Indian business hub Gurugram remains tense after Hindu-Muslim clashes

People ride past the burnt shops following clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gurugram district in the northern state of Haryana, India, August 1, 2023. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Traffic was lighter than usual on Wednesday and some streets deserted in the Gurugram business hub south of the Indian capital New Delhi as authorities said the death toll from two days of Hindu-Muslim clashes in the region had mounted to seven.

The violence erupted during a religious procession by Hindus in the Muslim-dominated Nuh district on Monday, resulting in the death of four people, including two police personnel, and around 60 people were injured.

By Wednesday morning, two more civilians had succumbed to injuries, officials said.

The unrest spread to neighbouring Gurugram on Monday night and continued through Tuesday, with a mosque being set on fire and its cleric killed. Several shops and eateries were vandalised or torched.

“The conspirators (behind the clashes in Nuh) are being continuously identified. A total of 116 people have been arrested so far,” Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of Haryana state where Gurugram is located, said on Wednesday.

Gurugram hosts dozens of multinational companies, including Google, Deloitte and American Express, in an area located about 10 km (6 miles) from the nearest violence.

While schools in most of the district were permitted to reopen from Wednesday, several institutions opted to suspend physical classes and move online amid concerns for safety.

Police officials, however, said the situation was “normal” and all educational institutions and offices were operating as usual.

Security forces across the region, including in New Delhi, remained on alert on Wednesday as Hindu nationalist groups staged demonstrations at various locations.

One such demonstration at the border between Gurugram and the neighbouring district of Faridabad involved over 100 protesters who shouted slogans and blocked the toll plaza for around 20 minutes.

Many of India’s 200 million Muslims have started questioning their place in society under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, with incidents including lynching Muslims on suspicion of transporting beef, adding to their fears.

The unrest on the outskirts of Delhi comes just over a month before world leaders arrive in the national capital to attend the G20 summit – the biggest such gathering the city has hosted in decades.

Federal Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is also the member of parliament from Gurugram, in a conversation with The Indian Express newspaper, questioned why participants in the procession in Nuh on Monday were carrying weapons.

“Who gave weapons to them for the procession? Who goes to a procession carrying swords, or sticks? This is wrong,” he said, adding that provocation from both sides was responsible for the violence.



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