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Indian-Canadians call for action after deadly New Delhi clashes: ‘They don’t feel safe anymore’

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s South Asian community worried about deadly clashes in India' Toronto’s South Asian community worried about deadly clashes in India
WATCH: Dozens are dead after riots broke out in India, sparked by a controversial citizenship law, that now has Indo-Canadians in Toronto concerned for their families’ safety back home. Kamil Karamali reports – Mar 3, 2020

Zafar Shamim has been checking his phone constantly since violent attacks began escalating between Muslims and Hindus in his home city of New Delhi, India.

“I’m very much scared,” said Shamim.

“I’m scared for my nephew, I’m scared for my family — I don’t know what will happen.”

Tensions had been rising and hit a boiling point last week, when thousands of people from the two religious groups took part in riots that dragged on for three days.

The latest numbers have the death toll at near 50, while hundreds of people were left injured.

READ MORE: India riots: Hospitals try to identify dead, Muslims return to burnt mosques

Shamim fears for his family, who are part of the Muslim minority in the majority-Hindu nation.

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“We feel helpless,” he said. “Many times, we are sleepless at nights [when we] see what’s transpiring.”

Shamim’s parents, his two sisters and their families are back home in New Delhi.

“If some member of the family is out of the home, they’re on edge until they return back — because with how the atmosphere is there, five people can lynch you or assault without a question being asked,” said Shamim.

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Shamim is with the newly-formed group called Indo-Canadians for Humanity and a member of the Canadian Council of Indian Muslims.

Both groups have been holding multiple rallies attended by hundreds in Toronto, with a goal of drawing attention to the conflict in their home country.

Part of the purpose of the protests is also to call on the Canadian government to condemn the violence, which was sparked by a controversial law passed in India in December, making it easier for persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries to gain Indian citizenship.

The bill, however, specifically excludes Muslims.

READ MORE: At least 22 dead as India citizenship law protests swell during Trump’s visit

“There’s definitely a growing number of citizens, Canadians or Indian, that feel like something has changed, the social fabric has come apart in India,” said Priyash, who is a Hindu Indian-Canadian student at University of Toronto and helped organize the rallies.

He adds that his family back home have needed to be extra careful when leaving their homes.

“They don’t feel safe anymore,” Priyash said, “as much as they did in a city in which they’ve called home for more than three decades.”

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Shamim and others in Toronto’s large Indian community are now asking how they can get their family out of India safety — at least until the violence ends.

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