13 killed in violent clashes in Delhi amid Trump's visit

Above: A widely shared photo of a bloodied man on the ground surrounded by attackers in New Delhi on Monday. Left: Men pelting stones and starting fires during clashes in eastern Delhi between groups for and against India's Citizenship Amendment Act.
Above: A widely shared photo of a bloodied man on the ground surrounded by attackers in New Delhi on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Schools, businesses forced to close after protests break out over citizenship law

At least 13 people, including a cop, have been killed in India's capital city Delhi since Monday, in a worrying outbreak of communal violence between those protesting against a controversial citizenship law and groups which oppose them.

The violence, marked by arson and stone pelting, continued yesterday, less than 20km from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump were holding talks.

Even journalists reporting on the spot were attacked and forced to delete pictures and footage.

More than 100 people have been injured, according to media reports, including many who suffered gunshot wounds.

Many of those injured include policemen.

Schools were ordered shut yesterday in north-east Delhi and businesses remained mostly closed in neighbourhoods where the clashes occurred.

Several parts of the country have witnessed demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which came into law in December expediting citizenship for non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The law has been criticised for introducing religion as a factor to determine citizenship, and has prompted concerns that Muslims declared as aliens under a proposed National Register of Citizens will not receive amnesty offered to other groups under the CAA.

Violence broke out in some Muslim-majority areas in north-east Delhi on Sunday.

This followed a move by around 200 women who began a sit-in demonstration in the Jaffrabad neighbourhood last Saturday night, blocking a key road.

It drew attention from a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Mr Kapil Mishra, who held a rally nearby against the demonstration and asked the Delhi police to have the spot cleared, failing which, he said, he and his supporters would intervene.

 Men pelting stones and starting fires during clashes in eastern Delhi between groups for and against India's Citizenship Amendment Act.
Men pelting stones and starting fires during clashes in eastern Delhi between groups for and against India's Citizenship Amendment Act. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Residents from and around Jaffrabad, a Muslim-dominated locality, told The Straits Times that the violence began soon after. They added that Muslims in nearby neighbourhoods were being targeted by Hindu mobs, many of them outsiders.

Several business establishments, including a tyre market with mostly Muslim sellers, were also attacked. Vehicles and homes were torched and at least one Muslim shrine was set on fire.

Witnesses said Delhi police, who were outnumbered, did little to stop the violence, mostly standing by while groups pelted each other with stones, and vandalised vehicles and property.

 
 
 
 

A Reuters report said the police stood by as a mob vandalised a store with a Muslim name, pulling out vehicles and setting them alight.

"Go ahead and throw stones," one policeman shouted to protesters backing the CAA.

The capital's police force reports directly to the federal government, led by the BJP.

Delhi Commissioner of Police Amulya Patnaik has, however, denied reports of inadequate police deployment.

Media reports in India also said the federal government had ruled out calling the Indian military to help control the violence, arguing that adequate security personnel were on the ground.

More than 6,000 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed along the stretch in Delhi. The police resorted to using tear gas shells to control the clashes yesterday.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited some of those injured and currently undergoing treatment at two hospitals yesterday evening.

"Hindus, Muslims, policemen - none have escaped unhurt... This madness must end immediately," he tweeted soon after.

A media statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs also quoted Home Minister Amit Shah as saying that the borders of Delhi with the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have been put under surveillance.

He also called for a re-activation of local peace committees comprising representatives of all sections of society.

A widely shared Reuters photo on Monday captured a bloodied man on the ground surrounded by attackers, and social media footage showed groups chanting "Jai Shri Ram" (a Hindu religious slogan) and attacking Muslim neighbourhoods.

Locals, who did not wish to be named, told The Straits Times they had locked themselves inside their homes, fearing further attacks.

Demonstrations against the CAA have so far been mostly peaceful and largely led by Muslims with support from many Hindus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2020, with the headline '13 killed in violent clashes in Delhi amid Trump's visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe