United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi was “needed more than ever”, as he expressed his sadness over the violence in North East Delhi that has claimed 39 lives as of Friday, PTI reported.

“The Secretary-General has been following the situation in India and the violence closely and [he] is saddened by the reports of deaths that we’ve seen over the past few days in New Delhi,” Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a daily press briefing. He added that the UN chief has reiterated the need to exercise maximum restraint and avoid violence in order to de-escalate tensions.

Invoking the spirit of Gandhi and his principle of non-violence, Dujarric said: “Throughout his life, the Secretary-General has been deeply inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. And today, the spirit of Gandhi is needed more than ever and it is essential to create conditions for true community reconciliation”

Earlier on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the clashes over the Citizenship Amendment Act that broke out on Sunday when supporters of the law clashed against those who oppose it. “I think it’s very important that demonstrators be allowed to demonstrate peacefully and that security forces show restraint,” Dujarric had said.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday expressed “great concern” over reports of police inaction during the violence. Addressing the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Bachelet said: “Indians in huge numbers, and from all communities, have expressed – in a mostly peaceful manner – their opposition to the Act, and support for the country’s long tradition of secularism. I am concerned by reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups, as well as previous reports of excessive use of force by police against peaceful protestors.”

In similar comments, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also condemned the violence in the national Capital and urged India to provide protection to people irrespective of their religion. “We urge the Indian government to make serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” the commission’s chairperson, Tony Perkins, said in a statement.
However, India has repeatedly rejected all concerns expressed by international organisations and persons, maintaining that all necessary steps are being taken to restore normalcy in the violence-affected areas.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said the comments made by the US religious panel, as well as by sections of the media and “a few individuals” appeared to be “aimed at politicising the issue”. Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that law enforcement agencies and senior government representatives were trying to normalise the situation. “We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this time,” he said.

India also condemned the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for its criticism of the Delhi violence and its allegation of discrimination against Muslims, calling their statement factually incorrect, selective and misleading.