Diaries of Destruction

Documenting violence and its aftermath in northeastern Delhi

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01 April 2020
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IN FEBRUARY, swathes of northeastern Delhi witnessed large-scale and targeted violence, looting and arson that lasted around four days. According to the last official death toll—53 dead, many more injured, and scores of people fleeing their homes.

It is still unclear precisely what sparked the violence. On 23 February, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra, had visited Babarpur, accompanied by people whom he claimed were Citizenship (Amendment) Act supporters, and gave an incendiary speech. In it, he gave an ultimatum to the police to clear out an anti-CAA protest at Jaffrabad within three days: he would wait till after the departure of the US president Donald Trump, he said, and after that, would take matters into his own hands.

Soon after, on that day, armed Hindu mobs targeted Muslim neighbourhoods in northeastern Delhi, including in areas ruled by the BJP, such as Maujpur and Vijay Park. By the next day, Hindu mobs were singling out and torching mosques as well as Muslim houses and shops. The reports that emerged pointed to multiple incidents of arson: 14 mosques and a Sufi dargah were burnt, while saffron flags were placed on top of mosques in certain neighbourhoods, such as Ashok Nagar and Gokalpuri.

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    Ishan Tankha is a Delhi-based independent photographer whose work has been featured in a number of publications including Le Monde and The Guardian. He was a staff photographer at India Today and Open magazine, and photo editor at Tehelka. His work is available on Instagram @ishantankha.

    Keywords: Delhi Violence vigilante violence Hindutva mob violence Muslims in India