Fresh violence erupts in Indian capital during anti-CAA protests

Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the law in Jaffrabad clash for second day as Trump kicked off his India trip.

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB People supporting the new citizenship law beat a Muslim man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi, India, February 24, 2020. R
People supporting the new citizenship law beat a Muslim man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

New Delhi, India – At least three civilians and a police officer have been killed in violence in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on the day US President Donald Trump kicked off his two-day trip.

Nearly 50 people, including 37 police officials, have been injured after supporters and opponents of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) clashed on Sunday and Monday in the northeastern part of Delhi after alleged provocation by a local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kapil Mishra, who led a rally in support of the new citizenship law.

A tyre market was set on fire later on Monday, the Press Trust of India said. One video posted on social media showed crowds of men shouting “Jai Shree Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram”, a revered Hindu deity, as they went on a rampage, according to the AFP.

Several vehicles and a fire truck were torched in Jaffrabad and Maujpur in the northeastern parts of the capital as police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.

In a video posted by Mishra on Twitter, he was heard issuing an ultimatum to police to remove anti-CAA sit-ins in the area where hundreds of protesters, mostly women, blocked a road and demanded the revocation of the law, which critics say goes against India’s secular constitution.

In the video, Mishra said they would be quiet while the US president was in the country.

“Giving a three-day ultimatum to Delhi police to clear the roads in Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh of protesters. Don’t try to reason with us after this,” Mishra can be heard saying in Hindi in the video. He added that if the roads were not cleared, “we will be forced to hit the streets”.

“Hundreds of women have been peacefully protesting against the CAA since Saturday night near the Jaffrabad Metro station. But on Sunday, after Mishra led the rally, his supporters pelted us with stones leading to clashes,” Zohran, a Jaffrabad resident, told Al Jazeera.

He said his uncle was also beaten up by an angry mob as he was returning home from a religious gathering which had nothing to do with the protests.

“What we saw today is the result of Mishra’s comments,” Zohran added.

“The BJP leaders are trying to give the protests a Hindu-Muslim colour. They incite people in the name of religion which is very unfortunate.”

Delhi police said some incidents of “violence and arson” were reported and they “appealed to the people of Delhi and particularly to the North East District to maintain peace and harmony”.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah called an urgent meeting of top officials of Delhi over the violence in Jaffrabad.

“Yesterday, BJP supporters came to Jaffrabad and incited people. Police officials were there but they did nothing,” Nadeem Khan, a Delhi-based activist, told Al Jazeera from Jaffrabad.

“Members of various right-wing organisations, brought from various places, threw stones on houses and beat up the locals. It’s clearly an organised, preplanned attack,” he added.

Activist Harsh Mander said he was “very fearful that the state will now try to crush the dissent, the spontaneous non-violent uprising across the country, with extreme use of force”.

“They make it into a Hindu-Muslim issue, spread lies and propaganda but that hasn’t worked for them this time,” Mander said before adding that “it’s clear that they [BJP] will create hatred and incite violence in order to crush the anti-CAA movement”.

Opposition Congress party spokesman Sanjay Jha termed the situation in the capital as “extremely distressing”.

“It’s disturbing that violence has escalated into a full-fledged riot with police forces unable to control mob fury. The death of a police constable manifests the gravity of the madness on the streets of Delhi. Provocative inflammatory speeches from leaders of the ruling dispensation are responsible for encouraging thugs, with police often a mere bystander,” said Jha.

BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli said the violence in the capital city was “highly condemnable”.

“The culprits must be identified, strictest action should be taken against them. There is after all the death of a police officer and 37 police officials have been injured.

“This is making a mockery of what is supposed to be peaceful protest.”

Source: Al Jazeera