Delhi violence death toll reaches 38

Agence France-Presse . New Delhi | Published: 00:39, Feb 28,2020


People look out near a burnt-out and damaged shop at the riot-hit area following clashes between people supporting and opposing a contentious amendment to India’s citizenship law, in New Delhi on Thursday. — AFP photo

Sporadic violence hit parts of Delhi overnight as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of unrest that have killed 38 people, police said Thursday, reports The Hindu.

Four days after clashes that began in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and spiralled into bloodshed, arson and looting, the body of a man was found in a drain in Johri Enclave and there were scattered incidents of vehicles and shops being set on fire in Maujpur, Bhajanpura and other areas.

Thousands of riot police and paramilitaries patrolled the affected northeast fringes of the Indian capital of 20 million people, preventing  any major eruptions however.

The unrest is the latest bout of violence over prime minister Narendra Modi’s citizenship law, which triggered months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.

Sunil Kumar, director of the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, said Thursday the hospital registered 30 deaths while the chief doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital said three people had died there.

‘All of them (at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital) had gunshot injuries,’ Kumar said.

Kishore Singh, medical superintendent Lok Nayak Hospital, said that 10 people were still in a serious condition there.

The new fatalities — up from 27 on Wednesday — were all from the violence on Monday and Tuesday when mobs of Hindus and Muslims fought running battles.

The initial violence erupted late Sunday.

Groups armed with swords and guns set fire to thousands of properties and vehicles.

Homes, shops, two mosques, two schools, a tyre market and a fuel station were torched.

More than 200 people were also injured.

According to a list from the GTB hospital seen by AFP, the victims are a roughly even mix of Hindus and Muslims, based on their names.

Delhi police spokesman Mandeep Randhawa said that there was ‘no major incident’ overnight, while the city’s chief fire officer Atul Garg said they received 19 distress calls.

‘In last three days 230 calls were received by the department from the region that included major incidents of arson,’ Garg said.

Meanwhile, a Congress delegation led by party president Sonia Gandhi met president Ram Nath Kovind to submit a memorandum on the situation prevailing in the national capital.

Speaking to reporters, Sonia said, ‘We call upon you (President) to ensure that life, liberty, & property of citizens are preserved. We also reiterate that you should immediately call for the removal of the home minister for his inability to contain violence.’

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said violence on the national capital is a matter of great concern and a matter of national shame. ‘It is a reflection on total failure of Central government,’ he said.

In December at least 30 people were killed, mostly in police action in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to a significant Muslim population, after the citizenship law was passed.

Many of India’s 200 million Muslims fear the citizenship law — combined with a mooted citizens’ register — will leave them stateless or even sent to detention camps.

They and critics see Modi’s right-wing ruling party, which is linked to once-banned militaristic Hindu group RSS, as wanting to turn officially secular India into a Hindu nation.

His party has denied the allegations but in recent weeks BJP politicians, including in an ugly recent campaign for Delhi elections, have called the demonstrators ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘jihadists’.

On Wednesday a Delhi High Court judge, Justice S Muralidhar, sharply criticised the police and called on them to investigate BJP politicians for inciting violence.

Muralidhar was transferred to another state court in a late-night order, prompting a social media storm. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad insisted it was a ‘routine transfer’.

On Wednesday the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises Washington but does not set policy, voiced ‘grave concern’ about the violence as president Donald Trump was visiting.

Anurima Bhargava, a commissioner appointed by Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi, also expressed alarm at reports that Delhi police ‘have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims.’

Trump, asked at a news conference in the capital about the violence, said the issue was ‘up to India’ and praised Modi’s ‘incredible’ statements on religious freedom.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out against ‘massacres’ of Muslims in India.

‘India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus,’ Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week between mobs of Hindus and Muslims over a citizenship law.

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