Indian protesters disappointed by Trump's support for Modi

Last Modified Wednesday, 26 February 2020 (12:04 IST)
Amid deadly rioting in the Indian capital, New Delhi, against a controversial citizenship law told DW they had hoped US President would back their cause in talks with Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Violence erupted in India's capital Monday between groups protesting for and against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Seven people, including a policeman, were killed and at least 100 were reported to be injured.
 
Following more clashes in the New Delhi neighborhoods of Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Karawal Nagar, Vijay Park and Yamuna Vihar on Tuesday, the death toll had risen to at least 13. One journalist was shot and wounded, while two were beaten by rioters. Some shops were set ablaze and schools were closed.
 
The violence comes as US President Donald Trump is in India for a two-day visit. Indian media quoted sources from the Ministry of Home Affairs claiming that the violence was "orchestrated" to coincide with the visit.                    
 
Over the last two months, several parts of India have seen protests over the CAA, which fast tracks citizenship of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who arrived in India before 2015.
 
It excludes Muslims, a move that has been criticized for undermining India's secular constitution.
 
Locals condemn violence
 
The air was tense Tuesday in Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-majority neighborhood in southern New Delhi, which is the epicenter of anti-CAA protests. Protesters started gathering in the morning and people could be heard talking about Monday's events in hushed voices. Some of them talked about what they experienced, and others said they would march to denounce the violence.
 
"We had gone to northeast Delhi from Shaheen Bagh to meet people yesterday. The violence started as soon as we left," Ruby Sahaifi, a 22-year-old protester, told DW. "We didn't see any tension building up while we were there," she added.
 
Others claimed that the violence was incited by anti-Muslim elements.
 
"People are instigating violence. They have been trained to do this. They say India is ours and you should leave," said a 45-year-old woman who identified herself only as Shaheen Bagh, after the neighborhood.
 
"We won't be deterred by the violence. We will continue our protest peacefully," she said.
 
Many protesters at Shaheen Bagh criticized the "grand" welcome that the government gave the US president. They said that "lavish preparations" were made for Trump amid unrest in the country.
 
"There is violence. Parts of the capital were set ablaze but Modi is busy entertaining guests," said Bagh, who has been protesting in New Delhi since December.
 
 
Some protesters alleged that the Modi government was trying to portray an image of the country in front of Trump that was contradictory to the "realities on ground."
 
"For Trump's reception in Ahmedabad, they wrote 'world's largest democracy meets world's oldest democracy' on a wall," said Amita Bag, a hospital worker from the state of West Bengal.
 
"Is there democracy in India? So many people all over the country have been demanding for months that CAA be rolled back. But our voices have gone unheard."
 
Trump talks about religious freedom, but not CAA
 
President Trump responded to a question about the unrest due to the CAA during a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.
 
"We did talk about religious freedom. The prime minister said he wants people to have religious freedom," Trump said.
 
He said India has worked "hard" for religious freedom.
 
There were expectations that Trump would talk to Modi about the CAA but the US president said that it was not discussed.
 
"I heard about the individual attacks, but I did not discuss it. It is up to India," Trump said.
 
Some protesters earlier in the day had urged Trump to take up the issue of CAA with Modi, referring to the good relations between the two leaders.
 
"Trump has always talked about PM Modi being a good friend. He should tell his friend to take CAA back. We will vacate all roads if he supports us," Ruby Sahaifi, who has been frequenting the protests for months with her aunts and sisters, said.
 
Others pointed out the similarities in the ideology of the two right-wing leaders.
 
"Both India and America have similar problems. Trump and Modi have the same ideology when it comes to Muslims," Amita Bag said.
 
Other protesters said that CAA was an internal matter to be taken up within the Modi government, and no foreign intervention was needed.
 
"We want Trump to see what's happening on humanitarian grounds. We don't need to tell him anything, he should see it for himself," said 60-year-old Nachhattar Singh from Punjab, who came to New Delhi with 10 others to protest.