NEW DELHI (AP) — Police in India’s capital have arrested 14 people after communal violence broke out during a Hindu religious procession, leaving several injured, local media reported Sunday.
The suspects were arrested on charges of rioting and criminal conspiracy, among others, following the incident on Saturday night, said senior police officer Usha Rangnani, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
At least nine people, including eight police officers, were injured and were being treated in hospitals, Rangnani said.
Authorities say Hindu and Muslim groups in Jahangirpuri, a neighborhood in northwest New Delhi, threw stones at each other during a religious procession celebrating the birth of the Hindu god Hanuman on Saturday night. Police were investigating the incident and it remains unclear what sparked the violence.
It was the worst violence in New Delhi since 2020, when 53 people died in a large-scale communal unrest amid tensions over a controversial citizenship law that excluded Muslims.
Delhi's police commissioner tweeted late Saturday night that the situation in the neighborhood was under control after additional forces were deployed.
The capital’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, appealed for peace in the city and condemned the incident.
In videos posted on social media, streets in Jahangirpuri are seen littered with broken glass and stones while photos show heavily damaged vehicles. The unrest came after similar reports of communal violence and hate speech in a handful of other Indian states over the past week.
On April 10, a number of people were injured after anti-Muslim songs were blared through speakers during a procession to mark the birth of the Hindu god Ram in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, local media reported. A day later in the western state of Gujarat, one person died and many others were injured in violence following the festival, prompting curfews and a ban on gatherings in some parts of the state.
The string of recent religious attacks has sparked outrage and sharp criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Communal violence in India is not new, with periodic clashes breaking out ever since the British partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, but observers say that religious polarization has risen under Modi, further deepening fault lines against minorities and heightening tensions.
On Saturday, leaders from 13 opposition parties wrote a statement urging Modi to condemn the wave of religious attacks and expressing concern over the “recent outburst of communal violence witnessed across several states."
“We are extremely anguished at the manner in which issues related to food, dress, faith, festivals and language are being deliberately used by sections of the ruling establishment to polarize our society,” the leaders wrote.