LAHORE - At least 23 people were killed and 190 others wounded during communal riots in the Indian capital New Delhi since Sunday, with reports of extremists attacking homes, shops, and worship places of Muslims.

More than 60 people were brought to hospitals with bullet wounds. “(At least) 189 people are undergoing treatment at the hospital. Around 60 have gunshot wounds,” Sunil Kumar from the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital told reporters on Wednesday.

The clashes first broke out on Sunday, with reports of many Muslims being attacked across Delhi. Photographs, videos and accounts on social media paint a chilling image of the last few days - of mostly Hindu mobs beating unarmed men, including journalists; of groups of men with sticks, iron rods and stones wandering the streets; and of Hindus and Muslims facing off.

The Delhi High Court, which is hearing petitions about the violence, said it cannot let “another 1984” happen on its “watch”. In 1984, more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in anti-Sikh riots in the city.

On Wednesday, PM Modi appealed for peace. He added that he had reviewed the situation and police were working to restore normalcy.

Delhi’s chief minister called Wednesday on the Indian government to impose a curfew and deploy the army in areas of the capital affected by days of deadly sectarian riots. “I have been in touch (with) large no of people whole nite. Situation alarming. Police, despite all its efforts, unable to control situation and instil confidence. Army (should) be called in and curfew imposed in rest of affected areas immediately,” Arvind Kejriwal tweeted. He added that he was making a request to the central government to this effect.

UN voices concern

The United Nations (UN) on Tuesday expressed concern over deadly anti-Muslim clashes in New Delhi.

The violence was triggered amidst protest demonstrations against the controversial Indian citizenship law introduced recently by the Hindu nationalist Modi regime.

“We are obviously following the situation closely,” UN Secretary-General’s Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a question at the regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York. He underscored the need for Indian security forces to show restraint and to allow the protestors to demonstrate peacefully. “This is the secretary-general’s constant position,” the spokesman added.

The BBC described the current unrest as an embarrassment to Modi, as it has taken the spotlight away from US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the country. The BBC said its reporters in north-east Delhi had seen Hindu mobs throwing stones and shouting slogans, with some in the crowd shouting “shoot the traitors”. They also saw plumes of smoke rising from a tyre market that had been set on fire. In another incident on Tuesday afternoon, a mosque was vandalised in the Shahdara area.

BBC reporters at the hospital say they saw people with all sorts of injuries, including bullet wounds, scrambling for treatment. They say the hospital seemed “overwhelmed”, and many of the injured were “too scared to go back home.

Many including journalists tweeted and spoken of mobs demanding to know their religion. At least one photojournalist said he was asked to remove his pants to prove his religious identity. This has also happened during religious riots in the past to identify Muslims as they are usually circumcised.

Protests against the controversial citizenship law on Sunday descended Monday and Tuesday into running battles between Hindus and Muslims, with rioters armed with stones, swords and even guns out in force.

Meanwhile, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on Wednesday also expressed alarm over reports of deadly clashes in New Delhi. “USCIRF is alarmed by reports of deadly mob violence targeting Muslims in New Delhi, India and urges the Modi government to rein in mobs and protect religious minorities and others who have been targeted,” it said in a tweet.

US lawmakers raise concerns

Several lawmakers in the United States raised concerns over the anti-Muslim violence that has erupted in northeastern parts of New Delhi since Sunday, claiming at least 23 lives in three days.

“It is important to strengthen relationships with democratic partners like India,” Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party’s contender for the United States presidential elections later this year. “But we must be able to speak truthfully about our values, including religious freedom and freedom of expression and violence against peaceful protesters is never acceptable.”

 

United States Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal expressed shock over the violence and described it as a “deadly surge of religious intolerance. “Democracies should not tolerate division and discrimination, or promote laws that undermine religious freedom,” she tweeted. “The world is watching.” Last year, Jayapal had introduced a United States’ Congressional resolution asking India to end the restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir, and reserve religious freedom for all residents.