Sporadic violence in Delhi overnight as death toll hits 32

Congress Party workers shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest in Amritsar on Feb 26, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Sporadic violence hit parts of Delhi overnight as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of sectarian riots that have killed 32 people, police said on Thursday (Feb 27).

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

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.

Dr Sunil Kumar, director of the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, said on Thursday the hospital registered 30 deaths, while the chief doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital said that two people had died there.

"All of them (at the GTB) had gunshot injuries," Dr Kumar told AFP.

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.

Homes, shops, two mosques, two schools, a tyre market and a fuel station were torched. More than 200 people were also injured.

"No major incident of violence was reported from anywhere in the affected areas" overnight Wednesday to Thursday, Mr Mandeep Randhawa, Delhi police spokesman, told AFP.

"Some distress calls were made and the force provided immediate assistance," he said.

The initial violence erupted late on Sunday after Hindu groups objected to Muslims holding a street demonstration over the citizenship law.

Mobs armed with swords and guns set fire to thousands of properties and vehicles. Locals complained that police did nothing to stop the violence.

In December, at least 30 people were killed, mostly in police action in northern Uttar Pradesh state, a part of the country with a significant Muslim population.

Many Muslims believe the citizenship law in combination of a mooted citizens' register will leave them stateless, and is part of a plan by Mr Modi's right-wing ruling party to turn officially secular India into a Hindu nation.

His party has denied the allegations but in recent weeks, members have called protesters "anti-nationals", with some calling for them to be jailed or even shot dead.

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