Amid the news coverage of President Donald Trump’s two-day trip to India — which began with a massive rally at a cricket stadium, but appears to be ending without any deal on key trade issues — another subject has simply not received sufficient attention in the American press: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing persecution of Muslims, and the wave of violence sweeping the country’s capital of New Delhi.
Modi’s government recently passed a law granting a fast-tracked citizenship process to immigrants from the “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.” The law notably excludes Muslims from that list, providing a double standard for citizenship and violating the Indian Constitution’s declaration of a “secular democratic republic.”
On the latest episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the eponymous host explained how this new “immigration” law can combine with another government measure, the National Register of Citizens, to target Indian Muslims who were too poor to ever have gotten full documentation of their births and citizenship. He also explained that some of the affected Indians now fear they will potentially be put into detention centers as purportedly undocumented immigrants.
The Washington Post gave a dangerously misleading headline, “Trump’s second day in India: Violence in Delhi and praise for Modi’s efforts on religious freedom.” The article itself explained that it was Trump who said Modi was “working very hard on religious freedom,” and then went on to explain the ongoing demonstrations and riots over the citizenship law, writing, “Critics of the citizenship law say it is unconstitutional and discriminatory.”
In one article about Trump’s visit, The Wall Street Journal made brief mentions of the issues, referring initially to “simmering disagreements over … minority protections” and Trump's “concerns ... about an Indian citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.” Toward the end it gives a bit more detail, including the Modi administration’s denial of discrimination and constitutional violations, but it fails to acknowledge that the denial is obviously false:
Mr. Modi is expected to use his meeting with the leader of the world’s most powerful country to project strength. Meanwhile, Mr. Modi’s policies, which critics say marginalize India’s Muslims and other minorities and undermine India’s secular and democratic foundation, have in recent months triggered the biggest protests since he took office. The Modi administration denies its critics’ charges.
The Associated Press described the law’s obvious implications as “raising fears the country is inching nearer to a religious citizenship test,” and offered what seems like a passive-aggressive depiction of Trump’s defense of Modi’s leadership:
Asked about the protests during a press conference before his departure, Trump said he had raised the issue of religious freedom with Modi and that the prime minister was “incredible” on the subject.
“He wants people to have religious freedom,” said Trump, who shares much in common with Modi in both substance and style. The president himself proposed temporarily barring all Muslims from entering the U.S. during his 2016 campaign and successfully implemented a travel ban that targets travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries
NBC News soft-pedaled the controversy around “a new citizenship law which critics say is anti-Muslim” and also gave a similarly tame description for Trump and Modi’s similarities: “Trump faced accusations of bias against Muslims after banning visitors to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries in 2017.”
In comparison, The New York Times presented the conflict during Trump’s visit in much starker terms:
As the two leaders spoke to journalists, smoke was rising into the sky in a different part of New Delhi, where Hindu and Muslim mobs were battling each other in another day of violence over a new citizenship law, backed by Mr. Modi, which eases the way for migrants of all South Asian faiths other than Islam. The day before, at least seven people were killed in the fighting in the Maujpur district of Delhi, including a police officer.
The clashes are the latest example of sectarian tensions that have swelled in recent years as Mr. Modi pursues policies that his critics say are aimed at turning India’s secular democracy into a Hindu state, in which its 200 million Muslims are consigned to second-class status.
The Times also had an extensive article on the ongoing disturbances in New Delhi.