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Delhi riots: Hundreds detained as death toll hits 42

  • Published at 12:35 pm February 28th, 2020
new delhi riot-clash
Security forces patrol past charred vehicles in a riot affected area following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2020 Reuters

Muslims hold Friday prayers under armed guard

Indian police said on Friday they had detained 512 people and were keeping a heavy presence in northeast New Delhi, days after the worst bout of sectarian violence in the capital in decades, reports Reuters.

At least 42 people were killed in Hindu-Muslim violence this week, police said, amid mounting international criticism that authorities failed to protect minority Muslims.

Media said the toll was likely to rise.

Muslims in India's capital held regular Friday prayers under the watch of riot police, reports AFP.

Scores of mosques in New Delhi's northeast held their first sermons since mobs armed with swords, guns and acid razed parts of the district on Monday.

Dozens of volunteers stood outside the main mosque in the neighbourhood of Mustafabad, home to some of the week's worst violence, urging devotees to disperse immediately after prayers.

"These are testing times. We have to be patient," said the presiding imam, after calling on his congregation to stay calm.

Fear and tension were rampant through the neighbourhood, with police barring Muslim worshippers from what was left of one of several mosques set ablaze by Hindu rioters on Monday.

Women walk past charred vehicles in a riot affected area following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2020 | Reuters

Delhi police spokesman MS Randhawa said police were collecting evidence, reviewing video footage of the violence and had already detained more than 600 people.

"The detentions were important to bring the situation under control," Randhawa told reporters, adding that there had been no new reports of violence.

Mob burns BSF jawan’s house

The house of a BSF jawan was among several burned by mobs in northeast Delhi's Khajuri Khas amid the riots, News18 reported.

The family of Mohammad Anees hoped the nameplate above the door, which has the BSF insignia and identifies Anees as a member of the paramilitary force, would deter the mob but to no avail.

As per the News18 report, the mob first pelted the house with stones and shouted: “Pakistani, we will give you citizenship” before tossing a gas cylinder into the home.

As per the report News18 report, Anees spent three years in Jammu and Kashmir guarding the border after joining the BSF in 2013. Anees' family has lost all their savings, including Rs3 lakh in cash and gold jewellery, as per the report.

The clashes began over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government introduced in December providing a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighbouring countries - but not Muslims.

Critics say the law is discriminatory and comes on top of other measures such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir that has deepened disquiet about the future of India's 200 million Muslims.

Critics of the government however blamed this week's violence on members of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was trounced in local Delhi elections at the beginning of the month. The BJP has denied the allegations.

The violence morphed into street battles between Hindu and Muslim groups with the police largely ineffective in ending the violence.