At least ten people have died since Sunday evening in the Indian capital of New Dehli, following riots over a law to protect victims of religious persecution fleeing Muslim countries during President Donald Trump’s first official visit to the nation.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has sparked a massive backlash from India’s 200 million Muslims, although protests up until now had remained peaceful. The act would fast-track citizenship for religious minorities entering India to flee persecution in its neighboring country, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
As Islam is the majority religion in those countries and Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and others are fleeing religious persecution by Muslims, India’s lawmakers excluded Islam from the list of accepted religions for the fast-track to citizenship. Muslims are demanded they be included, despite not facing persecution from other Muslims for their faith in their native countries.
Violent clashes reportedly broke out on Sunday evening in Karawal Nagar, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Vijay Park, and Yamuna Vihar, all neighborhoods in northeast New Delhi, between Hindu nationalists supportive of the law and Muslims vehemently opposing it.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 25, 2020
Riots spilled into Monday as police fired tear gas canisters and led baton charges to disperse the stone-throwing crowds. Footage posted across social media showed flames and smoke emanating from buildings. At least nine civilians and one policeman have been confirmed dead, while approximately 150 have sustained injuries.
Several people were killed and dozens more injured in protests over a controversial citizenship law in India, that took place during President Trump’s visit to the country #WSJWhatsNow pic.twitter.com/VhC0bqQ0DH
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) February 25, 2020
Prohibitory orders limiting the number of people allowed to assemble in public have now been imposed across the area, while around 1,000 police are being deployed as part of an armed battalion in the worst affected areas.
— DCP/Dwarka, Delhi (@DCPDwarka) February 25, 2020
Responding to the violence, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, called on the federal authorities to restore law and order.
“There are not enough police on the streets [in the affected areas],” he said. “Local police are saying they are not getting orders from above to control the situation, and they are not able to take action.”
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal: I appeal to all Delhites to maintain peace. We are worried about the violence in #NortheastDelhi. Several policemen&civilians were injured&some lost their lives. Several houses were set ablaze and shops were damaged. It is very unfortunate. pic.twitter.com/81T9484psc
— ANI (@ANI) February 25, 2020
The clashes took place about ten miles from the city center and will have come as an embarrassment to Modi’s government, who had been holding meetings with Trump and other senior officials to discuss issues such as trade and increased military cooperation.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital on Tuesday evening before flying back to America, Trump claimed he had not discussed the new religious persecution law with Modi.
“Don’t want to say anything on that; it is up to India, I hope it will take the right decision for its people,” Trump said when asked about the law. “We discussed (religious freedom and secularism) that and especially Muslims and Christians … PM Modi said they work very closely with Muslims.”
“We did talk about religious freedom. Prime Minister Modi wants people to have religious freedom in India,” he continued. “If you look back India has worked hard for religious freedom.”