Mosque in Indian capital set ablaze as police accused of helping Hindu mob target Muslims and their properties.
The death toll in the worst religious violence to hit India’s capital in decades has risen to at least 25, according to a health official.
The violence was triggered after Muslims protesting against a discriminatory citizenship law were attacked.
Over 200 people have been injured during four days of violence in Muslim-populated areas of northeast Delhi, with police accused of looking the other way as a mob on Sunday went on the rampage, killing people and damaging properties, including mosques.
|What sparked the violence?|
The violence was triggered after weeks-long peaceful sit-ins in New Delhi against a new citizenship law were attacked by Hindu nationalist mobs.
Muslims, India’s largest minority, say the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last December discriminates against them and goes against the country’s secular ethos.
Parts of the capital descended into violence on Sunday after a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader warned Muslims against continuing with sit-ins.
Over the next days, northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar, Seelampur, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Vijay Park, Jafrabad, Chandbagh, Mustafabad and Yamuna Vihar witnessed pitched battles between Hindus and Muslims.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hosted US President Donald Trump as the violence continued, has been criticised for not acting on time.
On Tuesday night, civil society members carried out a solidarity march against the violence.
Here are the latest updates:
The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said he was “deeply troubled” in over the deaths in connection with the communal violence taking place in the Indian capital.
“Deeply troubled by the deaths from the communal violence in India over the past couple of days. The right to protest is a key aspect of democracy, but they must remain peaceful and police must ensure the safety of all,” he said.
The United States embassy in India sent out a security alert advising its citizens to take caution amid the violence taking place in north-east parts of Delhi.
“US citizens in India should exercise caution in light of violent demonstrations in Northeast Delhi and avoid all areas with demonstrations,” the statement said.
At least 25 people have now been killed in the violence, according to a health official cited by local media outlet Asian News International news agency.
The death toll was given by Sunil Kumar, the medical superintendent of Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, where many of the victims have been brought for treatment.
Modi has finally broken his silence on the Delhi violence, saying “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. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest,” he tweeted.
Patients on stretchers crammed the emergency room, while relatives of the dead wailed outside a morgue as injured people continued to pour into a public hospital.
Rahul Solanki, a 26-year-old Hindu, died from a gunshot wound, according to his family. His younger brother, Rohit Solanki, said he was shot walking to a shop to buy milk.
The corridors of the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital at New Delhi’s eastern border are often crowded, but on Wednesday hundreds thronged its wards as doctors worked through the night to treat injuries.
Many people living in mixed neighbourhoods, both Hindus and Muslims, have moved out in the wake of the violence.
This is from Mustafabad, Delhi.
Muslim residents are leaving the area with their belongings.
— Md Asif Khan (@imMAK02) February 26, 2020
Twitter user Md Asif Khan posted a video from @imMAK02 handle that appeared to show people leaving Mustafabad area of Delhi with their belongings.
Victims of arson have accused the Delhi Police of abetting the Hindu mob during the violence.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the violence in Delhi, saying “whenever a racist ideology based on hatred takes over, it leads to bloodshed.”
“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.”
Riot police patrolled the streets of India’s capital on Wednesday and the city’s leader called for a curfew.
Muslim settlements in a slum in Ganga Vihar, Gokulpuri has been scorched. The Hindus — whose settlements were spared — told us that men chanting 'Jai Shri Ram' came around 9:30 pm and set fire to the Muslim households.
— Ayush Tiwari (@sighyush) February 25, 2020
Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, called on Wednesday for the army to be deployed and for a curfew to be imposed over flashpoint northeastern districts.
“Army [should] be called in and curfew imposed.”
On Wednesday morning, AFP saw people cleaning out the blackened and trashed interior of a mosque in the Ashok Nagar area burned out during the violence.
A video circulated on social media and verified by AFP showed men ripping off the mosque’s loudspeaker on top of the mosque’s minaret and placing a Hindu religious flag and an Indian flag.
The new citizenship law has raised worries abroad that Modi wants to remould secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalising the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.
The Delhi High Court has asked leaders to reach out to victims of violence.
“We cannot have another 1984 under the watch of this court and under the watch of all of you,” Justice S Murlidhar said referring to the last major violence in 1984 when nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed.
The clashes between Hindu mobs and Muslims protesting against the citizenship law escalated on Tuesday, according to Rouf Khan, 43, a resident of Mustafabad.
Khan said the 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”.
“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,” said Khan who took shelter inside a mosque.
The violence has forced authorities to close schools and place a ban on assembly of people in the affected areas.
The leader of the main opposition Congress party has sought resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah for failing to control the deadly violence.
— NDTV (@ndtv) February 26, 2020
“What was the Home Minister doing since last week? What was the Home Minister doing earlier this week?” Sonia Gandhi, the president of Congress party, said at a news conference in New Delhi.
“The central government, including the Home Minister, responsible. The Congress party demands that he resign immediately.”
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) February 26, 2020
The violence-affected areas remain tense. On Wednesday, the body of an Intelligence Bureau officer, Ankit Sharma, was recovered from a drain.
Hindus and Muslims collecting burnt pages of the Quran outside the mosque that was vandalised in Delhi yesterday https://t.co/gD0RYfWj2D
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 26, 2020
Sharma was allegedly attacked by a mob on the Chand Bagh bridge and beaten to death, according to Indian media reports.