Thirteen people have been killed and more than 150 injured in some of the worst sectarian violence in India’s capital in years, as rioters went on the rampage in several parts of the city, setting fire to buildings and vehicles and attacking journalists.
Protests against a contentious citizenship law descended on Monday into running battles in New Delhi’s northeast, with rioters armed with stones, swords and even guns out in force.
Police imposed a restriction on large gatherings in the area – on the northeastern fringe of the megacity – as the violence continued yesterday with reports of stone throwing and more structures set ablaze.
“I appeal to everyone to stop the violence. This madness has to stop,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who visited the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital yesterday where many of the injured were taken, told reporters.
Twelve civilians and one policeman have been killed so far, police said, adding that more than 100 civilians and almost 50 police officers were injured.
Delhi Police spokesman Mandeep Randhawa pleaded with locals “not to take the law in their own hands” and said authorities would crack down on troublemakers. Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital official Rajesh Kalra said that 31 people, including 10 who were seriously hurt, were admitted earlier yesterday.
Witnesses reported seeing at least 10 injured people being admitted to the hospital in half an hour, some claiming to have bullet wounds.
“Since yesterday, we’ve been calling the police to enforce a curfew, to send reinforcements,” Saurabh Sharma, a student from a riot-hit area who took his injured friend to the hospital, said.
“But no one has come. There are only three policemen.”
Senior policeman Alok Kumar said officers were still receiving reports of violence.
“The protesters are attacking police wherever they are present and clashing among each other where the police aren’t there,” Kumar said.
Television channels showed huge clouds of smoke billowing from a tyre market that had been set ablaze. Mobs wielding sticks and stones were seen walking down streets in parts of northeast Delhi and further incidents of stone-throwing.
A fire department official said his teams were responding to more than a dozen separate calls relating to arson incidents yesterday, as fresh protests flared around Delhi.
“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.
NDTV channel said three of its reporters and a cameraman were attacked by a mob on the northeastern fringe of the city.
“There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalising shops,” a resident of the poor, migrant neighbourhood of Maujpur said.
Schools in the northeast of the city were shut yesterday and at least five metro stations closed.
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.
The outbreak of violence coincided with the visit of US President Donald Trump, who held bilateral meetings with his Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi yesterday.
Federal Home Minister Amit Shah, whose ministry controls law and order in the capital region, met with senior Delhi government officials and promised to deploy more police if they were needed, Kejriwal said.
The new law – Citizenship Amendment Act – has raised worries abroad – including in Washington – that Modi wants to remould secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalising the country’s 200mn Muslims, a claim he denies.
Trump said yesterday after meetings with Modi that the riots were an internal matter for India.
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