Communal violence over the amended citizenship law escalated in northeast Delhi on Tuesday night taking the death toll to 18 as police struggled to check the rioters who ran amok on streets, burning and looting shops, pelting stones and thrashing people.
Communal violence over the amended citizenship law escalated in northeast Delhi on Tuesday night taking the death toll to 20 as police struggled to check the rioters who ran amok on streets, burning and looting shops, pelting stones and thrashing people.
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In his first reaction to incidents of violence in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday appealed for peace and brotherhood and said he has held an extensive review of the prevailing situation in various parts of the national capital.
He also said it was important that calm and normalcy was restored at the earliest.
"Had an extensive review on the situation prevailing in various parts of Delhi. Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy," Modi tweeted.
"Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times," he added.
At least 20 people have been killed in communal violence in northeast Delhi for the last few days.
Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has blamed the Centre and also the Delhi government for the violence.
Addressing a press conference after chairing a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, she said there was a conspiracy behind the violence and tragic incidents in Delhi.
"The conspiracy was witnessed during Delhi polls and BJP leaders gave hate speeches creating atmosphere of fear and hatred," she said.
The Centre, home minister and the Delhi government are responsible for the situation in the national capital, the Congress chief said.
Gandhi said that Union Home Minister Shah must take responsibility for the violence in Delhi and resign.
Delhi violence in pictures
Over 200 people, including 48 police personnel, have been injured and half of the civilians have suffered gunshot wounds, hospital authorities said.
The violence, which started on Sunday after anti-CAA protests blocked a road outside Jaffrabad Metro station and BJP leader Kapil Mishra called a gathering in favour of CAA, intensified on Tuesday, despite shored up security in the city in view of US President Donald Trump's visit.
The protesters withdrew from the site on Tuesday night.
(A man supporting a new citizenship law throws a petrol bomb at a Muslim shrine during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)
As Delhi Police faced allegations of inaction, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting at noon with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, city police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and others on steps to restore peace.
IPS officer S N Shrivastava was appointed as the new Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Law and Order) after the Union Home Ministry repatriated him from the CRPF on Tuesday night to take control of the situation in the wake of communal violence in the city, officials said.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said 11 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence. Over 20 persons have been detained and only one person, identified as Shahrukh who had fired a few rounds in the air after brandishing a gun at a policeman, has been arrested.
Sixty-seven companies of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed across the area, police sources said.
In scenes not seen in the national capital for decades, frenzied groups thrashed people on the road and vandalised vehicles.
Media persons were also attacked. Akshay, a journalist with JK 24X7 News, received a bullet injury and was in a serious condition in hospital, and two reporters from NDTV were beaten and punched by rioters. Many other journalists were heckled and told to go back.
HC tells police to ensure safe passage, treatment of injured
In a midnight hearing, the Delhi High Court directed police to ensure safe passage and emergency treatment for those injured in the violence over the amended citizenship law.
The hearing took place at the residence of Justice S Murlidhar on an urgent plea seeking safe passage for the injured to medical institutions with adequate facilities.
The Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Anup J Bhambhani directed the Delhi Police to deploy all resources to ensure this.
The Bench also called for a compliance report, including information about the injured and the treatment offered to them.
The matter will now be heard on Wednesday at 2.15 pm.
The Bench said the order be communicated to the medical superintendents of the Guru Tegh Bahadur and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospitals in Delhi.
Delhi CM meets officials to discuss measures to restore peace
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday requested Union Home Minister Amit Shah to increase police force in violence-affected areas in northeast Delhi and held a meeting with AAP MLAs and officials to discuss measures to restore peace.
The chief minister, accompanied by his deputy Manish Sisodia, other ministers and party MLAs, visited Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Rajghat to pray for peace in Delhi. He also requested the people to maintain calm and peace.
"Violence can solve nothing. The people of Delhi should maintain calm and peace," Kejriwal urged on more than one occasion.
The clashes through Tuesday
After overnight incidents of arson, tension smouldered in the national capital and as the day progressed streets in several localities like Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Maujpur, Kardampuri, and Jaffrabad saw pitched battles between the members of two groups who also hurled petrol bombs and opened fire.
Late in the night, locals in Maujpur area claimed that announcements were being made by police on loudspeakers about the promulgation of shoot-at-sight orders, but Deputy Commissioner of Police (Northeast) Ved Prakash Surya denied it.
Rioters damaged two fire tenders in Gokulpuri and crowds raising incendiary slogans set on fire fruit carts, rickshaws and anything that came in their way in the epicentre of the trouble Maujpur and other places.
Police fired teargas shells to disperse the rioters -- armed with stones, rods and even swords and many wearing helmets to protect themselves -- and were assisted by paramilitary personnel.
Streets were littered with mangled remains of vehicles, bricks and burnt tyres, mute testimony to the violence and bloodshed that took on a communal taint on Monday.
According to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital officials, eight people succumbed to injuries suffered during violence on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 13.
"Fifty percent of those injured have sustained bullet injuries," Medical Superintendent Sunil Kumar said.
Flag marches were conducted in Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas and other places, but clashes continued till late in the night. Randhawa said the areas affected by violence are congested and inhabited by a mixed population.
The meeting presided by Shah resolved that workers of political parties should join hands to restore peace and peace committees should be reactivated in all localities.
Schools were shut and fearful residents stayed indoors as mobs roamed the streets, seemingly unmindful of prohibitory orders restricting the assembly of more than four people imposed on Monday.
"There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalising shops. Families need to be evacuated. We are unsafe in our own homes," said a resident of Maujpur, requesting anonymity.
Another added that this is the first time in 35 years -- possibly since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots -- that he has seen a situation such as this. "The area had always remained peaceful," he told PTI.
Trouble continued through the day. Around 5 pm in Chand Bagh, for instance, security personnel were pelted with stones. They chased the mob, only to be attacked afresh with some people also armed with petrol bombs.
A few residents in Yamuna Vihar and Jaffrabad said they had seen rioters with swords in their hands. The dead include Delhi Police head constable Ratan Lal.
Vinod Kumar, a resident of Ghonda, was brought dead to the hospital and his body is at the morgue of the Jag Parvesh Hospital.
Also killed was Mohammad Furkan from Kardampuri, near Jafrabad, who got married in 2014 and has two children. His brother, Mohammed Imran, overcome with grief, said they were both in the handicrafts business.
"He had gone to get some food for his children. Someone told me he had been shot. I couldn't believe it as I had met him barely an hour earlier. I kept calling him... I then rushed to GTB Hospital where I was told that he is dead," he told reporters, sobbing inconsolably outside the hospital.
Imran blamed BJP leader Kapil Mishra's tweet, giving Delhi Police an ultimatum to clear the streets of protesters and saying people would be quiet only until Trump is in India.
"Before that everything was peaceful," he said.
Asked whether action will be taken against Mishra, Delhi Police PRO Randhawa said, "All these things are under investigation. We will investigate and take action against conspirators."
Mishra, however, remained defiant saying he was not scared of the "massive hate campaign" against him for "speaking truth" and supporting the amended citizenship law.
(With agency inputs)
First Published: IST