NEW DELHI – The death toll from five days of anti-Muslim violence in Indian capital has risen to 42, making it the worst religious rioting Delhi has seen in more than three decades.
Sporadic violence hit parts of Delhi overnight as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of sectarian riots. Over 250 people have been injured, dozens of them shot.
Thousands of riot police and paramilitaries patrolled the affected northeast fringes of the Indian capital of 20 million people, preventing any major eruptions however. The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s citizenship law, which triggered months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.
Sunil Kumar, director of the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, said the hospital registered 30 deaths while the chief doctor at Lok Nayak Hospital said three people had died there.
“All of them (at the GTB) had gunshot injuries,” Kumar said. Kishore Singh, medical superintendent Lok Nayak Hospital, said that 10 people were still in a serious condition there.
The new fatalities — up from 27 on Wednesday — were all from the violence on Monday and Tuesday when mobs of Hindus and Muslims fought running battles. The initial violence erupted late Sunday. Groups armed with swords and guns set fire to thousands of properties and vehicles.
Homes, shops, two mosques, two schools, a tyre market and a fuel station were torched. More than 200 people were also injured.
Many of India´s 200 million Muslims fear the citizenship law — combined with a mooted citizens´ register — will leave them stateless or even sent to detention camps. They and critics see Modi´s right-wing ruling party, which is linked to once-banned militaristic Hindu group RSS, as wanting to turn officially secular India into a Hindu nation.
His party has denied the allegations but in recent weeks BJP politicians, including in an ugly recent campaign for Delhi elections, have called the demonstrators “anti-nationals” and “jihadists”.
One, Parvesh Verma, said protesters “could enter houses and rape and kill your sisters”, while another, Anurag Thakur, encouraged a crowd to chant “gun down traitors”.
A call on Sunday by another BJP politician, Kapil Mishra, for “Hindus” to clear a northeastern Delhi sit-in protest is being seen as the spark for the current unrest.
On Wednesday, a Delhi High Court judge Justice S. Muralidhar, sharply criticised the police and called on them to investigate BJP politicians for inciting violence.
Muralidhar was transferred to another state court in a late-night order, prompting a social media storm.