World, Asia - Pacific

India: At least 24 die in Delhi communal riots

Many Muslim families living in riot-affected areas leave neighborhood, witnesses say

Shuriah Niazi   | 26.02.2020
India: At least 24 die in Delhi communal riots

NEW DELHI

The death toll in the Indian capital New Delhi from the recent violence rose to 24, officials said Wednesday. 

More than 150 people were also injured in the deadliest violence New Delhi has seen in years, the officials at the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Hospital told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

The clashes, which broke out in North East Delhi on Sunday between protesters for and against a controversial citizenship law, surged after an inflammatory speech by Kapil Mishra, a politician from the country's ruling party.

He had given the police an ultimatum to clear those protesting the citizenship law or face consequences.

Soon after, a group of protesters supporting the law -- flanked by police officers -- entered the protest site. A video on social media showed men chanting “Jai Shree Ram,” or “Hail Lord Ram,” a slogan synonymous with right-wing Hindus, before starting throwing stones.

Over the next two days, rioters in the district set fire to homes, shops, buses, motorcycles, and also beat unarmed men with sticks, iron rods and stones.

In another video that has gone viral, one member of a Hindu mob is seen scaling the minaret of a mosque in Ashok Nakar neighborhood and placing a Hindu religious flag on top.


Muslim residents leave

Many Muslim families living in riot-affected areas have since left the neighborhood, fearing further clashes, witnesses said.

“They attacked mosques and looted shops. Police were a silent spectator during this time,” a Muslim resident told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity. “Many people have left the area and taken refuge elsewhere fearing that they could be targeted again."

He said he suspected that false cases will be registered against Muslim youth.


Reaction

To prevent further violence, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called on the central government to deploy army in the city. Law enforcers in Delhi are accountable to the central government.

Indian premier Narendra Modi said he had an "extensive review" of the ground situation.

"Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy,” he said on Twitter.

Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah over the deadly violence.

The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, directed police to take a "conscious decision" on registering cases against political leaders alleged to have made hate speeches that led to the violence.

The new legislation -- Citizen Amendment Act -- grants citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities escaping persecution in three neighboring countries -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Critics see the law as unconstitutional and discriminating against Muslims.


US issues security advisory

The U.S. Embassy in India also issued a security advisory for its citizens in India, urging them to "exercise caution in light of violent demonstrations in Northeast Delhi and avoid all areas with demonstrations."

The embassy also advised the U.S. citizens to "avoid locations where heavy traffic or road closures or protests are expected."

"It is important that you monitor local media outlets for updates on demonstrations, road and Metro closures, and possible curfews. The Government of India-imposed law that prohibits political gatherings of four or more people – known as Section 144 -- remains in effect in certain areas," it added.


* Cheena Kapoor form New Delhi and Ahmad Adil from Chandigarh, India contributed to this story.

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