NEW DELHI (AP) — An angry group of Hindus carrying pickaxes and iron rods hurled rocks at Muslims in new violence in the Indian capital over a new citizenship law on Tuesday, with at least 10 people killed in two days of clashes that cast a shadow over U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the country.
After his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump told reporters that he had heard about the violence, but did not discuss it with Modi.
Black smoke rose into the sky after Hindu protesters set fruit and vegetable shops and a Muslim shrine on fire in the Bhajanpur area in New Delhi’s northeast, witnesses said.
In addition to the 10 deaths, at least 150 people have been injured in the clashes since Monday, Sunil Kumar, the medical superintendent of Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, told reporters.
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.
One police officer was killed in the violence Monday 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.”
Trump failed Tuesday to strike any major trade deal with India at the end of a visit big on photo opportunities but short on substance and overshadowed by deadly riots.
Speaking after talks in New Delhi with Modi, the U.S. president said only that they had made "tremendous progress” towards a comprehensive agreement and that he was "optimistic we can reach a deal”.
While minor compared to his trade war with China, Trump has slapped tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium and suspended duty-free access for certain goods in an effort to cut the $25-billion U.S. trade deficit with Asia’s third-biggest economy.
Under pressure to deliver ahead of elections in November, he had pressed for greater access to the vast Indian market of 1.3 billion people for U.S. dairy producers, makers of medical goods and for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
But Modi, who has a lot in common with Trump with his "Make in India” mantra echoing Trump’s "America First” slogan, has responded with higher tariffs on U.S. goods including $600 million worth of Californian almonds.
Modi, speaking alongside Trump a day after they appeared together at a raucous rally in front of 100,000 people, said only that both sides "have agreed to start negotiating for a big trade deal”.
Trump and Modi did however announce $3 billion in military deals, including for the sale of naval helicopters, proof of their deepening strategic alliance to counter China.
But the absence of a trade deal between the world’s biggest economy and its second most populous nation showed that behind the bonhomie they remain far apart. At Monday’s rally Trump described Modi as "very very tough”.