Capitol siege brings back memories of Delhi riots during Trump visit

It is hard to miss the remarkable closeness in the main political narratives built in the US and India with disastrous effects

Capitol hill violence
What happened at the Capitol on January 6 is being called a Trump-supported insurrection | File Photo: Reuters

The recent unseemly events in Washington DC that have come to mark the last days of outgoing US President Donald Trump in office inevitably take attention to his last visit to Delhi, during which parts of the Indian capital were rocked by violent riots.

The violence continued to rage for days after Trump left. Though its trail back home was soon taken as one of the come-and-gone episodes of rioting, the shocking incidents now at the Capitol Hill have once again turned the spotlight on Trump and his close ties that brought about his last visit to India.

So much so that what happened at the Capitol on January 6 is being called a Trump-supported insurrection, like the Delhi riots which were allegedly incited by a few higher ups in the government and ruling party back home.

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Significantly, what has startled many among Indian TV audiences in the wake of the incidents in the US is the appearance of a large Indian flag, that for hours was being waved amid and around the angry mob that besieged Washington’s iconic vista. Yet, most TV watchers were more piqued than being intrigued by what they saw.

This was perhaps a direct result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s endorsement of Trump for his second term in office right from the run up to the US presidential polls. The support sought by Modi for Trump from Indian voters settled in America has somehow been showing even after the defeat of the Republican President and through the events triggered by it.

The Trump-Modi bonhomie has been so great as to end up in their mutual visits to each other’s countries. Among other things, this had an eye upon the presidential polls in the US. And it was during the February 2020 visit of Trump to Delhi that riots had broken out in Delhi’s rather poorer and already run-down quarters stretching through the northeastern parts of the city.

Before the end of his Delhi visit that followed a jaunt at Ahmedabad and Agra, the President was asked on February 25 about the city’s communal violence when he addressed a press conference at Hyderabad House. Answering a question about the outbreak of communal riots in North-East Delhi, Trump said, “as far as the individual attack, I heard about it but I didn’t discuss that with him (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). That’s up to India.”

Nearly a year after this, the riot-torn parts of North-East Delhi languish under the shadow cast by the widespread sectarian violence that took lives of more than 50 people, besides inflicting a huge loss of both residential and commercial properties as also causing damage to public spaces and a few places of worship through large parts of the area.

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Though Trump said that he did not take this up in his talks with Modi during his visit, the fact remains that at the root of the riots were the Modi government’s majority-centric thrust because of its overreliance on Hindutva, or politicised Hinduism. This may or may not be inspired by a similar political use or abuse of Islam in India’s neighbourhood but suits the regime back home to justify its stridency which is generally couched in Hindutva.

A few months before the North-East Delhi riots, the Indian government was grappling with protests against its new citizenship law. In his February 25 Press conference Trump was also asked about the controversial citizenship legislation but he tried to stay clear of it by offering a brief remark like, “I don’t want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India, and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people. That’s really up to India.”

Such assertions point to a concurrence-driven diplomacy that Trump preferred with respect to India under Modi. This was in turn of Modi’s earlier endorsement of Trump among US-based Indians for another term as President despite his white supremacist agenda that is loathed not only by blacks in America but also settlers drawn to America from various parts of the world. It turned out to be more so in case of Indians in the US after the candidature of Kamala Harris as Democratic Party candidate for America’s Vice President.

As Joe Biden and Harris won the November polls and Trump could not reconcile to the loss of presidency, he, as per the US media, incited a revolt by white supremacists to stall the declaration of Biden as the next President of the United States. Mobs tried to attack Congressmen meeting in the Capitol building. Trump’s move was taken to be so reprehensible that current Vice President Mike Pence had to publicly differ with Trump in a bid to save the image of the republicans.

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The January 6 events in the US sent shockwaves throughout the world. Indian leadership too found the events to be too disconcerting to give them a pass. Thus, Modi took to twitter to say, “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”

Yet, many using social media found India’s stand in view of what was happening the other day in the US a bit mild and rather too polite to be in line with the Prime Minister Modi’s friendship built at a personal level with Trump. It was so since the scene at the Capitol Hill was called by the US media an attack rather than protest, as was the case in Modi’s tweet though he also called it to be “unlawful”.

So whatever may be the case, the short point is that given the recent events, it is hard to miss the remarkable closeness in the main political narratives that have of late been built in the US and India with disastrous effects.

(The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi. He tweets @abidshahjourno)

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