New Delhi: Communal violence over the amended citizenship law escalated in northeast Delhi on Tuesday taking the death toll to 13 as police struggled to check the rioters who ran amok on streets, burning and looting shops, pelting stones and thrashing people.
After overnight incidents of arson, tension smouldered in the national capital and as the day progressed streets in several localities like Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Maujpur, Kardampuri and Jaffrabad saw pitched battles between the members of two groups who also hurled petrol bombs and opened fire.
Late in the night, locals in Maujpur area claimed that announcements were being made by police on loudspeakers about promulgation of shoot-at-sight orders, but Deputy Commissioner of Police (Northeast) Ved Prakash Surya denied it.
Over 200 people, including 48 police personnel, have been injured and half of the civilians have suffered gunshot wounds, hospital authorities said.
The violence, which started on Sunday after anti-CAA protests blocked a road outside Jaffrabad Metro station and BJP leader Kapil Mishra called a gathering in favour of CAA, intensified on Tuesday, despite shored up security in the city in view of US President Donald Trump’s visit. The protesters withdrew from the site on Tuesday night.
As Delhi Police faced allegations of inaction, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting at noon with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, city police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and others on steps to restore peace. IPS officer S N Shrivastava was appointed as the new Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Law and Order) after the Union Home Ministry repatriated him from the CRPF on Tuesday night to take control of the situation in the wake of communal violence in the city, officials said.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said 11 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence. Over 20 persons have been detained and only one person, identified as Shahrukh who had fired a few rounds in the air after brandishing a gun at a policeman, has been arrested.
Sixty-seven companies of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed across the area, police sources said. In scenes not seen in the national capital for decades, frenzied groups thrashed people on the road and vandalised vehicles.
Mediapersons were also attacked. Akshay, a journalist with JK 24X7 News, received a bullet injury and was in a serious condition in hospital, and two reporters from NDTV were beaten and punched by rioters. Many other journalists were heckled and told to go back.
Rioters damaged two fire tenders in Gokulpuri and crowds raising incendiary slogans set on fire fruit carts, rickshaws and anything that came in their way in the epicentre of the trouble Maujpur and other places. Police fired teargas shells to disperse the rioters — armed with stones, rods and even swords and many wearing helmets to protect themselves — and was assisted by paramilitary personnel.
Streets were littered with mangled remains of vehicles, bricks and burnt tyres, mute testimony to the violence and bloodshed that took on a communal taint on Monday. According to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital officials, eight people succumbed to injuries suffered during violence on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 13.
“Fifty per cent of those injured have sustained bullet injuries,” Medical Superintendent Sunil Kumar said. Flag marches were conducted in Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas and other places, but clashes continued till late in night. Randhawa said the areas affected by violence are congested and inhabited by mixed population.
The meeting presided by Shah resolved that workers of political parties should join hands to restore peace and peace committees should be reactivated in all localities. Schools were shut and fearful residents stayed indoors as mobs roamed the streets, seemingly unmindful of prohibitory orders restricting the assembly of more than four people imposed on Monday.
“There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalising shops. Families need to be evacuated. We are unsafe in our own homes,” said a resident of Maujpur, requesting anonymity. Another added that this is the first time in 35 years — possibly since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots — that he has seen a situation such as this. “The area had always remained peaceful,” he told PTI.
Trouble continued through the day. Around 5 pm in Chand Bagh, for instance, security personnel were pelted with stones. They chased the mob, only to be attacked afresh with some people also armed with petrol bombs. A few residents in Yamuna Vihar and Jaffrabad told PTI they had seen rioters with swords in their hands.
The 13 killed include Delhi Police head constable Ratan Lal. Vinod Kumar, a resident of Ghonda, was brought dead to the hospital and his body is at the morgue of the Jag Parvesh Hospital. Also killed was Mohammad Furkan from Kardampuri, near Jafrabad, who got married in 2014 and has two children. His brother, Mohammed Imran, overcome with grief, said they were both in the handicrafts business.
“He had gone to get some food for his children. Someone told me he had been shot. I couldn’t believe it as I had met him barely an hour earlier. I kept calling him… I then rushed to GTB Hospital where I was told that he is dead,” he told reporters, sobbing inconsolably outside the hospital. Imran blamed BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s tweet, giving Delhi Police an ultimatum to clear the streets of protesters and saying people would be quiet only until Trump is in India.
“Before that everything was peaceful,” he said. Asked whether action will be taken against Mishra , Delhi Police PRO Randhawa said, “All these things are under investigation. We will investigate and take action against conspirators.”
Mishra, however, remained defiant saying he was not scared of the “massive hate campaign” against him for “speaking truth” and supporting the amended citizenship law.
Kejriwal, who held a meeting with senior officials and MLAs of all parties to discuss the situation, asked people to refrain from violence and said all issues can be dealt with through dialogue.
He claimed that there is a need to seal borders to prevent outsiders from coming and indulging in violence “Stop this madness,” he said after visiting the injured in GTB Hospital. “I have met the people who were injured, also met some people who sustained bullet injuries. The biggest concern is to stop the violence. I appeal to everyone to stop the violence,” he said.
Five stations on the Delhi Metro’s Pink Line were closed for the second consecutive day on Tuesday in the wake of the trouble. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Amit Sharma underwent an operation on Monday night for the head injury sustained during the clashes.
Police in Uttar Pradesh have enhanced security and patrolling along Ghaziabad and Noida borders with Delhi. The Noida police said it was on “high alert” and Section 144 of the CrPC, which bars assembly of four or more people, was in place in the district, while the Police Armed Constabulary (PAC) has also been deployed in huge numbers.
“Liquor shops near Delhi border areas were being closed and comprehensive checking was being carried out,” the Noida Police said in a statement on Tuesday night. Similar measures were being taken in Ghaziabad, where police have increased security on Loni border which is close to northeast Delhi.
“The security apparatus is active in the border areas, like Loni, where patrolling has also been increased. Peace committee meetings are being convened across the district. Intelligence unit is also active,” Ghaziabad Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani told PTI.
People who had to go to airport or the Anand Vihar railway station were stranded due to the unresy. “A neighbour of mine had to go to catch a train from Anand Vihar. But he remained stuck in his house. There are several people from Yamuna Vihar who had to go out, some even to airport, but could not because of the violence,” Kirti Nath Jha, a local, said.
By evening, rumours of vandalism also spread in areas like Krishna Nagar and Laxmi Nagar in East Delhi, leading to closure of markets. “A few young men on motorcycles raced past the market shouting ‘aa gaye, aa gaye’ (they’ve come, they’ve come) leading to panic. Immediately shops were shut and the streets bore deserted look. But it turned out to be a rumour at a sensitive time. We contacted the local police and they reached the market to quell the rumours,”
Ashok Suri, a member of Confederation of All India Traders, told PTI. A stampede-like situation occurred in Laxmi Nagar around 6 pm over rumours of “gunshots being fired” in nearby Khureji Khas, which has been an anti-CAA protest site and witnessed violence in last two days.
Several shops on Mangal Bazar road pulled down their shutters even as vendors ran with their carts and people rushed to safety after they saw others running.