Patients on stretchers crammed the emergency room, while relatives of the dead wailed outside a morgue as injured people continued to pour into a public hospital after three days of violence in New Delhi, coinciding with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India.
Protests against a contentious citizenship law began on a smaller scale on Sunday but escalated on Monday and Tuesday into running battles between Hindus and Muslims in New Delhi’s north-east, where rioters armed with stones, swords and even guns were out in force.
More than 20 people were killed in the clashes, including at least one police officer, and over 200 people were injured, both Hindus and Muslims, in the worst communal riots in the Indian capital in decades.
On Wednesday, victims’ relatives stood outside the mortuary, some crying as they waited for hospital authorities to release the bodies following postmortems.
Rahul Solanki, 26 years old, died from a gunshot wound, according to his family. His younger brother, Rohit Solanki, said he was shot walking to a shop to buy milk.
The corridors of the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital at New Delhi’s eastern border are often crowded, but on Wednesday hundreds thronged its wards as doctors worked through the night to treat injuries.
Mohammad Akram watched as his 17-year-old son was wheeled out of an operating theater after surgery for a bullet would in his chest. The teenager said he was shot on his family’s apartment terrace as he watched Hindu mobs enter his neighbourhood.
New patients continued to pour into the hospital on stretchers. Those with head injuries were wheeled to the overcrowded emergency room.
Mohammad Akbar made it to the hospital with his head bleeding profusely after he was attacked early Wednesday.
Akbar said a Hindu mob forced him to chant the Hanuman chalisa, a Hindu devotional hymn dedicated to Lord Hanuman, a popular Hindu god.
“They pounced on me after and started beating me. One person hit me on the head with an axe,” Akbar said.
Akbar was one of the lucky ones. He found a vehicle to take him to the hospital, about 6 kilometers away. Others waited, sometimes in vain, for ambulances that struggled to reach injured people on narrow roads in areas rioters weren’t allowing anyone to enter, said Shaleen Mitra, an adviser to Delhi’s health minister, Satyender Jain.
Mitra said police also blocked ambulances from evacuating the injured from a small, overcrowded private hospital in Mustafabad, a Muslim-majority area, to the larger public Guru Teg Bahadur hospital.
“The police told the healthcare workers that they wouldn’t be able to provide them with protection from the rioters,” he said.
Delhi High Court judges met for a midnight hearing and ordered police to evacuate the injured.
Relatives of Muslim victims accused police of standing by as the Hindu mobs torched buildings and beat people.
How the violence began, and who was to blame, remained unclear.