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Citizenship law-related violence

Death toll in India violence rises to 20, resignation of home minister demanded

Published : 25 Feb 2020, 23:34

Updated : 26 Feb 2020, 11:49

  DF-Xinhua Report

Protesters set vehicles on fire during a protest over controversial new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, Feb. 24, 2020. Photo Xinhua/Str.

As the death toll in the communal violence in the Indian capital city on Wednesday rose to 20, the country's main opposition party demanded that the federal home minister should resign.

   The demand came from Congress party President Sonia Gandhi while briefing media in the wake of deadly violence.

   "The centre (federal government) and the union (federal) home minister is responsible for the present situation in Delhi. The union home minister should resign," Gandhi told media.

   Gandhi blamed both the federal government and the local Delhi government for the violence.

   Top Congress party leaders including Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad were present alongside Gandhi during the briefing.

   "Where was the home minister and what was he doing since last Sunday?" Gandhi said. "What were the reports given by the intelligence agencies in the days immediately after the conclusion of the Delhi elections and leading up to today?"

   Gandhi asked why were additional security forces not called immediately when it was clear that the situation was beyond the control of the Delhi police.

   "Where was the chief minister of Delhi and what was he doing since last Sunday?" she questioned.

   According to health officials, nearly 200 people were injured in the violence.

   Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was responsible for the communal violence.

   "On one side the home minister holds a security meeting and on the other hand his own MLAs (lawmakers) are taking out a procession to provoke riots. Why this double character of Bharatiya Janata Party?, " Sanjay Singh, AAP spokesman told media. "Ever since the riots started, (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah did not even make an appeal to keep the peace. Does Amit Shah have no responsibility?"

   The police department of Delhi comes directly under India's home minister and not under the chief minister.

   Earlier in the day Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said curfew should be imposed and army called in to contain the violence.

   According to Kejriwal, police was unable to control the situation.

   Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter and urged people to maintain calm.

   "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. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest," Modi wrote on twitter, adding he has reviewed the situation.

   Local media reports pouring in said an Intelligence Bureau officer was found dead in Chand Bagh in northeast Delhi that was hit by violence. Police said they were trying to ascertain the reason behind his death.

   Unrelenting communal violence broke out in the northeastern part of the city following which mobs armed with sticks and rods resorted to arson, looting and vandalism.

   Reports said many people especially Muslims are leaving their homes in the affected areas and taking shelter in other safer locations.

   The clashes broke out between pro- and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) groups in the northeastern part of the city on Sunday and took an ugly turn on Monday and Tuesday.

   Protests against the controversial new citizenship law was triggered on Dec. 11 last year, the day India's upper house of parliament passed the law. Since then there has been no let-up in the protests.

   The law aims at granting citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to six religions - Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Parsi and Christianity - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it has kept out Muslim immigrants from applying for citizenship.