By Cheena Kapoor
NEW DELHI, India (AA) - The death toll from protests against India's controversial new citizenship law in the capital New Delhi reached at least 20 people Wednesday, including a policeman, as demonstrations continued for a fourth day, with four new deaths and scores of injuries.
“Over 100 injured have arrived at the hospital so far and we are still receiving patients,” said Dr. Rajesh Kalra, an additional medical superintendent at Guru Tech Bahadur Hospital, a government-run hospital in the riot-hit district.
Also early Wednesday morning, a shop was set on fire at a tire market in northeast Delhi.
The wounded included reporters, one with a bullet injury and two beaten up by rioters in the district.
The clashes erupted in northeast Delhi on Sunday between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters and took a violent turn Monday when U.S. President Donald Trump kicked off a two-day trip to India.
The violence resulted in injuries to at least 130 others, including paramilitary and police personnel. This led the government to impose Section 144, which prohibits mass public gatherings, for at least a month in the city, followed by a curfew in the riot-affected area and orders to shoot on sight, not far from where Trump had dinner with his Indian counterpart Tuesday.
The situation started when Kapil Mishra, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), warned police to clear the protest site ahead of Trump’s official visit. In a video released on Twitter, he is seen giving an ultimatum to police.
Soon after, a group of protesters supporting the law – flanked by police officers – entered the protest site. A video on social media showed men chanting “Jai Shree Ram,” or “Hail Lord Ram,” a slogan synonymous with right-wing Hindus, before starting throwing stones.
The new law grants amnesty to non-Muslim immigrants from three neighboring Muslim-majority countries. Critics say it discriminates against Muslims.
- ‘Like house arrest’
Shanu Siddiqui, a resident of the area who was hurt in the chest by a tear gas cannister, told Anadolu Agency: “The firing didn’t stop the whole of Monday night and a major part of Tuesday. These right-wingers are being backed by the police, who are also providing them with weapons and clubs to beat up the common people.”
He added: “It was a very tense situation here yesterday, with mobs from both sides in a stand-off since Monday night. Any movement and they start pelting stones. People returning to their homes from work were thrashed by mobs. We could hear ‘Jai Shree Ram’ chants all through the night and day. It’s like we’re under house arrest."
- Measures taken
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is set to hold an emergency meeting on the situation with senior officials later in the day.
“People should cooperate with us to maintain peace. We are here till the situation normalizes. Else we will deploy more forces," said Satish Golcha, special commissioner of police in Delhi.
“Everyone wants the violence to subside,” Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, told reporters after meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Lt. Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal on Tuesday.
He appealed to residents to maintain peace.
Environment Minister Gopal Rai, visiting the violence-hit area, also appealed to locals to restore peace.
Opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also asked the people of New Delhi to exercise restraint "no matter what provocation."
While reserve and local police have been deployed, additional units have been called in to deal with any untoward situation, according to sources.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an advisory Tuesday to all private satellite TV channels asking them to be cautious about content that may incite violence or promote "anti-national" attitudes.
It also urged them to avoid content that contains an attack on religion or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.