Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed for calm as the death toll from violent protests in Delhi reached 24, with more than 200 people injured and at least a dozen in critical condition.
Three days after deadly clashes broke out in north-east Delhi, and with the situation remaining tense, Mr Modi tweeted: “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks came even as the authorities asked people to trust the police, who have been criticised by the opposition for failing to rein in the violence.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the federal government to call in the army even as opposition leader Sonia Gandhi called for the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah.
“Situation alarming. Police, despite all its efforts, unable to control situation and instil confidence,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted.
The unrest in Delhi is the worst violence in the capital city in decades, exposing religious fault lines deepened by what critics say is the Hindu nationalist agenda of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The police force, which is under the federal government, has been accused of inaction and even of aiding and abetting rioters, a charge denied by those in authority. One policeman was killed in the violence.
Critics have accused BJP leaders of making incendiary remarks that deepen religious rifts, blaming in particular Mr Kapil Mishra, a second-rung BJP leader who issued an ultimatum to the police that if anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters were not removed from his neighbourhood, people like him would remove them.
Both Hindus and Muslims have been killed in the sectarian violence which broke out on Sunday between those supporting and opposing the controversial CAA. The Act gives citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
One victim of the violence, 21-year-old Mehtab, was dragged off in front of his family on Tuesday by a mob shouting “Jai Shree Ram” or “Glory to Lord Rama”, a few metres from his house in Brijpuri in the north-eastern part of Delhi.
He was going out to buy milk.
“Our neighbours had locked the gate leading into the lane, fearing a (rampaging) mob would get in. We told him not to go,” said his sister-in-law Jasmeen Begum.
A few hours later, the family received an anonymous call saying Mehtab, who helped his elder brother in his business, had been set on fire. “He had been burnt and stabbed. His clothes had melted into his skin,” said his elder sister Saira Begum, weeping outside the mortuary at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.
“It is like brother against brother. I never felt this division between Hindus and Muslims, I feel it now.”
About 200 people have been treated in hospitals with injuries ranging from bullet and knife wounds to burn and blunt weapon injuries. One victim had a hand drill pushed into his head.
Mr Anil Singh, 25, had gone with a friend, Mr Deepak Kumar, 28, to buy cloth in another locality and was caught by a mob on their return.
“I managed to run away. He was hit so badly that his skull was split open,” said Mr Singh. “After the mob left, I found him. His forehead had been split open. I got him to the hospital but he was already dead.”