In two days of violent clashes in the Indian capital between hundreds of supporters and opponents of a new law that fast tracks citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from select countries, at least 13 people, including one police officer, have been killed.
The protests erupted in parts of New Delhi on Monday, a few hours before the arrival of US President Donald Trump, who is on a State visit in India.
Police deployed tear gas in affected areas, as protesters hurled stones and set fire to numerous vehicles and a gasoline pump, police say. The violence took place in East Delhi, about 11 miles from where Trump has talked with Indian Premier Narendra Modi Tuesday.
Arvind Kejriwal, the highest elected official of Delhi, tweeted that the violence was “very distressing,” and asked for the restoration of “peace and harmony.”
According to a medical officer, who did not want to be named, 150 people were in the hospital with various blunt force and bullet injuries as of Tuesday. Fifty of those injured, the medical officer said, were from gunshot injuries.
Thirteen people were declared dead, including a police officer who died to the head from an injury to the bullet.
Indians have been protesting for months over the controversial law which gives asylum seekers from three neighboring countries Indian citizenship — but not if they are Muslim. As part of the ongoing clashes, a number of people have died.
Opposition parties say the law is unconstitutional because it bases citizenship on the religion of a person and would marginalize India’s 200 million-strong Muslim community further.
The government, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist, said the law seeks to protect religious minorities who fled persecution in their home countries.
There has also been pushback from indigenous groups in the northeastern states of India, who believe that granting citizenship to large numbers of immigrants will change the region’s distinctive ethnic makeup and way of life, irrespective of religion.
The latest outbreak of violence comes as Trump visits India for the first time as president of the United States, a much-anticipated event intended to strengthen relations between the United States and India.
Speaking to the New Delhi media on Tuesday, Trump said he hadn’t raised the clashes with his counterpart, Prime Minister Modi, but they had talked about religious freedom.
American officials previously expressed concern about the Citizenship Law and proposed that the President raise the issue during the trip with Modi.
Protests continued in the capital on Tuesday where Trump is holding formal talks with Modi and his administration, followed by a state banquet at the official presidential palace, the ornate Rashtrapati Bhavan, in the evening.
Asad Ali, who works at a factory, said in East Delhi he had seen greater violence. “There’s plenty of crowds out there and they’re running around with rods breaking windows and damaging cars. We can’t leave our houses. They’re even pelting stones,” Ali informed CNN.
CNN has contacted local police for comment.
Police spokesman Alok Kumar said earlier that police had taken ongoing action and that “force was deployed” across affected areas on Tuesday in a bid to quench signs of further unrest.
Several Indian journalists who covered the clashes were injured. A correspondent working for NDTV, Arvind Gunasekar, told CNN that he was in East Delhi reporting on violence at a Muslim graveyard on Monday when a mob of around 20 people turned on him. The party had shouted pro-Hindu slogans, Gunasekar said.