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Indian PM appeals for peace as death toll hits 20 in Delhi riot

NEW DELHI: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for peace in Delhi yesterday after days of violent clashes between Hindus and minority Muslims over a citizenship law left at least 20 people dead and 200 wounded. Sixty people suffered gunshot wounds, the authorities said.

Mr Modi, breaking silence over the violence, said it was important that calm be restored to the capital city of more than 18 million people.

"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," he tweeted.

The sectarian violence in a mixed neighbourhood of Delhi, which coincided with a visit to India by US President Donald Trump, erupted among thousands demonstrating for and against the new citizenship law introduced by Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist government.

The two days of unrest, which began on Monday, is the worst sectarian violence seen in India's capital in decades.

Yesterday, riot police patrolled the streets of Delhi as its chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called for the army to be deployed and a curfew to be imposed over flashpoint north-eastern districts.

"Police, despite all its efforts, (are) unable to control situation and instil confidence. Army (should) be called in and curfew imposed," Mr Kejriwal tweeted yesterday.

The area is home to mostly poorer economic migrants living in many shanty neighbourhoods, and some fled yesterday ahead of more expected clashes.

"People are killing (each other). Bullets are being fired here," a tailor in the Jaffrabad area said, adding he was returning home to his village in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

"There is no work... It is better to leave than to stick around. Why would we want to die here?"

The new citizenship law has raised worries abroad that Mr Modi wants to remould secular India into a Hindu nation while marginalising the country's 200 million Muslims, a claim he denies.

The law expedites the citizenship applications for persecuted minorities from India's three Muslim-majority neighbouring countries, but not if they are Muslim. - AFP, REUTERS

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