Delhi violence: Crowds baying for blood, no police deployment in Muslim localities
The story of Delhi’s first communal riots over a law enforced by the Central government started in Maujpur. The anti-CAA protesters had blocked the road at Jaffrabad police station on the night of February 22 and 23. The next day, Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra addressed a mob and threatened the police administration to get the road cleared within three days, or else the pro-CAA faction would take the law into their own hands. Mishra made these speeches at Maujpur Chowk, which has now become the epicentre of the violence.
The Joint Commissioner of Police, Alok Kumar, was trying to restore peace in Delhi’s Maujpur locality. The area has become the epicentre of the violence which started on February 23 in the North East district. It was roughly around 12 noon when he was trying to convince the representatives of the pro-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) mob. Kumar had proposed a formula whereby 10 people from both sides - pro-CAA and anti-CAA – should sit together and help the police to restore peace and harmony.
However, it seemed that few in the pro-CAA camp were ready to pay much heed to what the police had to say. “You remove the Jaffrabadbad blockade, our boys will step back,” said the man wearing a helmet and a vermillion teeka on his forehead.
The crowd assembled at Maujpur Chowk was a frenzied crowd, who had come fully prepared for violence. The flags of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ were hanging high across the street. It seemed like there were hundreds of people present, and almost everyone had vermillion teekas on their foreheads. Several charred motorcycles lay beside Delhi Police barricades. A small tempo used for carrying milk was lying open with milk spilling out of it. Roughly 100 metres away, men and women were sitting on a dharna of sorts, right beneath the Maujpur-Babarpur metro station. A public announcement system had been put in place. The Joint CP had to cut short his speech at this site because minutes after he reached the spot, two young men from the pro-CAA had returned with injuries. The first one was bleeding profusely from his head and the second one sported injuries in his leg. The police’s appeal to restore peace soon got lost. The attempts at peace talks had failed.
Moments later, journalists, including this correspondent, were shooed away from the area. Men holding iron rods and sticks were forcing us (reporters) to leave the locality. We were being threatened and told not to use our mobile phones. Any attempts to shoot or click pictures further angered the mob. The pro-CAA mob bullied, manhandled the journalists, and forced one reporter to clear all the data on his mobile phone. On the other side of Maujpur Chowk, the anti-CAA mob gathered at Jaffrabad Metro Station. The houses near the Jaffrabad police station had stood witness to the violence which was carried out in the morning and last night.
They were probably attacked by Molotov cocktails and still had fumes coming out of them. The stones used for pelting were lying on the road. There were shops which had been damaged and gutted.
One could listen to frenzied sloganeering from both sides at regular intervals. ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Jai Shree Ram’ were the favourite ones for the pro-CAA mob.
Despite the number of police deployed, it didn’t take us long to realise that the force deployment in these areas was much less than what was required.
The stretch between Maujpur and Kardumpuri remained extremely volatile. The sound of gunshots echoed through the air and was being fired by the communal mob. The crowd was gathering Molotov cocktails, and stone-pelting was being carried out indiscriminately. Even though the police and anti-riot vehicles were moved into these localities, the destruction continued. There was a series of gunshot injuries being reported from the locality on February 25.
Notably, the story of Delhi’s first communal riots over a law enforced by the Central government started in Maujpur. The anti-CAA protesters had blocked the road at Jaffrabad police station on the night of February 22 and 23. The next day, Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra addressed a mob and threatened the police administration to get the road cleared within three days, or else the pro-CAA faction would take the law into their own hands. Mishra made these speeches at Maujpur Chowk, which has now become the epicentre of the violence. The motormouth BJP leader had said that the pro-CAA faction were controlling themselves until the United States President Donald Trump left the country. However, even before the POTUS left the country, violence had swamped North East Delhi. A market in Gokalpuri area was burned down, and incidents of gunshot injuries were reported from Maujpur, old Mustafad area, Babarpur, Ghonda, and adjoining areas. Ten deaths have been reported so far, and nearly 150 were brought injured to the GTB Hospital.
No Police Deployment in Muslim localities
The localities stuck between the pro-CAA and anti-CAA communal mobs were preparing themselves to stay safe. One such colony was Gurudwara colony located right next to the anti-CAA protest venue. The locals were getting their entrance gates repaired to ensure the safety of their residents. They complained that the police deployment was inadequate.
Notably, at the request of the administration, several peace appeals were made by the officials of the Masjid located near Jaffrabad Metro station. The Masjid officials specifically asked the anti-CAA protesters not to cross the police barricades, and not to march towards the Maujpur Chowk where the pro-CAA communal group was standing. As these announcements were being made, smoke fumes were rising from the areas impacted by the pro-CAA communal groups.
As we moved towards the Jaffrabad and Welcome localities from this colony – we witnessed the making of a frenzied mob lusting for blood. Shockingly, most of them appeared to be in their teens. The mob with anti-CAA black bands on their heads entered the colony and started breaking bricks as if they were preparing for a stone-pelting session. Many of them had rods and sticks in their hands. A boy, pointing at rods standing inside a wire fencing mesh that was meant to protect plants, said, “Isse nikal le, sahi hai.” (Let’s take this out. It will be a strong weapon.)
As they entered the colony, the elders from the minority community verbally reprimanded them. And just as suddenly, another boy replied, “Should we sit back in our houses? They are roaming around with swords and axes to kill us. They will enter our houses if we stay silent.” This boy was in his teens and was wearing a black anti-CAA band on his forehead while holding a rod in his hands.
They were not allowed to resort to any violence at this stretch.
As we walked through different mohallas of Jaffrabad and Welcome, it was staggering to see no police deployment in these areas. The residents were left on their own. The onus of safety and self-restraint was on the minority community.
At Welcome, the anti-CAA protest being carried out by women for the past 50 days continued undeterred. The men, who neither wanted to be named or photographed, said, “Our protests are peaceful and disruptions have happened here. Go and look in Jaffrabad-Maujpur and nearby localities how mayhem has been unleashed.”
Police vehicles were spotted only towards the main road of Welcome which leads towards the Seelampur crossing.
The pain after the frenzied communal wave
Communal bloodlust came to a screeching halt at the GTB Hospital. Those beaten by the frenzied mob were being brought to this hospital for treatment. Those who had sustained gunshot injuries were being rushed to emergency wards.
By the evening of February 25, more than 150 injured were rushed to the GTB Hospital. Nine people were reported brought dead. Over 50 had gunshot injuries. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other ministers arrived to meet those injured in this violence.
At the emergency ward, every few minutes, people with gunshot injuries were being rushed in. Most of them were young. They belonged to both communities. The losses had faces and individual identities. Their relatives were sharing stories of how they were attacked and were concerned as to whether proper healthcare would be provided to them or not.
Naresh Saini was shot right in the abdomen in Brahmpuri locality last night. The 32-year-old vegetable seller was admitted in the ICU and his condition was critical. “My brother was shot in the abdomen around 4 am. A mob had surrounded our locality and Naresh went downstairs to join the group trying to protect the Hindu households,” Rajiv Saini, 40, told Asiaville. “Suddenly, he was hit by a bullet. The doctors have said that until he is conscious, his condition will remain critical.” Saini said that the Hindu groups just had stones and sticks in their hands. “Gunshots are being fired by anti-CAA protesters, we just had sticks in our hands,” Saini claimed.
21-year-old Shahrukh Khan was brought in a stretcher to the GTB’s emergency ward. “Ek goli lagi haanth mein. Family lekar aai yahan.” (I have sustained one bullet in my hand. My family rushed me to the hospital.) Khan spoke to Asiaville as he was being moved to the operation theatre. He was shot in the Kabir Nagar locality on Tuesday at noon, and the bullet was still inside his right forearm.
Mohammad Khalid, a north Ghonda resident, broke down in tears. “We stepped outside of our house to see the ruckus happening. A large crowd was stone-pelting. Suddenly, we heard the gunshots. And my brother fell on the ground right in front of my eyes,” Khalid told Asiaville. His 34-year-old brother, Nasir Khan works as a clerk with the Delhi government. “His head and left eye has been severely ruptured,” he said.
“Police to kahin hai hi nahi. Police ko to humne abtak dekha hi nahi.” (We have not seen any police deployment in our localities where Muslims live.) “Not a single policeman came for our rescue,” Khalid said. Like Saini, he also claimed that the gunshots were being fired only by one side – the one which was opposed to their ideological leaning.
At GTB Hospital, brothers of 28-year-old Durgesh Choudhary were discussing alternative arrangements for the best possible medical support. Choudhary, a pharmacist, was hit by a bullet in his abdomen at Maujpur. “The bullet hit him from the back. Our houses are located in the area, and he was returning home,” Choudhary’s family members said.
“We are locals and the situation in Maujpur and adjoining areas has worsened compared to yesterday. The arson and uses of guns have increased,” Choudhary’s brother said.