal intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau. Sharma’s family was awarded a compensation of Rs 1 crore by the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi while every other mortality victim’s family would get only a tenth of that amount.
Experts and observers have commented on the fact that India’s Muslims are in grave danger given the level of far-right radicalisation that exists in Indian society at the moment. That majoritarian bias played out not only in the actual rioting but also in the narratives of victim and perpetrator that followed the violence illustrates how dire the situation is right now.