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Death Toll Hits 20 Amid Delhi Riots    02/26 06:12

   NEW DELHI (AP) -- At least 20 people were killed and 189 injured in three 
days of clashes in New Delhi that coincided with President Donald Trump's first 
state visit to India, with the death toll expected to rise as hospitals 
continue to take in the wounded, authorities said Wednesday.

   Violence between Hindu mobs and Muslims protesting a new citizenship law 
that fast-tracks naturalization for foreign-born religious minorities of all 
major faiths in South Asia except Islam left shops, Muslim shrines and public 
vehicles smoldering.

   The dead included a policeman and an intelligence bureau officer and the 
government has banned public assembly in the affected areas.

   While riots wracked northeastern New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi 
hosted a lavish reception for Trump, including a rally in his home state of 
Gujarat attended by more than 100,000 people and the signing of an agreement to 
purchase more than $3 billion of American helicopters and other military 
hardware.

   On Wednesday, Modi broke his silence on the clashes, tweeting that "peace 
and harmony are central to (India's) ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers 
of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times."

   New Delhi's top elected official, Chief Minister Arvind Kerjiwal, called for 
Modi's home minister, Amit Shah, to send the army to areas in a northeastern 
corner of the sprawling capital affected by the riots. 

   Police characterized the situation as tense but under control. Schools 
remained closed.

   Sonia Gandhi, a leader of the Congress party, India's main opposition group, 
called for Shah to resign. She accused Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya 
Janata Party of creating an environment of hatred and its leaders of inciting 
violence with provocative speeches that sought to paint protesters against the 
citizenship law as anti-nationalist, Pakistan-funded Muslims.

   The clashes escalated Tuesday, according to Rouf Khan, a resident of 
Mustafabad, an area in the capital's northeast.

   Khan said mobs with iron rods, bricks and bamboo sticks attacked the homes 
of Muslims while chanting "Jai Shri Ram," or "Victory to Lord Ram," the popular 
Hindu god of the religious epic "Ramayana."

   As Air Force One flew Trump and his delegation out of New Delhi late 
Tuesday, Muslim families huddled in a mosque in the city's northeast, praying 
that Hindu mobs wouldn't burn it down.

   "After forcing their way inside the homes, they went on a rampage and 
started beating people and breaking household items," Khan said of the mobs, 
adding that he and his family had to run and take shelter inside a mosque that 
he said was guarded by thousands of Muslim men.

   "I don't know if our house was burned or not, but when we were running away 
we heard them asking people to pour kerosene and burn everything down," Khan 
said.

   Some of the dead had bullet wounds, according to Dr. Sunil Kumar, medical 
director of the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. 

   Others came to the hospital with gunshot and stab wounds and head injuries.

   Among them was Mohammad Sameer, 17, who was being treated for a gunshot 
wound to his chest Wednesday at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.

   Speaking to The Associated Press after having an operation, Sameer said he 
was standing on his family's apartment terrace watching Hindu mobs enter 
Mustafabad when he was shot in the chest.

   "When Sameer was shot, I took him on my shoulders and ran downstairs," said 
the boy's father, Mohammad Akram. "But when the mob saw us, they beat me and my 
injured son. He was bleeding very badly. While they were beating with sticks, 
they kept on chanting 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans and threatened to barge inside our 
homes."

   Akram said he managed to get his son into a vehicle, but they were stopped 
several times by Hindus demanding they pull their pants down to show whether 
they were circumcised before they managed to escape from the area and reach the 
emergency room. Muslims are generally circumcised, while Hindus are not.

   In Kardampura, a Muslim-majority area where a youth was shot and killed on 
Monday, hundreds of police personnel in riot gear patrolled the area and asked 
people to stay indoors, while residents said they were living in fear. 

   "We are scared and don't know where to go," said one resident, Dr. Jeevan 
Ali Khan. "If the government wanted, they could have stopped these riots."

   Close by, black smoke still rose on Wednesday afternoon from a market that 
sold tires and second-hand car parts in Gokalpuri as fireman tried to douse the 
smoldering fire.

   The violence drew sharp reactions from U.S. lawmakers, with Rep. Rashida 
Talib, a Democrat from Michigan, tweeting, "This week, Trump visited India but 
the real story should be the communal violence targeting Muslims in Delhi right 
now."

   Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the killing of Muslims, 
saying: "Now 200 million Muslims in India are being targeted. The world 
community must act now."

   Trump told reporters Tuesday that he had heard about the violence but had 
not discussed it with Modi. Instead, Trump gloated about his reception in India.

   India has been rocked by violence since Parliament approved the citizenship 
law in December. Opponents have said the country is moving toward a religious 
citizenship test, but Trump declined to comment on it.

   "I don't want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India and hopefully 
they're going to make the right decision for the people," he said.


(KR)

 
 
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