Wednesday Feb 26, 2020
NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday "peace and harmony are central to our ethos", while death toll from the clashes between Hindus and minority Muslims over a controversial citizenship law rose to 27.
As the Indian capital saw the worst sectarian violence in decades, Modi turned to Twitter, saying: "I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times.
"It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest," the Indian president wrote.
Police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets in far greater numbers on Wednesday. Parts of the riot-hit areas were deserted. Modi's appeal came after a barrage of criticism from opposition parties over the government’s failure to control the violence, despite the use of tear gas, pellets, and smoke grenades.
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah, who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital.
On the other hand, Ajit Doval, India's National Security Advisor who was tasked to restore normalcy amid violence in Delhi, again visited the Jafrabad neighbourhood on Wednesday evening to check up on security and speak with the people there.
"Inshallah, there will be peace here," he said, while surrounded by a convoy of police officers, according to NDTV. "Situation is totally under control. People are satisfied. I have confidence in law enforcement agencies. Police is doing its work."
Jafrabad is one of the worst-hit localities of New Delhi, a city that has been marred by violence for the past four days and has left at least 27 people dead and over 200 wounded during the anti-Muslim riots. In the same area, a girl stopped Doval and told him that she was a student.
"We can't sleep at night, we are not fighting, I can't go to study," she said.
"You don't have to worry. This is the responsibility of government and the police. I give you my word," the NSA told her.
He also talked to and briefed Shah — also the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — who had asked Doval to visit New Delhi.
The publication, quoting a ministry official, said Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Arvind Kumar and Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik were also in attendance.
Doval has visited the Indian capital's violence-hit areas and met with security officials — including the city's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal — three times over the past 24 hours but the deadly violence did not abate and incidents of aggression were reported without a pause. He also went to Seelampur, Maujpur, and Gokulpuri Chowk.
"People were doubting the capabilities and intentions of Delhi Police. People need to trust the man in uniform," he had said at that time.
Quoting the Press Trust of India, NDTV noted that renewed violence, including arson and stone-pelting, had been reported in the city, while a shop in Bhajanpura was set ablaze.
Arvind Kejriwal, the New Delhi chief minister, said in the morning the Indian Army should be called in to restore calm in the city after police failed to take control in the wake of anti-Muslim riots.
"I have been in touch with large number of people whole night. Situation alarming. Police, despite all its efforts, unable to control situation and instill confidence.
"Army should be called in and curfew imposed in rest of affected areas immediately," Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.
Doval, the Indian NSA and Modi's close aide, dismissed the fears, saying there were "enough forces on the ground and no one needs to fear".
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, Reuters witnesses saw mobs wielding sticks and pipes walking down streets in parts of northeast Delhi amid arson attacks and looting. Thick clouds of black smoke billowed from a tyre market that was set ablaze.
Many of the wounded had suffered gunshot injuries, hospital officials said. At least two mosques in northeast Delhi were set on fire.
Earlier in the day, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a tweet that it was alarmed by the violence and it urged the Indian government “to rein in mobs and protect religious minorities and others who have been targeted”.
The United Nations (UN) had on Tuesday expressed concern over the deadly anti-Muslim clashes, saying it was "obviously following the situation closely".
During a briefing at the UN's New York headquarters, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, had underscored the need for Indian security forces to show restraint and to allow the protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
“This is the secretary-general’s constant position,” Dujarric had added.
—Additional input from Reuters