Tension is running high in India over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial citizenship law.
At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in violence across the Indian capital New Delhi that started on Sunday, according to hospital officials and local media outlets.
Police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets in far greater numbers on Wednesday, and swathes of the riot-hit areas were deserted.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm on Wednesday after Delhi’s worst sectarian violence in decades prompted demands for a military curfew.
Modi’s appeal came after criticism from opposition parties over the government’s failure to control the violence, despite the use of tear gas, pellets and smoke grenades.
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Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital.
Sunil Kumar, the director of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital where many of the wounded were taken, told AFP news agency on Wednesday almost 60 had gunshot injuries.
Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi, said: “People are asking why did it take four days. Delhi has a police force of 84,000, I believe, yet this violence was allowed to continue.”
While clashes racked parts of the capital, Modi hosted a lavish reception for US President Donald Trump in the capital on Tuesday, following a rally in his home state of Gujarat on Monday, attended by more than 100,000 people.
‘Hatred and fear’
The violence erupted between thousands demonstrating for and against the new legislation passed by Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
The citizenship law has sparked months of nationwide protests, as well as clashes that killed more than 25 people in December.
On Wednesday, Congress’ Gandhi accused BJP figures of giving “inflammatory speeches spreading an atmosphere of hatred and fear”, including in Delhi city elections this month.
Since winning a second term, Modi’s government has revoked the partial autonomy of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, and said it wants to conduct a nationwide citizens’ register to weed out “infiltrators”.
These measures, plus the citizenship law, have stoked fears that Modi’s master plan is to remould India as a Hindu nation, something he denies.
Modi, 69, was accused of doing nothing to stop religious riots in 2002 as chief minister of Gujarat when around 1,000 people died, mostly Muslims.