2020 Delhi riots
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The 2020 Delhi riots, or North East Delhi riots, were multiple waves of bloodshed, property destruction, and rioting in North East Delhi, beginning on 23 February and caused chiefly by Hindu mobs attacking Muslims.
- There could not be a more grisly method, even when it involves no violence, to cover up ghastly crimes committed by a people than to indulge in the fallacy of false equivalence. In this fallacy, two incomparable things are compared and declared to be equal because there are always two sides to the story. What is going on in the aftermath of the worst communal violence in Delhi since 1984, in which 34 Muslims and 15 Hindus have died, is precisely this fallacy. Thus, here, both Hindus and Muslims are at fault for the violence; hence the refusal to call it a pogrom or state-backed violence against Muslims despite all the evidence. Moral equivalence completely obscures the root causes of a problem. It instead focuses on the immediate and the superficial, and is employed by well-intentioned observers as well as Hindutva supporters when on the defensive. Thus, six years of relentless hate-mongering against Muslims is seen to be of no consequence in creating an absolutely inflammable social sphere.
- To place the responsibility of violence on the illiterate, poor and unemployed mobs is to completely miss the pathologies amongst us, the privileged and the powerful, which are the greatest enablers of violence.
- The narrative of moral equivalence is persisted with regard to the Delhi violence, despite the overwhelming evidence of the police acting emphatically in favour of one side. A wide swathe of retired police officers has opined that it is impossible for riots to go on beyond a few hours, especially in the capital of India, with a relatively better-equipped and 80,000-strong police force, without police complicity and sanction.
- This is when false equivalence fails to recognise not only the unbridled state-backed violent majoritarianism but also its farcical nature. To counter false equivalence and to assert what happened in Delhi was an anti-Muslim pogrom, we do not have to take the morally dubious position of denying that there has been the loss of innocent lives among Hindus as well (after all, what can be more heartbreaking than losing a 15-year old boy – the youngest victim of the violence, Nitin Kumar – who was killed while stepping out to buy food), or that the victims are not capable of brutality. But to remain at the level of a statistical apportioning of grief, or false equivalence is to fundamentally misread the nature of the beast which has succeeded in replacing every critical problem in India with the narrative of a Hindu-Muslim war, and which has produced suffering even among the oppressors.