At least seven people killed, around 150 others injured amid fighting between groups for and against a controversial citizenship law
At least seven people, including a police officer, were killed and around 150 others injured in clashes between primarily Hindu and Muslim groups in Indian capital New Delhi, amid ongoing protests against a controversial citizenship law.
“Seven persons, including one head constable of Delhi police, have died,” a police officer confirmed to Reuters about the violence on Monday, which coincided with U.S. President Donald Trump visiting Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to eyewitnesses, the violence continued on Monday night and several shops and vehicles in the area were damaged or destroyed.
The clashes erupted in a northeastern district of New Delhi between thousands of people demonstrating for and against the new citizenship law.
Tensions in parts of the city remained high on Tuesday with schools shut in some areas amid news reports of fresh clashes. At least five metro stations in the city were also closed. Users on social media claimed Muslims in the region had fled their homes, fearing attacks by the Hindu majority.
At a press conference early on Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged people to maintain peace. “Whatever problems people have can be resolved peacefully,” he said. “Violence will not help find a solution.”
The protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, now in their second month, have found greatest support in Delhi. Under the controversial law, non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will have an easier path to Indian citizenship. This has prompted critics to declare it an anti-Muslim law that is eroding India’s secular values by making religion a prerequisite for nationality.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has vehemently denied this.
According to Reuters, police did little to stop the violence on Monday, with most of them apparently standing beside the primarily Hindu group that has been protesting in favor of the citizenship law. “Go ahead and throw stones,” one policeman allegedly shouted to protesters backing the law.
India’s junior home minister G. Kishan Reddy has tried to pin the violence on a “conspiracy to shame India globally” during Trump’s visit, but there has been little evidence to suggest this.
Ironically, while the protests were raging, Trump was praising India’s history of religious tolerance during his address at Ahmedabad.