Modi calls for calm as 22 die in Delhi Hindu-Muslim strife
New Delhi, Wednesday
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm on Wednesday after New Delhi’s worst sectarian violence in decades left at least 22 people dead and calls for a military curfew.
This week’s battles between Hindus and Muslims have seen mobs armed with swords, guns and acid raze parts of a northeastern district of the Indian capital.
The clashes, which also left almost 200 injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
They exploded into brutal violence on Monday and Tuesday, with residents forced to flee their homes after seeing dwellings destroyed, a mosque attacked and a tyre market and two schools set ablaze.
“I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important... calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest,” Modi tweeted on Wednesday.
Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, a political opponent, called for the army to be deployed and for a curfew to be imposed.
“Police, despite all its efforts, (are) unable to control situation and instil confidence,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Sunil Kumar, the director of the hospital where many of the wounded were taken, said almost 60 had gunshot injuries and that 16 new patients were admitted on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning residents cleaned out the blackened interior of a trashed mosque, including a charred Koran, burned out during the violence in the Ashok Nagar area.
A video circulated on social media and verified by AFP showed men ripping off the muezzin’s loudspeaker on top of the mosque’s minaret and installing a Hindu religious flag.
Indians by blood
Locals accused the police of doing nothing to help—or worse.
“We tried to make many calls to the police... that people are entering our neighbourhoods chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’,” said Naeem Malik, referring to a popular Hindu chant.
“But police did not help us at all. We tried to save the women at the protest site but instead policemen started beating us up,” he said, showing wounds on his leg and hands.
Elsewhere a firetruck tried to put out blazes from the previous night, the air thick with smoke from still-smouldering cars, motorbikes, shops and homes.
“They say we are not Indians, but we are Indians by blood,” Farhat, 22, a student in Islamic studies, said in her father’s shop as police looked on.
“There is no police in the streets at night, just during the day.”
The area is home to mostly poorer economic migrants from elsewhere in India living in shanty neighbourhoods, and some fled on Wednesday ahead of more expected clashes.
“It is better to leave than to stick around here. Why would we want to die here?,” a tailor told AFP as he prepared to return home to his village in northern India. -AFP