Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm Wednesday after days of clashes between Hindus and minority Muslims over a controversial citizenship law in some of the capital’s worst sectarian violence in decades.
Twenty people were killed and nearly 200 injured in violence, said a doctor, with numerous gunshot wounds in the midst of looting and arson which coincided with a visit to India by US President Donald Trump.
Police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets in greater numbers on Wednesday. Parts of the areas affected by the riots have been deserted.
“Peace and harmony are at the heart of our philosophy. I call on my sisters and brothers in Delhi to maintain peace and fellowship at all times, ”said Modi in a tweet.
Modi’s call came after a storm of criticism from opposition parties over the government’s failure to control the violence, despite the use of tear gas, pellets and smoke grenades.
Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, called for the resignation of Interior Minister Amit Shah, who is directly responsible for public order in the capital.
Protests for and against the Citizenship Law
Violence broke out between thousands of protesters for and against the new citizenship law introduced by the Hindu nationalist government in Modi.
The Citizenship Amendment Act makes it easier for non-Muslims in some predominantly Muslim neighboring countries to obtain Indian citizenship.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party has denied that it has biased against more than 180 million Muslims in India.
Reuters witnesses saw crowds wielding sticks and pipes strolling the streets of northeast Delhi on Tuesday during arson and looting. Thick clouds of black smoke escaped from a burning tire market.
Many injured were shot, hospital officials said. At least two mosques in northeast Delhi have been set on fire.
On Wednesday, the United States Commission for Freedom of International Religion (USCIRF) said in a tweet that it was alarmed by the violence and urged the Indian government “to curb the crowds and protect religious and other minorities who have been targeted. “