32 dead, over 250 injured as violence continues unabated
New Delhi, Feb 27 : New Delhi remained on the edge on Thursday with 32 dead and over 250 injured after four straight days of clashes over the citizenship law as the Indian capital has become a death ground for Muslims.
As the Indian capital saw the worst anti-Muslim violence in decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned to Twitter, saying: “I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times.”
Police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets in far greater numbers on Wednesday. Parts of the riot-hit areas were deserted. Modi’s appeal came after a barrage of criticism from opposition parties over the government’s failure to control the violence, despite the use of tear gas, pellets, and smoke grenades.
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital.
On the other hand, Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor, who was tasked to restore normalcy amid violence in Delhi, again visited the Jafrabad neighbourhood on Wednesday evening to check up on security and speak with the people there.
Jafrabad is one of the worst-hit localities of New Delhi, a city that has been marred by violence for the past four days and has left at least 32 people dead and over 250 wounded during the anti-Muslim riots. In the same area, a girl stopped Doval and told him that she was a student. “We can’t sleep at night, we are not fighting, I can’t go to study,” she said.
“You don’t have to worry. This is the responsibility of government and the police. I give you my word,” the NSA told her.
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, mobs were seen wielding sticks and pipes walking down streets in parts of northeast Delhi 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. There were also reports that properties of Muslims were damaged in the riots and the Indian government also clamped down on the media in ‘national interest’ over reporting facts.
Earlier in the day, 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”.
The United Nations (UN) had on Tuesday expressed concern over the deadly anti-Muslim clashes, saying it was “obviously following the situation closely”.
During a briefing at the UN’s New York headquarters, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, had underscored the need for Indian security forces to show restraint and to allow the protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
“This is the secretary-general’s constant position,” Dujarric had added. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the international community about the Nazi-inspired ideology that seems to have taken over nuclear-armed India, and urged the world to act before it is too late to prevent bloodshed.
In his message on the rapidly deteriorating situation in New Delhi, posted on the social networking platform Twitter, PM Imran said that the 200-million strong Muslim minority was being targeted in India. He warned that the bloodshed would get worse if nothing was done.
“Today, in India, we are seeing the Nazi-inspired RSS ideology take over a nuclear-armed state of over a billion people. Whenever a racist ideology based on hatred takes over, it leads to bloodshed,” he wrote on Twitter.
“As I had predicted in my address to the United Nations General Assembly last year, once the genie is out of the bottle, the bloodshed will get worse. Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir was the beginning: now 200 million Muslims in India are being targeted. The world community must act now,” he urged.
He also issued a stark warning to anyone hoping to incite similar unrest in Pakistan. “I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of this country,” he added.
Earlier, President Arif Alvi had condemned the violence in New Delhi and said that secular forces within India should rise against barbaric actions, like the vandalising of a mosque. In a post on Twitter, Alvi shared a video of a Hindu supremacist mob climbing on a minaret of a mosque and said that the visuals were a reminder to Muslims of the Babri Masjid episode.
“Another update of the disgraceful act. Vandalising a mosque! It seems to be a reminder to Muslims of the Babri Masjid episode. I think secular forces within India should rise against such barbaric actions,” he said.