NEW DELHI (Web Desk): The death toll from five days of anti-Muslim violence in Indian capital has risen to 42, making it the worst religious rioting Delhi has seen in more than three decades.
Sporadic violence hit parts of Delhi overnight as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of sectarian riots. Over 250 people have been injured, dozens of them shot.
Thousands of riot police and paramilitaries patrolled the affected northeast fringes of the Indian capital of 20 million people, preventing any major eruptions however. The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s citizenship law, which triggered months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.
Sunil Kumar, director of the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, said the hospital registered 30 deaths while the chief doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital said three people had died there.
“All of them (at the GTB) had gunshot injuries,” Kumar said. Kishore Singh, medical superintendent Lok Nayak Hospital, said that 10 people were still in a serious condition there.
The new fatalities — up from 27 on Wednesday — were all from the violence on Monday and Tuesday when mobs of Hindus and Muslims fought running battles. The initial violence erupted late Sunday. Groups armed with swords and guns set fire to thousands of properties and vehicles.
Homes, shops, two mosques, two schools, a tyre market and a fuel station were torched. More than 200 people were also injured.
Many of India´s 200 million Muslims fear the citizenship law — combined with a mooted citizens´ register — will leave them stateless or even sent to detention camps. They and critics see Modi´s right-wing ruling party, which is linked to once-banned militaristic Hindu group RSS, as wanting to turn officially secular India into a Hindu nation.
His party has denied the allegations but in recent weeks BJP politicians, including in an ugly recent campaign for Delhi elections, have called the demonstrators “anti-nationals” and “jihadists”.
One, Parvesh Verma, said protesters “could enter houses and rape and kill your sisters”, while another, Anurag Thakur, encouraged a crowd to chant “gun down traitors”.
A call on Sunday by another BJP politician, Kapil Mishra, for “Hindus” to clear a northeastern Delhi sit-in protest is being seen as the spark for the current unrest.
On Wednesday, a Delhi High Court judge Justice S. Muralidhar, sharply criticised the police and called on them to investigate BJP politicians for inciting violence.
Muralidhar was transferred to another state court in a late-night order, prompting a social media storm.
OIC urges Indian government to stop violence
Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urged the Indian government to stop anti-Muslim violence and desecration of Islamic places of worship in the country.
The OIC statement came as death toll in ongoing riots in New Delhi climbed to 42, with over 250 injured.
“OIC condemns the recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people and the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties,” read the statement.
It expressed condolences to the families of victims of the “heinous acts” and demanded the perpetrators be brought to justice.
“The OIC calls on Indian authorities to bring the instigators and perpetrators of these acts of anti-Muslim violence to justice, and to ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the protection of Islamic holy places across the country,” the 57-member body said.
Erdogan denounces massacres
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out against the massacres of Muslims in India after communal riots in New Delhi left at least 33 dead.
“India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week between mobs of Hindus and Muslims over a citizenship law.
Erdogan, a devout Muslim, accused the mobs attacking Muslims of hurting children studying in private tuition centres with “metal sticks as if to kill” them.
“How will these people make global peace possible? It is impossible. When making speeches — since they have a large population — they say ´we are strong´ but that is not strength,” Erdogan added.
Most of the violence, appeared to be targeting Muslims who complained that while Hindu mobs went on a rampage, the police went missing.
The violence prompted the U.S. Embassy in India to issue an advisory for American citizens in the capital city, urging them to “exercise caution,” “keep a low profile” and “avoid all areas with demonstrations.”
US govt’s commission condemn violence
In Washington, the US government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the “brutal and unchecked violence” in Delhi and urged the Indian government to “take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence.”
Anurima Bhargava, a commissioner appointed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also expressed alarm at reports that Delhi police “have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims.”
Trump, asked at a news conference in the capital about the violence, said the issue was “up to India” and praised Modi´s “incredible” statements on religious freedom.