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India: Religious riots surge in 2020

Aditya Sharma
September 17, 2021

While India's coronavirus lockdown limited public movement to a large extent, incidents of religious violence saw a major rise. National Capital Delhi reported the highest number of rioting cases.

Women walk past charred vehicles in a riot affected area following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2020
New Delhi riots in 2020 during the anti-citizenship law protests were the worst in the national capital in decadesImage: Reuters/A. Abidi

India, like many other countries around the world, spent much of the year 2020 under lockdown due the coronavirus pandemic. While the restrictions led to a decline in crime, civil clashes saw a significant hike.

Cases of religious riots nearly doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to a government report released Thursday.

The National Crime Records Bureau, in its annual report titled "Crime in India 2020," said 857 cases of communal or religious rioting were registered in the country in the last year.

This is up from 438 in 2019 and 512 in 2018, the report stated.

Of the incidents of rioting, 520, more than half, were reported in the national capital of New Delhi, which was the center of demonstrations against a controversial citizenship law.

The Hindu-majority country is also home to the world's third-largest Muslim population.

Since India gained independence in 1947 following a bloody partition, incidents of communal clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities have claimed thousands of lives.

Police officers in riot gear stand guard at the site of a protest against the farm laws at Singhu border in New Delhi
Communal clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities have claimed thousands of lives in IndiaImage: Adnan Abidi/REUTERS

Delhi's deadly riots

New Delhi saw the worst communal rioting in decades in February 2020.

Massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA — championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — culminated in deadly riots in the capital.

The Delhi riots largely affected the city's Muslim-majority neighborhoods in the northeast.

Two days of bloody violence left 53 dead, including both Hindus and Muslims, and more than 200 wounded.

Amnesty International accused Delhi police of carrying human rights abuses during deadly riots.

In August 2020, India's tech hub Bangalore witnessed deadly violence after an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post about the Prophet Muhammad.

Angry crowds attacked police stations, set vehicles on fire, and even burned down the house of a lawmaker whose nephew was allegedly behind the post.

Three people were killed and more than 100 were arrested.

India was under complete national lockdown from March 25 till May 31, 2020.