NEW DELHI – The death toll in Delhi communal violence rose to 27 on Wednesday, even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal flagged that the situation has become “alarming” and the Army should be called in as police was “unable to control it”. The number of injured has crossed 200.
Communal violence over the amended citizenship law escalated in northeast Delhi on Tuesday as police struggled to check the rioters who ran amok on streets, burning and looting shops, pelting stones and thrashing people.
Streets that had been a battle zone were much quieter on Wednesday, with a few sporadic attacks reported but no large-scale mayhem.
Many Muslims have accused the police of standing passively by while their homes and business were attacked by mobs.
Government sources said that the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval has been given the charge of bringing normalcy in the capital.
The weapons that police officers were carrying had been upgraded to assault rifles from sticks. The whiff of char, from scores of burned-out buildings, clung to the air.
Twenty-seven deaths were reported from the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital. Many of the injured admitted in GTB were reported to be critical.
These patients have several kinds of injuries, including from gunshots, many sustained trauma from jumping from rooftops to escape violence, many received head injuries, a hospital official said.
Meanwhile Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who toured some riot hit areas, said the situation has become “alarming”.
“I have been in touch with large no. of people whole nite (night). Situation alarming. Police, despite all its efforts, unable to control situation and instil confidence (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted.
“Army shud (should) be called in and curfew imposed in rest of affected areas immediately. Am writing to Hon”ble HM to this effect,” he added.
Media reports said, many Muslims were abandoning their homes in areas hit by the violence. Their houses, shops and places of worship have been reduced to ashes. In the Panchwa Pusta neighborhood, several witnesses said police officers had shielded rioters, fired at Muslims crowds and failed to act when rioters set a mosque on fire.
NSA Doval in the meanwhile again visited the affected area Wednesday evening to review security and interacted with locals there.
“Situation is totally under control. People are satisfied. I have confidence in law enforcement agencies. Police is doing its work,” NSA Doval said.
The move to put NSA Doval in charge of restoring peace in northeast Delhi has raised eyebrows since the Delhi Police reports directly to the Home Minister, according to NDTV.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi Police for its handling of the ongoing violence in the capital while deferring the hearing on a plea to shift the Shaheen Bagh protesters. Justice K.M. Joseph while hearing the petition also slammed the “lack of professionalism” in the police force.
The national capital has been in the throes of violence since Sunday evening after BJP leader Kapil Mishra demanded that anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters clear the sit-in demonstrations from Northeast Delhi areas of Jaffrabad and Chandbagh.
After Monday night, incidents of arson, tension had smouldered in the national capital and on Tuesday, 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.
Earlier during a midnight hearing, the Delhi High Court directed police to ensure safe passage and emergency treatment for those injured in the violence.
The court directed Delhi Police to immediately escort injured persons from Mustafabad to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital for treatment. The order came after authorities expressed their predicament after they failed to secure the support of the police for the injured patients in Mustafabad.
The Delhi High Court later on Wednesday reprimanded the Delhi Police for not taking action against BJP leaders accused of giving provocative hate speeches.
After police claimed it has not watched videos of the provocative speeches given by leaders, Justice Muralidhar then ordered Mishra’s speech to be played in court and said: “Let all of you watch it.”
Meanwhile student bodies have announced a protest march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament on March 3 against the Citizenship Amendment Act and to condemn the communal violence in northeast Delhi.
The Young India Coordination Committee, comprising of student bodies, also urged the Union home minister Amit Shah and the Delhi Police to take action to control the violence.
PM Modi Appeals For Peace
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 27 people have been killed in communal violence in north east Delhi for the last few days.
With inputs from PTI