Riots in India during Trump’s visit expose brutal nature of Indian ruling class

Trump's visit to India on 24-25 February saw deadly riots in Delhi in which at least 46 people were killed, while hundreds were injured. Many houses, shops and religious buildings were burnt or destroyed in northeast Delhi during these riots, which continued for more than four days.

The violence, spearheaded by the Modi government, started after goons were unleashed, with the help of police, on protestors opposed to Trump's visit, in addition to carrying forward the movement against the newly passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). These thugs, in the guise of pro-CAA protestors, not only attacked anti-Trump and anti-CAA protesters under the watch of the police but also attacked and burned the properties belonging to Muslims in the area, along with their mosques, in an attempt to divide the people on a religious basis. A BBC news report showed footage of police participating in throwing stones at Muslims. One of the Hindu rioters is interviewed in the report saying that the police gave the mob fresh stones after they ran out. There is also footage of a Muslim man being beaten to death by the police. All this fits into Modi's agenda of "divide and rule", to continue his brutal, oppressive capitalist policies for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. 

Mobile phone videos of brutal beatings, torture and lynching of innocent people and burning down of homes in Delhi immediately went viral across the country, starting a new wave of protests against Modi. But conversely, Modi supporters used them to spread communal hatred against Muslims at a much-bigger level, taking religious bigotry to new heights. Amidst this tense situation, the Modi government has successfully diverted the attention of the political movements away from the severe economic crisis, rising unemployment, inflation and brutal privatisation. These were precisely the issues that had already led to defeats for Modi's BJP in state elections in Delhi, Jharkhand and Maharahstra.

Trump's visit to India

In this situation Trump's visit to India was an important development, not just for India but for the whole region. India is already positioning itself as a counterweight to growing Chinese influence in the region, and the Americans are giving it their full support. Trump's visit was a significant development in strengthening these ties. In his speech in the world's largest stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to a packed audience of more than 100,000 people, Trump showered Modi with unprecedented praise and admiration. While he didn't speak a word about the ongoing mass movement against the new citizenship law or the severe crackdown and curfew in Kashmir, he offered to sell Modi the latest and most sophisticated weapons on earth "which are feared by everyone". He also expressed his keen interest in the Indian middle-class market, which comprises tens of millions of people. Trump, without naming it, attacked China for its “dictatorial” methods in achieving growth, while praising Indian “democracy” for its marvellous achievements.

This close relationship between Trump and Modi was reflected for the first time in Septermber last year in Houston, Texas when Modi addressed a packed audience of Indian Americans in the presence of Trump, accompanied by Republican governors of different states. In that speech, Modi publicly supported Trump's candidacy for the next presidential elections, despite Trump facing a serious impeachment trial at that time. Trump in his speech in India also tried to woo four million Indian-American voters by praising Indian culture, films and cricket.

Trump Modi Image White HouseTrump and Modi's close relationship reflects their shared economic and geopolitical interests / Image: White House

A $3 billion deal was also signed between the two countries for the sale of American Apache helicopters, though negotiations for a trade deal will continue. The ties between the two countries have been strengthening over the last few years as the Americans have also changed the name of their Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command, giving more importance to India in the whole region. A Quadrilateral (Quad) group has also been formed, of which Japan and Australia are also a part, along with India and America. Similarly, coordination in intelligence sharing in the Indo-Pacific region is also growing between the two countries, while joint military exercises are also taking place. The strategic alliance between the two is an attempt to contain China, which is investing huge amounts in infrastructure and development projects in the region and beyond, including countries like Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives. China has also got ahold of a strategic port at Hambantota in Sri Lanka, which was built by them.

The Chinese influence in Pakistan has also grown to unprecedented levels with the flagship project of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor), worth $60 billion. In this project of infrastructure development, the Chinese are developing the strategic Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is seen by the Americans and Indians as a threat to their interests. The Americans have already used their influence through the IMF and other institutions to put pressure on Pakistan to halt these projects.

The close relations between Trump and Modi are also seen with envy by Pakistan, which has been serving the interests of US imperialism in the region for the last seven decades, when India was either in the Soviet sphere of influence or relatively non-aligned. In this situation, Pakistan has tried to find friends in China and Turkey, but these do not have the capacity to replace the Americans in the region. This is why the new balance of forces is destabilising governments and states at an unprecedented level.

India is very cautious in this situation and is still resisting desperate offers by the Americans to press China further in the region. India and China have bilateral trade approaching $100 billion and both have common interests as well, despite their differences. Both are founding members of BRICS and now both are part of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation). These relations between the two neighbours will come under pressure as the economic crisis worsens and both look for foreign investment and new markets to maintain their growth.

Another important factor in the situation has been the growth of the Indian bourgeoisie and of the Indian economy on a capitalist basis in the recent period. Though this growth couldn't bring millions of Indians out of extreme poverty and misery, and couldn't give them an improved standard of living, it was able to accumulate more wealth in the hands of the Indian bourgeoisie through extreme exploitation and brutality. Modi's anti-labour policies and tax cuts for the rich benefited these wealthy Indians in an unprecedented way and paved the way for more misery, poverty, unemployment and lower wages for millions of workers. This brutal exploitation under Modi, who in fact continued the policies of previous governments more aggressively, made India the fifth-largest economy in the world. Though the economic crisis and contraction in the advanced European economies was also a reason for this.


This has given the Modi government and the Indian state a completely new authority to carry out their brutal policies of oppressing their own people and imposing new laws and measures to curb any hint of dissent in the country. The decision on 5 August to discard the special status of Kashmir and divide it in two, which is essentially annexation by the Modi government, can also be understood from this perspective. The helplessness and impotence of Pakistan to respond in this situation also reflects the change in the balance of forces in the region, with the Indian state clearly dominating this 70-year-old conflict. The new citizenship law is also an attempt by the Indian state to impose its authority in a much more autocratic and oppressive way and to enhance the grip of its iron hand on society.

This has a huge impact on Indian society and politics, which are being transformed under the hammer blows of these decisive changes. The citizenship law has provoked a huge mass movement across the country in which millions and millions of people have come out onto the streets to protest against it. No political party in opposition has been able to lead this movement, which is transforming the landscape of Indian politics. The Congress party, which ruled India for most of the time since Independence in 1947, had already been shattered by the huge blow of Modi's landslide victory in the general elections last year. They couldn't offer any slogans or programme to this movement as they had no major differences on these policies. In fact, this particular policy was drafted and initiated by the Congress government under the orders of the Supreme Court in 2011 for the north-eastern state of Assam. Modi has simply extended it to the whole of India. Other political parties leading at regional levels in various states were also unable to give a clear, audacious programme for this movement. These parties are sticking to their old mantra of politics for specific sections of society on caste, nationality or religious basis. The right-wing Aam Admi (Common Man) Party AAP, which defeated Modi's BJP in Delhi state elections last month, also stayed away from this movement and avoided supporting the sit-in of women in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi against CAA.

This has brought new faces and leaders to the surface who are giving leadership to this movement and are pressing the government to revoke this law. Kanhaiya Kumar, former president of the students’ union in JNU, is one of them and is touring around the country to speak at mass rallies. He is a member of the CPI (Communist Party of India) and is preparing for the coming state elections in Bihar to oust the BJP from power, which seems a daunting task. Others include former student leader Umar Khalid and young film actress Swara Bhaskar. Many Muslim leaders from right-wing Islamist parties are also openly criticising Modi for his religious hatred and are putting forward the agenda of religious harmony. Asaduding Owaisi from Hyderabad is one of them. Some leaders of the Dalits (an oppressed caste) have also come out in solidarity with these protests.

All these leaders are using Gandhi's slogan of religious peace and harmony and of non-violence to counter Modi's agenda of Hindutva and of transforming India into a Hindu state; as opposed to Pakistan, a Muslim state. Kanhaiya Kumar has referred to the legacy of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi and Ambedkar in the fight against Modi and to bring India back to its secular traditions. Though Gandhi and Ambedkar both were against Bhagat Singh and supported the British imperialists hanging him in 1931. Many intellectuals, analysts and left-wing politicians are also hopelessly referring to these secular traditions for harmony and peace in India.

But all these hollow slogans are bound to fail, as Modi pushes forward to continue these policies of hatred and bigotry as the economic crisis worsens. As the GDP growth rate falls to 4.6 percent from near 7 percent, and inflation hovers around eight percent, Indian capitalism needs more exploitation and oppression to shore up its rate of profit. The brutal violence, religious bigotry and hatred will give them leverage to impose more fear and terror on the Indian working class, which is moving forward against this exploitation. The recent general strike of 250 million people across the country on 8 January was an important milestone in this regard. For the first time, the political demand of taking back the citizenship law also echoed along with the economic demands, which is definitely a big step forward. With the deepening economic crisis, this class struggle is bound to intensify as the Indian government has also announced plans of massive privatisation this year, which will lay off millions more workers in insurance, banking, airlines and other important sectors. In this situation, Modi will use his Hindutva politics more aggressively to blunt the rising class struggle and safeguard the interests of the Indian ruling class and foreign capital.

The wounds of partition

These are the same tactics employed by the British Imperialists during their rule in India and which were spearheaded by Gandhi and Nehru in Indian politics. After the severe blow in the war of Independence in 1857, British imperialists used every means available to divide India on a religious basis to continue their oppressive rule. The history of this sub-continent was written by the stooges of imperialism on a Muslim and Hindu basis. Languages and scripts were started to be identified on a Hindu and Muslim basis, while the foundations of political parties were also laid on these bases. The creation of the Muslim League in Dhaka in 1905 was clearly a part of this project. A separate column for religion was also included in the census carried out by the British for the first time in 1881. Gandhi carried forward these policies by injecting religion into politics at a mass level, especially during the mass revolutionary movement after the end of first world war. With the political slogan of religious harmony and peace he started identifying people based on religion, and thus laid the basis for partition to the benefit of the British imperialists and the Indian ruling class. In the aftermath of the Second World War, a huge mass movement of the working class across India once again threatened the rule of capital in this part of the world. With the Soviet Union already emerging as a huge power and China moving towards communism, British imperialism conspired with leading Indian politicians, including Nehru and Gandhi, to divide India on religious lines to defend and continue the rule of capital in the whole region and halt the spread of communism. Indian Stalinist parties supported these policies in their own way and betrayed the working class, which led to massive bloodshed and massacres unseen in history.

These festering wounds of partition continue to haunt the new generations but a shift in the whole situation has brought back this spectre over the region. The Indian ruling class has always used the threat of religious fanaticism, hatred of Pakistan and fear of Hindu extremism to exploit its working class. The leadership of Congress under the veil of secularism has always used these threats to continue its grip on power and defend Indian capitalism. Nehru even used the cover of socialism for capitalist policies, which has thrown millions of Indians into poverty and misery. Close ties with the Soviet Union also sanctioned these capitalist policies under the banner of “Nehruvian socialism”. Indian secularism had always been a hollow cover for the crimes of the Indian bourgeoisie, to defend their interests. One stark example is the rise of Bal Thackerey and his quasi-fascist Shiv Sena in the 1970s and 80s in Mumbai, which was supported by the Indian state and Congress to attack the strong trade unions in this industrial city and crush the base of the communist parties there.

All these lessons of history have been forgotten by the Stalinist parties in India once again and they are relying on these hollow slogans of Indian secularism and the sanctity of the bourgeois Indian constitution. The Pakistani state is also using this religious bigotry for its own benefit and to justify its existence after the crime of partition. The brutality and torture meted out against Muslims in India is being condemned by Pakistan and used to reinforce the religious divide and hatred on both sides in an attempt to strenghten the artificial border and states. However, Pakistan has not offered citizenship for the 200 million Muslims living in India, nor has it any such plans. Also, Pakistan has made no other plans to support these Muslims in any other way, which will raise much questioning in the coming period. In short, all the horrors of partition will reappear but at a much higher level, along with the mass movements against the bigotry and hatred that led to the bloody partition in 1947.

This is why it is important to put forward a clear position on class lines, which is the only way to cut across this frenzy of religious fanaticism and extremism. Only through the class struggle can a battle be fought with the ruling class of India and of the whole region, along with the imperialist powers of America and China. The unity of the working class would not only force the Indian ruling class to take back its oppressive laws but also to improve wages and working conditions, along with halting privatisation and liberalisation. An indefinite general strike by the working class across India is the way forward to force the government to take back these laws and accept these economic demands. The futility of elections and the farce of bourgeois democracy are now clearer than ever. Parliament, the courts and all other institutions were given a holy status in India not only by the bourgeois parties but also by the communist parties. But now this sanctity is being challenged and the situation demands a clear attack on Indian capitalism and all its institutions. The role of Congress and its leaders Nehru and Gandhi cannot be spared for propping up this bloodthirsty capitalism and defending the interests of the Indian capitalists against the working class. Modi in fact continues the policies of these icons of Indian politics, though cleverly attacking them politically and posturing himself as their fierce enemy. He glorifies Sardar Patel instead of Nehru to put forward his own version of history but still that version justifies the brutality of Congress and its role in partition.The BJP and Congress are two sides of the same coin. They are both used alternatively by the Indian bourgeoisie to keep a grip on the working class and society as a whole. Now, all these politics are being questioned and new avenues are opening up to build a struggle on class lines. A transformation of politics in India and the forward march of the mass movements will have a deep impact on Pakistan, which is already struggling from a deep crisis in its economy, politics and state.

The situation in the whole region is on the verge of big changes, which will usher in great events, bigger than the partition of India in 1947 or the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Both of these events were preceded by revolutionary mass movements in 1945 and later in 1968-69. But due to a lack of revolutionary Bolshevik party these movements were drowned in blood by the ruling class. Today, it is important to learn from these lessons of history and prepare for the coming events. A political party with the correct slogans and programme, based on class lines, will be able to have an impact on these events and pave the way for a socialist transformation in the region, ending decades of bloodshed, wars, terror and capitalist exploitation. A socialist federation of South Asia will end all this brutality once and for all and will be a starting point for a world socialist revolution.

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