WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: India accused a US government commission of politicising communal violence in New Delhi that killed at least 32 people and injured more than 200.
Protests against a contentious citizenship law began on a smaller scale on Sunday but escalated on Monday — as US President Donald Trump started his two-day trip to India — 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.
Sporadic violence-hit parts of Delhi overnight as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of communal riots that have killed 32 people, police said on Thursday.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which advises the US government but does not set policy, voiced “grave concern” about the violence which broke out as President Donald Trump was visiting New Delhi.
“One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith,” said chairman Tony Perkins, a conservative Christian close to the Trump administration.
“We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” he said in a statement.
USCIRF Chair @tperkins: “The ongoing violence we are witnessing in #Delhi and the reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and shops, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing…” (1/2)#DelhiRiots2020 #DelhiViolence https://t.co/yPFtGZKWpV
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) February 26, 2020
India’s External Affairs Ministry said the commission’s comments were “factually inaccurate and misleading” and appeared to be “aimed at politicising the issue”.
On Thursday, burnt shops and public vehicles stood charred near a highway in Chandbagh, a Muslim-dominated locality. Streets were littered with broken glass and charred petrol bombs as dozens of police in camouflage and helmets patrolled.
Several reports by Indian media outlets said Muslim localities in the Indian capital were attacked by Hindu mobs screaming pro-Hindu slogans. The reports said these mobs rioted with impunity as the police appeared to aid the marauding crowds.
Muslim rioters, too, have been violent, and a number of Hindus, including security personnel, are among the dead and injured.
Most of the violence, however, appeared to be targeting Muslims who complained that while Hindu mobs went on a rampage, the police went missing.
A commissioner appointed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Anurima Bhargava, voiced alarm at reports that Delhi police “have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims.”
However, the Delhi Police have denied the allegations.
“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue,” Pelosi said, adding: “The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all of its citizens.”
Hours before the violence first began on Sunday, local politician Kapil Mishra, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, appeared at a rally against the citizenship law’s opponents and issued an ultimatum to the police to clear out the demonstrators. He told the crowd at the rally if the police wouldn’t clear out the demonstrators, he and his followers would do it themselves.
Many people, including Hindus, believe Mishra and his Hindu nationalist supporters stoked the latest riots.
The contentious law that was passed in December fast-tracks naturalisation for foreign-born religious minorities of all major faiths in South Asia except Islam. Nationwide protests followed, with many opponents saying the law is discriminatory and breaks from India’s secular traditions.
The supporters of the law, including leaders from Modi’s party, have often called the protests anti-Indians funded by the state’s enemies.
Trump’s first state visit to India included a lavish reception in Modi’s home state of Gujarat and talks with the Indian leader, but the US leader said they didn’t discuss the violence. Trump declined to comment about the citizenship law, saying he wanted to leave that to India, before departing.
OIC CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIMS
Meanwhile, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned the recent and “alarming” violence against Muslims in India.
In a tweet, the body said: “OIC condemns the recent & alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death & injury of innocent people & the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties. It expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous acts.”
#OIC condemns the recent & alarming violence against Muslims in #India, resulting in the death & injury of innocent people & the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties. It expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous acts. pic.twitter.com/NQjKVoLgXQ
— OIC (@OIC_OCI) February 27, 2020