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'Red Alert': Anti-Muslim Violence in India Reaching Critical Levels as Homes and Businesses Burn and at Least 24 Dead

"Who will help the Muslims of India?"

Police personnel and protestors seen during anti-Muslim attacks at Jaffrabad on February 24, 2020 in New Delhi, India.

Police personnel and protestors seen during anti-Muslim attacks at Jaffrabad on February 24, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo: Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times)

As anti-Muslim violence continued to roil the Indian city of Delhi Wednesday, observers from inside the country and around the world warned that the crisis is fast approaching a "pogrom" that could result in many people dying and displaced.

"India is a red-alert story every media outlet needs to be more focused on," tweeted TIME editor-at-large Anand Giridharadas.

The violence began Sunday, a day before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in the country for a 36-hour trip where Prime Minister Narendra Modi feted the American leader with a massive rally in Ahmedabad. Hindu mobs attacked Muslims peacefully demonstrating against India's citizenship law, which, as Common Dreams reported, is targeted at stripping many of the country's Muslim immigrants of their right to apply for citizenship. 

As Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday:

At least 24 people have been killed after India's capital was hit by the worst religious violence in decades, which was triggered after Muslims protesting against a discriminatory citizenship law were attacked.

Nearly 200 people have been injured during three days of violence in Muslim populated areas of northeast Delhi, with police accused of looking the other way as a mob went on the rampage, killing people and damaging properties, including mosques.

Indian news outlet Scroll.In reported that one of the victims of the violence was an 85-year-old woman trapped on the third floor of her family home after it was set on fire by a group of Hindu extremists.

The violence doesn't seem likely to abate anytime soon, police told residents. 

"The police told one of the Muslims from my area that the mobs were going to get bigger and the police did not have the forces to contain them, so we should all leave for our safety," a man identified as Sohail Ismail told Scroll.In.

At the conclusion of his trip Tuesday, Trump praised what he called Modi's devotion to a pluralistic society, a perception at odds with the experiences of religious minorities in the country under Modi's rule. 

The next day, the State Department issued a travel advisory for Delhi.

Modi finally spoke up about the situation in Delhi on Wednesday, delivering a vague plea for "calm" and "normalcy." 

The Washington Post noted this was not the first time Modi had overseen an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence:

This week's violence marked the second time in Modi's political career that he has presided over a significant episode of communal violence. In 2002, when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat, more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, in three days of riots. A court-appointed panel cleared Modi of involvement in the violence.

In neighboring Pakistan, which is Muslim-majority, Prime Minister Imran Khan made clear his government would not tolerate violence against the country's religious minorities.

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"I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly," said Khan. "Our minorities are equal citizens of this country."

MSNBC's Chris Hayes told his audience in a segment Tuesday night that the violence in India and Trump's praise for Modi were hard to disentangle from one another.

"Hindutva mobs are committing an anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi," tweeted human rights lawyer Arjun Sethi. 

"Who will help the Muslims of India?" Sethi added.

Video of anti-Muslim attacks continued to pour out of Delhi Wednesday. 

Despite the nature of the violence, Indians of all faiths came together against the violent mobs made up of members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement and Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Guardian reported that Hindus were patrolling Muslim areas to protect the population from the mobs and welcoming Muslims into their homes to protect them. 

"Twenty-five Muslim families who were hiding in Hindu family houses in Shyam Vihar since yesterday were escorted by police and brought to Mustafabad hospital today evening," tweeted Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum president Harjit Singh Bhatti. "These families on arrival said they are alive because Hindu neighbors protected them from RSS/BJP goons. This is my India."

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