Delhi riots: 20 dead and 189 wounded in sectarian unrest, hospital director says

Delhi's chief minister called on Wednesday on the Indian government to impose a curfew

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Patients on stretchers crammed the public hospital emergency room while relatives of the dead wailed outside a morgue after three days of clashes between Hindus and Muslims that coincided with US President Donald Trump’s visit to India.

At least 20 people were killed in the clashes, including a police officer, and nearly 200 people were injured in the worst communal riots in the Indian capital in decades.

Violence between Muslims, who are protesting against a new citizenship law that will naturalise foreigners who are not followers of Islam, and Hindus left shops smouldering.

The government has banned public assembly in the affected areas.

While riots racked north-east New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a lavish reception for Mr Trump, including a rally in his home state of Gujarat attended by more than 100,000 people.

The two leaders also signed an agreement to for India to buy more than $3 billion of US helicopters and other military hardware. Mr Trump left India late on Tuesday evening.

New Delhi’s top elected official, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, called for Mr Modi’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, to send the army to areas in a north-east corner of the sprawling capital.

Police said the situation was tense but under control. Schools remained closed.

In his first comments on the matter this week, Mr Modi called for calm on Wednesday, saying “peace and harmony are central to our ethos”.

On Wednesday, victims’ relatives stood outside the mortuary, some crying as they waited for hospital authorities to release the bodies after post-mortem examinations.

Rahul Solanki, 26, a Hindu, died from a gunshot wound, his family said. His younger brother, Rohit Solanki, said he was shot walking to a shop to buy milk.

The corridors of the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital at New Delhi’s eastern border are often crowded, but on Wednesday hundreds thronged its wards as doctors worked through the night to treat injuries.

Mohammad Akram watched as his son, 17, was wheeled out of an operating theatre after surgery for a bullet wound in his chest.

The teenager said he was shot on his family’s apartment terrace as he watched Hindu mobs enter his neighbourhood.

Patients continued to pour into the hospital on stretchers. Those with head injuries were wheeled to the overcrowded emergency room.

Mohammad Akbar made it to the hospital with his head bleeding profusely after he was attacked early Wednesday.

Mr Akbar, who is Muslim, said a crowd forced him to chant the Hanuman chalisa, a Hindu devotional hymn dedicated to Lord Hanuman.

“They pounced on me after and started beating me. One person hit me on the head with an axe,” Mr Akbar said.

He was one of the lucky ones. He found a vehicle to take him to the hospital, about 6 kilometres away.

Others waited, sometimes in vain, for ambulances that struggled to reach injured people on narrow roads in areas rioters were not allowing anyone to enter, said Shaleen Mitra, an adviser to Delhi’s Health Minister, Satyender Jain.

Mr Mitra said police blocked ambulances that were trying to take the injured from a small, overcrowded private hospital in Mustafabad, a Muslim-majority area, to the larger public Guru Teg Bahadur hospital.

“The police told the healthcare workers that they wouldn’t be able to provide them with protection from the rioters,” he said.

Delhi High Court judges met for a midnight hearing and ordered police to move the injured.

Relatives of Muslim victims accused police of standing by as the Hindu mobs torched buildings and beat people.