Ten people have been killed and more than 130 injured in some of the worst sectarian violence in India’s capital in years, as rioters went on the rampage in several parts of the city, setting fire to buildings and vehicles and attacking journalists.
The outbreak of violence coincided with the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, who held bilateral meetings with his Indian counterpart, right-wing Hindu Nationalist Narendra Modi, in Delhi on Tuesday.
Protests against a contentious citizenship law descended on Monday into violent anti-Muslim riots in New Delhi’s northeast, with rioters armed with stones, swords, and even guns out in force.
The new law has raised worries abroad – including in Washington – that Modi wants to remold secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalizing the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.
Unbelievable that India's capital is seeing violent anti-Muslim riots during the visit of a US president. What does it say about India's political stability, law and order capacity and governance during the Modi era? https://t.co/RG9e0eXN7u
— Iain Marlow (@iainmarlow) February 25, 2020
On social media, footage circulated of Hindu mobs attacking Muslims and vandalizing Muslim homes and religious sites.
In recent months, Modi’s government has struggled to put a lit on mass protests against his citizenship reforms – the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens – which may fear are designed to strip millions of Muslims of their Indian citizenship.
Police imposed a restriction on large gatherings in the area – on the northeastern fringe of the megacity – as the violence continued Tuesday with reports of stone-pelting and more structures set ablaze.
“I appeal to everyone to stop the violence. This madness has to stop,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital Tuesday where many of the injured were taken, told reporters, the Press Trust of India reported.
Nine civilians and one policeman have been killed so far, police said, adding that more than 90 civilians and almost 50 police officers were injured.
Delhi Police spokesman Mandeep Randhawa pleaded with locals “not to take the law in their own hands” and said authorities would crack down on troublemakers.
‘No-One Has Come’
Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital official Rajesh Kalra told AFP that 31 people, including 10 who were seriously hurt, were admitted earlier Tuesday.
An AFP reporter saw at least 10 injured people admitted to the hospital in half an hour, some claiming to have bullet wounds.
In this video from the violence in northeast Delhi’s Chand Bagh, a Muslim saint shrine appears to have been torched by locals.
Locals are carrying petrol bombs, shouting pro-Hindu slogans while setting the shrine on fire.
Tensed situation in capital pic.twitter.com/aMInUNOZRy
— Uzair Hasan Rizvi (@RizviUzair) February 24, 2020
“Since yesterday, we’ve been calling the police to enforce a curfew, to send reinforcements,” Saurabh Sharma, a student from a riot-hit area who took his injured friend to the hospital, told AFP.
“But no-one has come. There are only three policemen.”
Senior policeman Alok Kumar told AFP officers were still receiving reports of violence.
“The protesters are attacking police wherever they are present and clashing among each other where the police aren’t there,” Kumar said.
Broadcaster NDTV said three of its reporters and a cameraman were attacked by a mob on the northeastern fringe of the city of 20 million people.
“There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalizing shops,” a resident of the poor, migrant neighborhood of Maujpur told the Press Trust of India.
National Home Minister Amit Shah, whose ministry controls law and order in the capital region, met with senior Delhi government officials and promised to deploy more police if they were needed, Kejriwal said.
Trump said Tuesday after meetings with Modi that the riots were an internal matter for India.