NEW DELHI: A policeman was among at least seven people killed in New Delhi on Monday during violent clashes over a contentious citizenship law, local media said, even as United States President Donald Trump arrived in the Indian capital for an official visit, reported NDTV.
Protesters torched at least two houses and shops before later setting a tyre market on fire, the Press Trust of India said. Local TV channels showed plumes of black smoke billowing from buildings.
One video posted on social media showed crowds of men shouting “Jai Shree Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram”, a revered Hindu deity, as they went on a rampage. Protests have broken out across India since the citizenship law came into force in December, leaving at least 30 people killed in clashes with police.
Critics say the law discriminates against Muslims. The new law has raised worries abroad – including in Washington – that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remould secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalising the country’s 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.
The latest unrest erupted between several hundred supporters and opponents of the law in a Muslim-dominated area of northeast Delhi on Sunday, and continued Monday. A constable died after receiving a critical head injury, while another senior officer was among the injured.
Local media said three civilians also died and many people were hurt. “Please renounce violence. Nobody benefits from this. All problems will be solved by peace,” Delhi´s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted that schools in the capital’s northeast would be shut on Tuesday and exams postponed.
Nice memories but no trade deal for Trump in India
Donald 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the US 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 US trade deficit with Asia’s third-biggest economy.
Under pressure to deliver ahead of elections in November, he has pressed for greater access to the vast Indian market of 1.3 billion people for US 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 US 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”.
Eye on China
Arriving on Monday Trump hailed India and its “tremendously successful” but “very, very tough” Modi at the rally inside the world´s largest cricket stadium in Modi´s home state Gujarat.
The razzmatazz of the “Namaste Trump” event was recompense for a “Howdy Modi” extravaganza in Houston last year when the two leaders held hands and Trump compared Modi to Elvis Presley.
Trump and First Lady Melania then flew to the Taj Mahal where they held hands, and on Tuesday were given the full pomp of an official welcome and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at the independence hero´s memorial in Delhi.
Trump and Modi did however announce $3 billion in defence deals, including for the sale of naval helicopters, proof of their deepening strategic alliance to counter the rise of China in the region.
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”.
Against that backdrop, the First Lady visited a school to watch a “happiness class” in which children meditate and focus on mindfulness to make them better pupils and citizens.
The curriculum was launched in 2018 by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and has piqued the interest of Melania Trump who has promoted a “Be Best” initiative for US children.