Riot-hit NE Delhi continues to simmer; 13 killed, curfew in four areas

Fresh wave of violence in Chandbagh; anti-CAA protesters lift sit-in outside Jafrabad metro station

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 25

Smoke billowed in the air and mobs roamed unchecked through the streets, burning shops, pelting stones and threatening locals, as fresh violence tore through northeast Delhi, killing six more people on Tuesday and taking the toll in the communal clashes over the amended citizenship law to 13.

As tension smouldered in the national capital's northeast and the sun set over another restive day, violence cut through several localities, including Chand Bagh and Bhajanpura, with stones and other missiles hurled and shops set ablaze.

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.

Delhi Police imposed curfew in riot-hit Maujpur, Jafrabad, Chand Bagh, and Karawal Nagar, IANS said later in the evening.

Meanwhile, the police said anti-CAA protesters have vacated road outside Jafrabad metro station where they had launched a sit-in since Saturday night. In another development, IPS officer S N Shrivastava has been repatriated from CRPF. As per an order, he has joined as Special Commissioner (Law and Order) in Delhi Police.

With US President Donald Trump also in the city, Delhi Police ramped up security. It 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.

No mosque vandalised: Delhi police

Delhi police has denied reports of a mosque being vandalised in Northeast Delhi.

DCP North West, Delhi, said: “Some false information has been circulating regarding damage to a mosque in Ashok Vihar area. No such incident has taken place in the area of Ashok Vihar. Please do not spread false information.”

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 and injured about 180 people, including 48 police personnel.

According to GTB Hospital, eight people were declared brought dead on Tuesday, taking the death toll in 13.

"Fifty per cent of those injured have sustained bullet injuries," a hospital official said.

As the violence continued unabated, police officials said the situation was under control and flag marches were conducted in Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas and other places.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah convened a meeting with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik and others to address the situation.

The meeting resolved that workers of political parties should join hands to restore peace and peace committees should be reactivated in all localities.

Rioters also set a bakery and several fruits carts on fire.

Curfew has been imposed in riot-hit Maujpur, Jafrabad, Chand Bagh, and Karawal Nagar.

In scenes not seen in the national capital for decades, frenzied groups, armed with sticks, stones and rods, were seen thrashing people on the road in Maujpur and also venting their ire on e-rickshaws and other vehicles. Many journalists were heckled and told to go back. Schools were shut and fearful residents stayed indoors as restless crowds roamed the streets, seemingly unmindful of prohibitory orders restricting the assembly of more than four people imposed by police on Monday.

Eyewitnesses said the police presence on several riot hit areas was negligible and police action wanting.

Journalists attacked 

Journalists covering the violence were attacked. Three journalists — Arvind Gunasekara and Saurabh Shukla from NDTv and Aakash from JK247 News channel we’re assaulted by rioting mobs when they were on the field in northeast Delhi to cover the violence.

All were admitted to hospitals and said to be stable.

Houses were also torched in parts of northeast Delhi, with government sources ruling out calling in the Army.

“There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalising shops. The law and order situation is extremely bad. 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 11 killed include Delhi Police head constable Ratan Lal. While Lal died of gunshot wounds, it is still not yet clear what killed the others or who they all were.

Among those killed was Vinod Kumar, a resident of Ghonda who was brought dead to the hospital and whose 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. 

 One person seen brandishing a gun before police on Monday was identified as Shah Rukh and been arrested yet. Police said 11 FIRs have been filed.

 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.

 "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.

Wounded being brought to hospitals on bikes, vans

Police said that the wounded are being forced to be brought to hospitals on bikes and vans because of road blockades by protesters.

Constable Amit Kumar, who sustained injury on his right hand while he was trying to disperse two groups pelting stones at each other, was brought to the Jag Pravesh Chander Hospital on a bike.

Kumar, posted at Khurjei Khas area, said, “I was trying to disperse two groups who were pelting stones at each other at Khajuri Khas Chowk and suddenly something hit me from behind. I do not know if it was a stone or something else”.

Kaif (32), who sustained injuries in clashes at Khureji Khas area, was brought by the police in a van at the hospital. The autorickshaw driver was parking his vehicle when a mob of 25 to 30 people attacked him with stones. He said his friend rescued him when he was lying on the ground. He sustained injuries on left side of his face and head.

Another man with suspected gunshot injury was rushed to the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital on a bike by two men.

One of the men who brought the injured to the hospital said the man sustained injuries in firing at Kabir Nagar side of Maujpur Chowk area.

With Trump in the city, Delhi Police ramped up security in the area. It is being assisted by paramilitary personnel. 

Officials said police personnel are talking to local peace committees in a bid restore amity.

“Mischief-makers are being dealt with strictly on the spot,” a senior official said.

Though one person seen brandishing a gun has been identified, police has detained him but not officially identified him. There have been no arrests yet.

“There has been a lot of violence. Shops and houses have been damaged. Neither side wins in this violence. We appeal for calm,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told the press hours after he met riots victims at a hospital. 

"Met with victims of violence being treated at the GTB Hospital and Max Hospital. Hindus, Muslims, policemen - none have escaped unhurt.. this madness must end immediately," he said in a tweet after the meeting. 

‘Stand by the government’

The Congress meanwhile said: “Whatever needs to be done to stop the violence should be done”.

Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala in a statement said the party was willing to stand behind the government to restore communal harmony.

This is no time for blame game and politics, Surjewala said after Congress veteran P Chidambaram said people were paying the price of electing insensitive leaders.

Surjewala said Congress appealed for calm and for people to defeat nefarious communal agenda.

“We appeal to HM Amit Shah and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to rise to the occasion,” Surjewala added. — With agencies

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