By Devjyot Ghoshal and Manoj Kumar | Reuters
NEW DELHI, India, 25 February 2020
At least seven people have been killed and around 150 injured in clashes between opposing groups in New Delhi, a police official told Reuters on Tuesday, as riots in parts of the city overshadowed US President Donald Trump’s first visit to India.
The clashes, the worst in the capital since protests against a new citizenship law started more than two months ago, began over the weekend, but turned deadly on Monday. Fresh violence erupted in multiple parts of northeast Delhi on Tuesday, just miles away from where Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for talks.
“Seven persons, including one head constable of Delhi police, have died,” said Anil Mittal, a police officer, adding that around 150 people were injured in Monday’s violence.
A fire department official told Reuters that his teams were responding to more than a dozen separate calls relating to arson incidents on Tuesday, as fresh protests were held in the city.
“We have sought police protection as our vehicles are being blocked from entering the affected areas. The situation is very grim,” said Delhi Fire Department Director Atul Garg.
He said the violence had not diminished since Monday despite authorities imposing an emergency law prohibiting any gatherings in the violence-hit areas.
One fire department vehicle was torched by protesters on Monday and a small number of firemen had been injured, he added.
Local television channel images showed huge clouds of smoke billowing from a tyre market that was set alight, and mobs wielding sticks and stones were seen walking down the streets in parts of northeast Delhi amid fresh reports of stone-pelting.
“There is a flow of injured people still coming in. There are casualties,” said Dr Rajesh Kalra, the additional medical superintendent at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in New Delhi.
“There are all kinds of injuries — many pellet injuries and some from sharp weapons, too,” said Kalra, adding that some of the injured brought in on Monday had gunshot wounds.
Schools shut, Transit impacted
On Monday, police had used tear gas and smoke grenades, but struggled to disperse the stone-throwing crowds that tore down metal barricades and set vehicles and a petrol pump alight.
At a press conference early on Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed for people to maintain peace.
“Whatever problems people have can be resolved peacefully,” he said. “Violence will not help find a solution.”
Schools in the northeast of the city were shut on Tuesday and at least five metro stations in the city were closed.
A Reuters witness in the area saw paramilitary troops armed with assault rifles patrolling streets that were strewn with rocks and shards of glass.
An announcement over a mosque loudspeaker urged protesters to stay non-violent and not attempt to cross police barricades.
“We don’t have a problem with the police, we are against the government’s law,” the male announcer said.
India’s capital has been a hotbed of protests against the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes it easier for non-Muslims from three neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
The CAA has sparked accusations that Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are undermining India’s secular traditions. The BJP denies any bias against India’s more than 180 million-strong Muslim minority, but objectors have been holding protests and camping out in parts of New Delhi for two months.
The violence that erupted on Monday came as Trump was praising India as a tolerant country.
“India is a country that proudly embraces freedom, liberty, individual rights, the rule of law, and the dignity of every human being,” Trump said while addressing a rally of more than 100,000 people in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. “Your unity is an inspiration to the world.”