Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Relatives and neighbors wail in front of the body of Mohammad Mudasir, 31, who was killed in communal violence in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. India accused a U.S. government commission of politicizing communal violence in New Delhi that killed at least 30 people and injured more than 200 as President Donald Trump was visiting the country. (AP)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.

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Motorcycle gunmen kill journalist in Honduras

Updated 1 min 13 sec ago

Motorcycle gunmen kill journalist in Honduras

  • The journalist was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and died early Monday
  • In June, a journalist and his cameraman were shot dead in the Caribbean port of La Ceiba

TEGUCIGALPA: A Honduran journalist who was a sharp government critic has been killed in a drive-by shooting, police said Monday, bringing the number of reporters killed in the country to 85 in two decades.
Luis Almendares, 35, was visiting a store in Comayagua, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa, when he was shot multiple times on Sunday.
“He was intercepted by two individuals on a motorcycle, who shot him repeatedly,” police said in a statement.
The journalist was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and died early Monday, according to Amada Ponce, director of the Committee for Free Expression.
Almendares, a freelancer who used social media to criticize the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, had repeatedly complained to police and the country’s National Protection System over receiving death threats, the rights group said.
The government set up the National Protection System in 2015 in response to concerns expressed by the Organization of American States and the UN over the high number of killings involving rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.
The president of the Honduran association of journalists, Dagoberto Rodriguez, announced his group was withdrawing from the protection system in reaction to Almendares’s death.
“The government has let this system go off course by giving it neither logistical nor financial means,” Rodriguez said.
He slammed the impunity of those responsible for murdering journalists and members of the media, saying “the government shows that it is not interested.”
In June, a journalist and his cameraman were shot dead in the Caribbean port of La Ceiba. Two gang members were arrested as suspects in that killing.
However, Ponce told AFP that more than 90 percent of the 85 murders of journalists carried out in Honduras since 2001 have gone unpunished.
The United Nations human rights commissioner’s Honduras office “urged the Honduran state to conduct an independent, prompt, effective and impartial investigation” into Almendares’s killing.
The presidents of the Inter American Press Association and the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information also expressed their outrage, noting that 15 other journalists have been murdered in the Americas since the start of 2020.