The Delhi Riots 2020, Hinduphobia and Cultural Appropriation

    08-May-2020
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-Divyansha Sharma
 
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Radical Islamist organisation PFI and ‘student activists’ under the scanner of the
Delhi police in 
Delhi Anti-Hindu riots
 
The national capital saw violent communal riots in North East Delhi from February 23 to 26, 2020. The official death toll in the riots was 54 fatalities with a number of missing persons. Large scale destruction of property was reported in these riots.
 
Though the violence began on February 23 and continued for several days, there was a clear atmosphere of tension in the city owing to activities in Shaheen Bagh since December 2019. The Delhi elections that followed intensified these tensions. It has been the worst religious violence in India in years. The point of question arises here that what were the foundations and root factors of this communal violence.
 
Hinduphobic Media Emanating from the Protest Sites
 
The posters, slogans and constant discourse emerging from anti-CAA protest sites were used to create Hinduphobia amongst communities who were peacefully co-existing and living their lives in those areas. Most anti-CAA protest sites were located in areas with semi-urban Muslim majority populations. Shaheen Bagh itself is located in an area which became Muslim majority barely two decades ago.
 
It was all started with a protest to oppose CAA-NRC which was fuelled by a ruthless crowd (Urban Naxals, Left) who aimed to bring anti-Hindu sentiments amongst the people of that area. Many anti-Hindu slogans were regularly flashed in the protest sites to ambush the Hindu culture. As shown in picture below a poster of 3 women under burkha has bindi on their forehead was used by the protesters. Below the image, there are few lines from Faiz poem Hum Dekhenge which point out the clear intention of establishing Islamist supremacy over Hindus. The bindi is a Hindu cultural symbol that is contradictory to the Hijab, which is an Islamic practice. While Muslim women use bindis as a form of adornment in a clear cultural throwback to their Hindu past, one will not find a Hindu woman in a bindi donning a Hijab. Given that the bindi is also a symbol of marriage amongst Hindus, this poster indicates that Hindu women need to be converted to Islam through marriage to Muslim men. It is pertinent to note that the Hindu symbol being appropriated by aggressive Islam here is not a symbol of ‘Hindutva’ but rather a Hindu cultural practice.
 
Posters emanating from the protest sites also smashed and disbanded the Hindu Swastik, comparing it to the Nazi Haken Kreuz. The Swastika is a deeply Indic symbol and not just sacred to Hindus but to Buddhists and Jainas as well. Hindus interpret the Swastika as the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva), the core Hindu scriptures, as the four goals of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha as the four seasons, the four directions, and the four yugas, or epochs (Satya, Treta, Dvapara, Kali). For Buddhists, the swastika signifies the Buddha’s footprints and heart. For Jains, the swastika is the symbol of the seventh tirthankara. Simillarly the ‘Aum’ is one of the most sacred Hindu dharmic sounds. It is also widely a part of mantras used by Buddhists.
 
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Kali, the fierce and free Hindu goddess, was caged in a Hijab. Traditional representations of Kali are free and powerful. She is a fierce Hindu woman with hair that flows freely. She is unconscious of dress and covering. She does not know shackles and restrictions as she dances the dance of death to conquer evil. In fact, no Hindu goddess has her hair and head covered. They are full of colour, hair adorned with flowers, eyes lined with Anjana and dressed in colourful clothes. Why will a Hindu goddess want to cover her hair? More importantly, why will a pious Muslim want to appropriate and desecrate Hindu women and Hindu cultural and dharmic symbols.
 
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Aggressive Islamic Symbolism
 
People we interviewed in North East Delhi for our report on the Delhi riots told us that the anti-CAA protest sites were a source of ceaseless and loud Islamic sloganeering sometimes ranging into unearthly hours in the night. The coupling of Naara e Takbeer and La ilahi illallah with anti-CAA protest sites is definitely a disruption. Below is a wall showing anti-CAA graffiti from Jamia Milia Islamia. The script in Arabic is the Islamic Shahada that declares that there is no other god but Allah and this in a country in which there are multiple paths to divinity.
 
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From the protest sites which eventually morphed into riot sites, many shreds of evidence have also been witnessed which pinpoint the upturn of a protest from an anti-Hindu agenda to an anti-(Hindu) government agenda. The ruling government is shown as a government of Hindus that is oppressing minorities. A wall of hate speaks about how innocent minds were misled by Urban Naxals to plan the entire narrative. Slogans like bolo azaadi and hume chaiye aazadi were scribbled on a long wall in Mustafabad. Separatists in Kashmir have used both slogans. These posters and slogans have been documented in our report.
 
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The entire episode of the riot was very well written and executed by the anti-national elements. Residents of that place said that they (Hindu and Muslim) had been living their lives peacefully together for many years. But from past few days before the riots broke out anti-Hindu and anti-national slogans were raised to create a gap between both the communities resulting in the breakdown of decades of co-existence in North East Delhi.
 
(The writer teaches Home Science in Delhi University and was a member of the research team of the Group of Intellectuals and Academicians, GIA, which did a ground report on the Delhi Riots 2020)