At least 20 people have been killed during days of violence in the Indian capital Delhi, where groups of Hindus have been clashing with Muslims protesting a controversial new citizenship law.
Black smoke rose into the sky over northeastern New Delhi on Tuesday after Hindu protesters set fruit and vegetable shops and a Muslim shrine on fire, witnesses said.
India has seen growing unrest since the approval of a new law in December, which opponents say fast-tracks citizenship for foreign-born religious minorities of all major faiths in South Asia except Islam.
The new figure of 20 dead comes from hospital authorities. Earlier Sunil Kumar, medical director of the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, said at least 18 people had been killed since Monday, while police said at least 186 people had been injured.
US president Donald Trump, who left the country late on Tuesday following his state visit, told reporters he had heard about the violence but had not discussed it with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
Instead, Trump gloated about a mega-rally Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led government organised for him in Modi’s home state of Gujarat that drew an estimated 125,000 people.
Muslim community targeted
Rouf Khan, 43, a resident of Mustafabad, an area in northeast New Delhi, said Hindu mobs were wielding iron rods, bricks and bamboo sticks and attacked the homes of Muslims amid chants of “Jai Shri Ram,” or “Victory to Lord Ram,” the popular Hindu god of the religious epic “Ramayana.”
“After forcing inside the homes, they went on a rampage and started beating people and breaking household items,” he said, adding that he and his family had to run out of fear and take shelter inside a nearby mosque that he said was guarded by thousands of Muslim men.
“I don’t know if our house was burned or not, but when we were running away we heard them asking people to pour kerosene and burn everything down,” Khan said.
Authorities shut schools in the violence-hit areas.
Television images showed streets littered with mangled remains of vehicles, rocks and burned tyres in the worst-hit areas of Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Maujpur, Kardampuri and Jaffrabad, which witnesses pitched battles between the rival groups who also hurled gasoline bombs and opened fire with guns on Monday and Tuesday.
In other areas of northeastern New Delhi, people defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people, throwing stones and setting several shops and vehicles on fire, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details.
Police characterised the situation as tense but under control. Police and paramilitary forces sent reinforcements to quell the clashes.