Death toll in Hindu-Muslim riots near India’s capital rises to 6

Published August 2, 2023
Burnt vehicles are pictured following clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Nuh district of the northern state of Haryana, India, August 1. — Reuters
Burnt vehicles are pictured following clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Nuh district of the northern state of Haryana, India, August 1. — Reuters

Riot police were patrolling urban neighbourhoods near India’s capital on Wednesday following a second night of sectarian riots that have killed six people so far.

The unrest began on Monday when mobs hurled stones at a Hindu religious procession and set cars alight in the predominantly Muslim district of Nuh, around 75 kilometres south of New Delhi.

Arson and vandalism attacks broke out the following evening in parts of nearby Gurugram, a satellite city of the capital and a key business centre where Nokia, Samsung and other multinationals have their Indian headquarters.

One neighbourhood saw a mob of around 200 people armed with sticks and stones loot several meat shops and set fire to a restaurant while chanting Hindu religious slogans.

Haryana state chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said six people had been killed in the violence and 116 arrested so far.

“Those found guilty will not be spared. We are committed to the safety of the public,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Two of the dead were security personnel on their way to help contain the unrest in Nuh, state police said on Tuesday.

Police in New Delhi said they had increased security in some neighbourhoods as a precautionary measure.

Local media reports said tensions first flared after prominent Hindu nationalist activist Monu Manesar, a member of the radical right-wing group Bajrang Dal, announced he would attend Monday’s procession in Nuh.

Manesar is wanted by police over accusations that he was responsible for the lynching of two Muslim cattle traders in another part of Haryana state.

The alleged vigilante leader regularly posts videos celebrating attacks on Muslims accused of transporting or killing cows, which are considered sacred by Hindus.

Police said Manesar was evading arrest and ultimately did not join the procession.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, India has seen numerous outbreaks of violence between majority Hindus and its 200-million-strong Muslim minority.

Critics accuse the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of marginalising the Muslim community since coming to power.

Religious riots in New Delhi left 53 people dead in 2020.

And at least 1,000 were killed in 2002 during violence in Gujarat, where Modi was serving as chief minister at the time. Most of the victims were Muslims.

Tax officials raided the BBC’s India office in February after the British broadcaster aired a documentary on Modi’s actions during the riots.

A probe appointed by India’s top court said in 2012 it did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by Modi.

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