Violence Continues in New Delhi, and the Police Are Criticized

 nytimes.com  02/27/2020 11:03:44   Jeffrey Gettleman

Anger is building against the police for failing to stop attacks on Muslims despite warnings that mobs were forming.

Police officers patrolling the streets of Jaffrabad in eastern New Delhi on Wednesday.
Police officers patrolling the streets of Jaffrabad in eastern New Delhi on Wednesday.Credit...Atul Loke for The New York Times
Jeffrey Gettleman

NEW DELHI  Sporadic violence continued to flare in Indias capital on Thursday as more people questioned the polices failure to quell sectarian violence that has claimed at least 35 lives.

Police officials were due in court to respond to claims that they had ignored several specific intelligence warnings over the weekend that armed Hindu mobs had begun forming to confront Muslim protesters on the outskirts of eastern New Delhi. The resulting violence  mosques and shops were torched, gangs battled with metal bars and rocks, police officers began firing into crowds  was the worst spasm of religiously driven bloodletting in India in years.

The violence grew intense as thousands of police officers were deployed to line the roads of New Delhi on Monday as President Trumps motorcade cruised into town for his first visit to the Indian capital. That has led to accusations that the government and police were so preoccupied with the American presidents visit that they did not heed the warnings  or worse, simply did not care to protect the countrys Muslim minority.



Intelligence agents within the police services sent several alerts asking for more forces to be deployed but the chaos only grew, according to the Indian media.

The whole city knew that riots were impending, said Harsh Mander, a human-rights activist who is pressing the courts to investigate the ringleaders. Why didnt the police act?

Alok Kumar, a senior police commander, said he was not aware that Mr. Trumps visit had affected the deployment. But another officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal, said that there had been a shortage of officers because so many had been stationed in the other part of the city to provide security for Mr. Trump. It was only after Mr. Trump left, on Tuesday night, that forces were shifted, he said.

The violence, which has stunned India and monopolized the newspapers front pages, is proving to become another crisis for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Protests erupted in December across the country after Mr. Modis government, which has roots in a Hindu-nationalist worldview, passed a new citizenship law that makes it easier for most migrants to become full-fledged Indian citizens unless they are Muslim.

On Sunday, Hindu community leaders in a working-class neighborhood in eastern Delhi had threatened to evict Muslim women who were staging a peaceful sit-in against the citizenship law. Those threats, instigated by a local politician from Mr. Modis political party, quickly escalated into fierce fighting, with mobs sweeping unchecked through the brick-walled alleyways and down the main roads, torching shops, homes and mosques.

If the mobs managed to get their hands on someone it usually ended in a splatter of blood. Photographs of Hindu gangs mercilessly beating Muslim men with metal bars have circulated on the internet. So, too, have images of Hindus who were beaten. Both sets have inflamed passions even further.

Many Muslim residents accuse New Delhis police force of siding with Hindu mobs and standing aside while they were attacked. For years now, most of Indias Muslims have distrusted Mr. Modi, seeing him, his Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., and state security services as biased against them.

On Thursday, Mohammed Sabir Salmani, a Muslim scrap dealer, waited outside a mortuary for the body of his mother. She was over 80 years old and had been trapped by a Hindu mob cheering Hindu religious slogans as they burned down the home around her.

The authorities have delayed giving back her body, Mr. Salmani said. And hers was hardly the only one. A crowd pressed against the mortuarys metal gates, guarded by private security men, and some people began to whisper that the government was trying to delay the funerals, as a way to lower the tensions.

Mr. Salmani shook with grief. He rubbed the stubble on his face. He wiped his eyes.

My father died before I was born, and my mother did everything, he said. She cut the grass, she fed the buffaloes, everything I have is because of her.

He does not know who killed her.

The mob has no face, he said. But if they came before me today, I wouldnt leave any of them alive.

Suhasini Raj, Sameer Yasir and Hari Kumar contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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