Violence in New Delhi: Death toll rises to 27 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:24 AM, February 27, 2020

Violence in New Delhi: Death toll rises to 27

More than 200 injured; no major clashes reported amid heavy security; 106 arrested

Tension continued to simmer in and around northeast Delhi for the fourth consecutive day despite calls for calm as the death toll in the clashes over a controversial citizenship law rose to 27.

Though new incidents of violence were reported yesterday evening, increased presence of police and paramilitary forces prevented those from descending into chaos.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday called for calm.

"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.

Modi's appeal 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.

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 the Citizenship Amendment Act 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, shops and schools set ablaze.

Meanwhile, expressing serious concerns, the Delhi High Court yesterday passed a series of orders with regards to the violence and said it will not allow the situation to deteriorate any further, reported Indian media.

The court also expressed "anguish" over Delhi Police's failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders in connection with the CAA-related violence and asked the police commissioner to take a "conscious decision" on it by today.

Earlier, in an emergency midnight hearing Tuesday, the High Court had asked the police to ensure safe passage and emergency treatment for those injured in northeast Delhi violence since the last three days.

Earlier in the day, Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal called for the army to be deployed and for a curfew to be imposed. He later visited the violence-hit areas.

Delhi Police spokesman Mandeep Singh Randhawa told reporters 106 people had been arrested and police were scouring CCTV footage to look for the perpetrators of the violence.

UN chief Antonio Guterres also asked for calm, stressing that demonstrators should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully and security forces should show restraint. His spokesperson said the UN head is following the situation closely.

Sunil Kumar, the director of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital where many of the wounded were taken, yesterday told AFP that around 60 injured people had gunshot injuries and that 16 new patients were admitted yesterday.

Twenty-two people died at GTB, while another two passed away at Lok Nayak Hospital yesterday, medical superintendent Kishore Singh told AFP.

Three more were reported later in the night.

Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram described the violence in Delhi as a colossal failure of Delhi Police.

And locals accused the police of doing nothing to help -- or worse.

"We tried to make many calls to the police ...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," Naeem Malik, a local, said yesterday about the violence on Monday and Tuesday, 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, 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 yesterday fearing more clashes at the night.

The unrest comes amid growing concerns at home and abroad about India's direction and the future of its 200 million Muslims since Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP swept to a second term last year.

Since winning a second term, Modi's government has revoked the partial autonomy of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, and said it wants to conduct a nationwide citizens' register to weed out "infiltrators".

Together with the citizenship law, which fast-tracks claims for persecuted non-Muslim religious immigrants, this has stoked fears that Modi's master plan is to remould India as a Hindu nation, something he denies.

The citizenship law has sparked months of nationwide protests as well as clashes that killed more than 25 people in December.

The latest flare-up in violence occurred as US President Donald Trump held talks with Modi in Delhi on Tuesday. The visit was not visibly interrupted.

Indian government sources have said the violence appears to have been "orchestrated", as it came at a time when Trump was visiting the country.

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