Indian police detain members of Centre of Indian Trade Unions protesting against the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to India, in Hyderabad, India, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. India poured on the pageantry with a joyful, colorful welcome for President Donald Trump who on Monday kicked off a whirlwind 36-hour visit that emphasizes pageantry over policy and a mega-rally to reaffirm U.S.-India ties while providing enviable overseas imagery for a president in a re-election year. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Violence in Indian capital casts shadow over Trump's visit

February 25, 2020 - 12:53 pm

NEW DELHI (AP) — An angry group of Hindus carrying pickaxes and iron rods hurled rocks at Muslims in new violence in the Indian capital on Tuesday, a day after at least seven people, including a police officer, were killed and more than 100 others were reportedly injured in clashes over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims, police said.

The violence occurred as U.S. President Donald Trump held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the second day of a visit to India. Trump told reporters that he heard about the violence, but did not discuss it with Modi.

Black smoke rose into the sky after protesters set fruit and vegetable shops and a Muslim shrine on fire in the Bhajanpur area in New Delhi’s northeast, witnesses said.

India has been rocked by violence since Parliament approved a new citizenship law in December that provides fast-track naturalization for some foreign-born religious minorities but not Muslims.

Trump declined to comment on the new law. “I don't want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India and hopefully they're going to make the right decision for the people,” he said.

The group of Hindus roamed the area shouting praises to Hindu gods and goddesses. Police fired tear gas to disperse them and a group of rival Muslims. They retreated to the two sides of a highway.

Also Tuesday, protesters in several other areas of northeastern New Delhi defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people and threw stones and set some shops and vehicles on fire, a police officer said. Some homes were attacked with rocks.

The police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the situation was tense but under control. Police and paramilitary forces sent reinforcements to quell the clashes.

The New Delhi Television news channel said more than 100 people had been injured in clashes since Monday.

Police spokesman Anil Kumar confirmed seven deaths on Monday, but said he didn't have the number of people injured in Tuesday's violence.

The Press Trust of India news agency put the death toll at nine.

During Monday's protests, police fired tear gas and used canes as they charged at protesters in several areas of New Delhi. The rival groups hurled rocks at each other and set some houses, shops, vehicles and a gasoline pump on fire. Police closed two metro stations in the area.

One police officer was killed in the violence after he was hit by rocks, police officer Anuj Kumar said. Eleven other officers were injured by rocks as they tried to separate rival groups, police said.

Also Monday, Hindu nationalist and communist groups held pro- and anti-U.S. street demonstrations in the capital.

Critics say the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. At a massive rally in Ahmedabad after Trump's arrival on Monday, the president praised India's history of religious tolerance, saying many faiths "worship side by side in harmony.”

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