Modi appeals for calm; UN Secretary General expresses concern; Congress seeks Amit Shah's resignation; 106 arrested for Delhi violence; Delhi HC issues directions to help city’s riot victims
The death toll from violence over the citizenship law in different parts of Indian capital rose to 27 on Wednesday with Delhi police issuing shoot at sight orders in parts of the district last evening.
More than 250 people including a child were also injured as armed mobs continued to rampage, loot and burn buildings, through parts of northeast Delhi forcing the authorities to close all educational institutions and postponed board examinations for the day.
After days of clashes between Hindus and minority Muslims over a controversial citizenship law in some of the worst sectarian violence in the Indian capital in decades, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally appealed for calm on Wednesday.
The appeal from Modi, who was busy playing host to visiting US President Dinald Trump, came after a storm of criticism from opposition parties of the government's failure to control the violence, despite the use of tear gas, pellets and smoke grenades.
Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the clashes, PTI reported.
Nine of the 27 dead at Delhi’s Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital died of gunshot injuries, one died of burn injuries, three were stab victims, five people died of injuries due to blunt objects and the other three were “mixed” injuries, the hospital administration said. Besides this, two have died at Lok Nayak Hospital in New Delhi.
Police have arrested 106 people for their alleged involvement in the violence and registered 18 FIRs, a senior police officer told Indian newspaper The Hindu.
Modi’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval reviewed the situation in northeast Delhi and claimed the situation was “totally under control,” according to NDTV.
“People are satisfied,” he added. “I have confidence in law enforcement agencies. Police is doing its work.”
Police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets in far greater numbers. Parts of the riot-hit areas were deserted.
"Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times," Modi said in a tweet.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a daily press briefing: “I think it’s very important that demonstrators be allowed to demonstrate peacefully and that security forces show restraint. This is the secretary general’s constant position.”
Asked if the United Nations was monitoring the situation, Dujarric said: “Yes, we’re obviously following it closely.”
The violence erupted between thousands demonstrating for and against the new citizenship law introduced by Modi's Hindu nationalist government.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India's secular constitution. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has denied it has any bias against India's more than 180 million Muslims.
Reuters witnesses saw mobs wielding sticks and pipes walking down streets in parts of northeast Delhi on Tuesday, amid arson attacks and looting. Thick clouds of black smoke billowed from a tyre market that was set ablaze.
Many of the wounded had suffered gunshot injuries, hospital officials said. At least two mosques in northeast Delhi were set on fire.
The Delhi High Court in a midnight hearing ordered the Delhi Police to ensure safe passage of about 22 riot victims stuck in a “fairly small” hospital in northeast Delhi to a government hospital with better facilities, reports The Hindu.
Journalists attacked, one serious
A journalist with JK 24X7 News received a bullet injury and two reporters from broadcaster NDTV were beaten and punched by rioters in northeast Delhi.
The journalist sustained a bullet injury while covering the communal clashes in Maujpur locality and is in hospital where his condition is serious, said a tweet from JK 24X7 channel.
NDTV said its journalist Arvind Gunasekar was hit by rioters while he was at one of the spots in northeast Delhi and lost a tooth. His fellow reporter, Saurabh, who tried to shield him, was punched, it said.
Many other journalists took to social media to share tales of how they were heckled and some alleged they were questioned about their religious identity.
Another policeman found dead
An Indian Intelligence Bureau officer was found dead in Delhi on Wednesday morning, NDTV reports.
The officer, who was under training as a driver in the Intelligence Bureau, was found dead in the Chand Bagh area of Delhi, which is among the several regions of Indian capital that have been rocked by violence in the last few days.
Lawyers who went to a police station to get an anti-CAA protestor released were allegedly beaten up by police personnel.
“We were waiting for people detained from the Khureji protest...when a cop started recording and taking pictures,” Indian Civil Liberties Union firm’s Anas Tanwir told Scroll.in. “When we objected, a senior officer stepped in. We were soon ghearoed and lathicharged. Male police officials roughed up female lawyers.”
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a tweet that it was alarmed by the violence and it urged the Indian government "to rein in mobs and protect religious minorities and others who have been targeted."