India: Man jailed in first conviction over 2020 New Delhi riots

The worst religious violence in the capital in decades followed months of mass protests against an ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law.

Police photograph burnt-out property owned by Muslims in Delhi, India.
Police photograph burnt-out properties owned by Muslims in a riot-affected area in New Delhi [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

An Indian court has jailed a man for five years in the first conviction over religious riots in New Delhi in 2020, when more than 50 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

The riots, the worst such violence in the capital in decades, followed months of protests against a citizenship law that critics say discriminates against the Muslim minority in the Hindu-majority country.

Prosecutors and witnesses on Thursday said Dinesh Yadav was part of a mob of up to 200 mostly Hindu rioters who vandalised and set fire to the house of a woman named Manori.

Yadav’s lawyer, Shikha Garg, said that apart from the jail term, New Delhi’s Karkardooma Court on Thursday also ordered him to pay a fine of 12,000 rupees ($161).

“We will file an appeal before a higher court,” Garg told Reuters news agency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which draws its support mainly from the majority community, changed the citizenship law in 2019 to expedite citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Many Muslims in India opposed the exclusion of their community in the law and launched protests, with a women-led sit-in in New Delhi being the epicentre of the demonstrations.

The sit-in protests in the northeastern part of the Indian capital were attacked by mobs, which soon escalated into religious violence towards the end of February 2020, in which dozens of people were killed and houses and mosques torched.

There are an estimated 200 million Muslims in India out of a population of 1.35 billion – the biggest Muslim minority in the world.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies