Forces finally move in, but riot-scarred Delhi residents say it’s too little, too late

Forces finally move in, but riot-scarred Delhi residents say it’s too little, too late

Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel carried out flag marches and also engaged residents to help restore peace. But many asked where they were for the last 3 days.

A man carries an infant away from Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi as police personnel look on | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

A man carries an infant away from Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi as police personnel look on | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

New Delhi: After three days of rioting that killed 25 people and injured 200, an uneasy calm prevailed in Northeast Delhi Wednesday. The bylanes that had been run over by men armed with axes, rods, petrol bottles and guns on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were largely deserted, and had been taken over by personnel from the Delhi Police and four paramilitary forces — the CRPF, CISF, SSB and RPF.

The armed personnel carried out flag marches and area-domination exercises, urging people to stay indoors and promptly responding to PCR calls. But the desecrated religious places, charred shops, burnt vehicles, damaged schools, empty bullet cartridges and sharp stones stood testament to police laxity and inaction over the last three days.

Armed personnel patrol the streets of Bhajanpura Wednesday, after three days of rioting | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

Until now, the police have registered 18 FIRs, and 106 people have been arrested.

“We have made prompt arrests today and a team of officers is working to identify more miscreants who indulged in violence in the last three days. Our teams are scanning the CCTV footage accessed from the area, which is strong evidence. More arrests are likely. The situation is now under control,” a senior police officer said.

However, those who have lost family members or property in the riots were left to rue the three days when the police barely responded to the emergency at hand.

“If only they had come in early, my son would have been alive,” said Sudha Sharma, mother of 26-year-old Ankit Sharma, an Intelligence Bureau officer who was killed, with his body thrown in a nullah in Chand Bagh.

Mohammad Raheemuddin of Mustafabad said: “In India, the police shows up even when two brothers have a small scuffle. Here, an entire area was destroyed in the national capital, and there was no police for three days. They have finally shown up.”

Mohammad Furquaan, who resides across the road from Raheemuddin, was quick to add: “Where were they yesterday, when my shop, my only source of income, was being burnt down, and my house was being vandalised? I cried for help, told the policemen who were deployed just metres away, but no one came to my rescue. Today, I have nothing.”

As he was narrating what had happened, CRPF personnel hit him with a stick and asked him to go indoors. “What has happened has happened. Stay indoors now. There is a curfew,” one CRPF jawan told Furquaan.

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Boots on ground, men armed with cameras

The police said in the past 24 hours, they have conducted several peace meetings and have “reassured communities that law and order will be maintained”.

The officer quoted above said joint commissioner- and special commissioner-rank officers carried out a flag march through Mustafabad, one of the worst-affected areas, towards Shiv Vihar.

“The special commissioner and joint commissioners are on the ground and we have been holding meetings with the locals. There is massive deployment today and distress calls are responded to very promptly. Two incidents of arson were reported in the morning, but were contained, and law and order was restored,” the officer said.

During the flag march, the police received a call from a Muslim family stuck in Shiv Vihar, just down the road, and promptly responded to the call, sending a PCR van to rescue the three stranded persons and dropping them to their residence in Babarpur. A Kashmiri student who had an examination in West Delhi’s Ashok Vihar was also taken out of the area in a PCR van.

All this was being recorded on phones by constables, who were given the task to film the entire operation.

While some residents called it “optics”, some thanked the police for finally taking charge of the situation and helping them out.

“Now all the senior officers are coming here and asking if we are fine. Just look around and see, does this look normal to you? What is the use of them coming now when everything has been destroyed?” asked Aslam, also from Mustafabad.

A man stands amid the burnt-out ruins of the Gokulpuri tyre market in Northeast Delhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“Yesterday, they helped those rioters burn our shops, stood there while we were being beaten up, and today, they are asking if all is well and if we need help. All this is being recorded because they want to show the world outside that they are professional force,” he alleged.

However, Rizwan from Babarpur had a different opinion. “The rioters came from outside and burnt everything. They are not from here. We are glad that the police have finally reached and taken charge. We feel safe now,” he said.

Also read: Riot-hit Northeast Delhi has 1 MP, 7 MLAs but only one has visited his constituency

Engaging with local leaders

The Delhi Police have roped in residents from all riot-hit areas — Babarpur, Chand Bagh, Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Mustafabad and others — to speak to their neighbours and urge for peace. The men, some of whom even volunteered to help the police, were seen speaking to the general public, appealing for calm.

People walk by a sign reading ‘hum ek hain’ (we are one) in riot-hit Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi. This was the site of a protest before the riots | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“We have engaged with the local leaders, maulanas and men whose voices are heard in the area, to help us spread peace and urge people to remain calm. We have also given our personal phone numbers to them, so that in case of an emergency, they may contact us,” a senior police officer on the ground said.

Mohammad Maroof, a local community leader in Mustafabad, said: “We will help the force in whatever way possible. The situation is much better than yesterday. I have spoken to the locals here and appealed for peace. This is the first time we have seen something like this and everyone is in shock.”

Also read: Delhi riots: Is CM Arvind Kejriwal actually powerless or using it as an excuse?

Some pockets still volatile, tension simmering

There are still certain pockets where fresh incidents of violence were reported Wednesday, including Gokulpuri, Maujpur and Jaffrabad. Although the incidents were contained quickly and no fresh fatalities were reported, about 10 people were injured. They were taken to LNJP Hospital.

The police had appealed for peace, but there were pockets in Hindu-dominated areas where people again managed to gather and started chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Most of them said that even though the riots appear to be over, they will “strike back” for the loss that they have suffered.

“People are telling us to be calm and forgive the Muslims for what they did to us. But for how long can we keep forgiving them? We treated them like our younger siblings but they have now gotten out of hand and need to be taught a lesson,” said Amit Sharma, resident of Chand Bagh.

“We will strike and nobody will stop us. This is our area and no one can dominate us.”

With inputs from Fatima Khan and Samyak Pandey

Also read: PM Modi appeals for peace in riot-hit Delhi, but BJP leaders’ tweets are far from pacifying