An outbreak of violence between Hindus and Muslims in New Delhi has left at least 20 dead and more than 400 injured since Sunday. These conflagrations in the capital follow a controversial citizenship law.
“It is important that calm and normalcy be restored as soon as possible,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist party, said on Wednesday (February 26th) after violence between Hindus and Muslims. that left 20 people dead and nearly 400 injured in New Delhi. And to continue, “I call on my sisters and brothers in Delhi to maintain peace and fraternity at all times.”
It has been one of the worst fires in the Indian capital for decades. Shops set on fire, Hindu flag hoisted on a mosque, Quran burned: rioters armed with stones, sabers and sometimes pistols, have been wreaking havoc and terror since Sunday in peripheral Muslim-majority areas in the northeast of the megalopolis, about ten kilometers from the center.
“Long live the god Ram”
In multiple incidents reported by the Indian press, Hindu armed groups have attacked places and people identified as Muslim. Concordant testimonies mention gangs shouting “Jai Shri Ram” (“Long live the god Ram”).
Clashes between supporters and opponents of controversial citizenship law deemed discriminatory against Muslims by its detractors have degenerated into community clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
The situation on the ground was tense on Wednesday, but no violence was reported in the early afternoon. Indian authorities have deployed large numbers of police in riot gear.
The police asked residents to barricade their homes, AFP journalists found. Firemen sprayed water stalls burned the previous night with their water lance.
Concerned about the “alarming situation”, Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, called on Twitter the government of Narendra Modi to put in place a curfew in the area and deploy the army.
“Despite their efforts, the police (are) unable to control the situation and inspire confidence,” said the head of the local executive. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the central government in Delhi, a territory with special status.
A Hindu flag, representing the monkey god Hanuman, was flown Wednesday morning atop a vandalized neighborhood mosque, an AFP team saw. Videos made the day before and circulating on social networks, whose AFP verified the authenticity, showmen climbing to the minaret to tear the loudspeaker there and hang the flag, under the cheers.
The outbreak of violence erupted during US President Donald Trump’s state visit to India, which ended on Tuesday with talks with Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
The strongman of India has been facing since December a vast movement of protest against new legislation which facilitates the granting of Indian citizenship to refugees, provided that they are not Muslims.
This text crystallized the fears of the Muslim minority to be relegated to the rank of second class citizens, in this nation where Hindus represent 80% of the population. The law has sparked the biggest protests in the South Asian country since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.