At least 20 people have now died in street clashes between Hindus and Muslims in northeastern New Delhi, India's capital. The violence stems from months of protests against a divisive citizenship law pushed through by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which offers legal status to every prominent religious minority except Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India's population.
The protests against the law had been peaceful until Sunday, when local BJP leader Kapil Mishra threatened to mobilize a Hindu mob to clear out the protesters, specifically warning police that if the streets weren't cleared by the time President Trump left India, his followers would do it instead. "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," The Associated Press reports. Along with the 21 confirmed deaths, at least 189 people have been injured from bullets, knives, clubs, and stones.
"This was the first time that the protests have set off major bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims," crossing "an old and dangerous fault line," The New York Times reports. On Wednesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked Modi's home minister, Amit Shah, to send the army in to help police quell the violence. Sonia Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, accused Modi's BJP of inciting violence and called on Shah to step down. Modi broke his silence on Wednesday, urging the people of "Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times."
The violence was seen as an embarrassment to Modi as he hosted Trump on his first state visit to India. Trump said late Tuesday he'd heard about the violence but he didn't "want to discuss" it, "I want to leave that to India." Muslims said they feared the violence would get worse after Trump left. "It's a little quiet because Trump is here," rickshaw driver Mohammed Tahir told the Times. "Their side is scared to give the prime minister a bad name," but "as soon as Trump leaves ... they will attack." Peter Weber
Amid nationwide protests, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is refusing to give way.
Modi on Sunday defended his Hindu nationalist government's recently passed citizenship law that has sparked protests across the country as nothing less than a humanitarian gesture. The law allows illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to claim Indian citizenship if they can show they were victims of religious persecution. But it only extends to non-Muslims and has been criticized for breaching India's secular constitution and for attempting to marginalize Muslims.
Speaking at a political rally in New Delhi, Modi said he "must assure Muslim citizens of India that this law will not change anything for them" and that his government operates without religious bias. "People who are trying to spread lies and fear, look at my work," he said.
To date, 23 people have reportedly been killed during the nationwide protests, which continued Sunday. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell