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26 Feb 2020 | 06:52 AM UTC

India: Death toll in Delhi rises to 21 February 26 /update 38

Death toll rises to 21, 189 wounded as third consecutive night of anti-CAA protests in Delhi turn violent amid religious clashes February 26; avoid all protests as a precaution

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Event

The death toll has risen to at least 21 people and 189 others have been reported injured after a third consecutive night of clashes between opposing groups in north-east Delhi on Wednesday, February 26. According to media sources, the violence - until then occurring between pro and anti-CAA protesters - is degenerating into sectarian clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups in the Muslim-majority neighborhoods of Maujpur, Mustafabad, and Shiv Vihar.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's Chief Minister, described the situation as alarming and demanded the army be called in to put an end to what is considered to be the deadliest violence Delhi has seen in decades.

Police reportedly attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas and smoke grenades, but protesters were able to tear down metal barricades and set vehicles on fire.

Police are in the process of restoring order, and have implemented emergency laws under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to prohibit assemblies of three or more people in northeastern Delhi.

Several schools and at least five metro stations in the Delhi area remain closed as of Wednesday due to the ongoing violence. Further protests are possible throughout India over the coming days.

A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation, business, and telecommunications are to be expected in the vicinity of all protests over the coming days. Violent clashes between rival protesters and police are likely.

Context

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslim minorities fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. In conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), activists claim that it specifically seeks to target Indian Muslims. The NRC aims to identify illegal immigrants by requiring individuals to prove their citizenship based on specific documentation prior to a certain cut-off date. On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah said that the NRC will be implemented nationwide. Opponents of the CAA argue that it isolates Muslim Indians by favoring all non-Muslim religious minorities who may fail to qualify for the NRC but will nonetheless be assured citizenship. The CAA has also received opposition - particularly in several northeastern states - due to fears that it will encourage an influx of immigrants that will affect the ethnic balance.

India's supreme court refused to strike down the law on January 22, prompting further protests. At least 30 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters, and police officers have arrested hundreds of demonstrators since December 11.

Advice

Individuals in India are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations as violence may flare up without warning, and prepare for widespread disruptions to transportation, business, and telecommunications in protest-affected areas. If a demonstration is organized without warning, individuals are advised to refrain from crossing roadblocks, take shelter in a safe place, and avoid taking pictures. Travelers should adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities (especially if curfews are enforced) and their home governments.