New Delhi: A group of at least 200 people were gathered around a Muslim cemetery armed with hammers, sickles and axes. This was just 100 metres from the Gokulpuri police station in Northeast Delhi. On one call, all of them raised their tools and struck the building’s boundary wall.
“Jai Shri Ram,” they said, and struck again. There was not a single policeman in the vicinity to stop them.
A part of the mob then ran across the road and set two shops that had ‘Khan’ written on them on fire. And still no policemen, who were clearly outnumbered, tried to stop them.
The Delhi Police and Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday said there was “sufficient force”, including local police, battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force, Rapid Action Force and the Riot Control Force, but the situation on the ground was far from this claim.
The incidents of violence only worsened Tuesday in areas of Jaffarabad, Maujpur, Babarpur, Yamuna Vihar, Shiv Vihar, Gokulpuri, Brahmpuri, Chand Bagh and Ghonda, with over a dozen shops set afire, 25 houses vandalised and 60-odd vehicles burnt — but there were only four to five policemen deployed every 100 meters in the localities.
A few personnel from the Rapid Action Force too were seen, but only outside the barricades that were placed to block entry to the narrow lanes leading to colonies in Chand Bagh and Gokulpuri.
As men inside the colonies roamed with sticks and rods — their faces covered by handkerchiefs — haggling passersby for their ID cards, the security personnel remained mute spectators.
Police said at least 10 people were killed in the communal violence over the last three days in Delhi and 141 people were injured. Besides, more than 100 vehicles were set ablaze and more than 80 shops vandalised.
Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik also gave a statement Tuesday evening saying they have sufficient force on the ground and their priority was to “contain the violence”.
‘Let us do our work’
The mob that demolished the boundary wall of the cemetery in Gokulpuri was then adamant to go inside and damage the graves.
“Now wait and watch. They have challenged us and we will now show them their place,” one man from the mob screamed.
When this reporter tried to ask questions, another man said, “Let us do our work. Just go away. And I am warning you, no one will report from this. No video will be shot, else we will bury you in these very graves.”
This reporter was also heckled and asked to show her phone.
A policeman on bike, doing rounds of the area, crossed at that very moment. He saw the mob, but did not care to stop.
“Do not think the police will help you. They are with us. The entire Hindu community is with us. Go away, else you will meet the fate of the men who have been killed. Till when will we sit and see our men getting killed? It is our chance now,” the second man said.
The mob chased this reporter and at that moment they saw a few people videographing the episode from the opposite carriageway. A group of men then ran to that side to stop the men and the same mob then set a shop on fire.
It is only after the boundary wall of the cemetery was broken and the shop set on fire that the police reached the spot and tried to disperse the crowd. They were, however, unsuccessful.
“They are too many. We send them away but they congregate again. We can’t even use force as it may lead to further violence,” said a policeman on duty.
Just as the policeman was talking to this reporter a man came and threatened, “No report, no video will go out of here. Else you will not be spared,” he said.
The policeman watched helplessly. “Madam please leave from here,” was all he could muster.
‘We are waiting for them to calm down’
The policemen and the Rapid Action Force personnel said they had been asked to “refrain from any coercive action”.
“If we start coercive action, then there will be retaliation. So, we have just barricaded the exit points of these colonies and are waiting for them to calm down,” one RAF personnel told ThePrint.
“We have been told ‘no coercive action’, so we are trying to contain it the other way.”
A policeman warned this reporter to not go inside Chand Bagh as they had just witnessed a man being beaten up.
“They are too many in number. Please go in a group if you have to. We are deployed here to stop them from coming out on the road,” he said.
Another policeman in Jaffrabad said they have been using tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. “We have effectively averted a clash here by dispersing the crowd. Tear gas shells are being used, but the crowd keeps congregating. We are well-equipped to deal with this.”
Delhi Police spokesperson, DCP M.S. Randhawa, too maintained that the police had “effectively” tackled sensitive situations in the area.
11 FIRs, one arrest
In three days of continuous violence, the Delhi Police has registered 11 FIRs of riot and arson but has managed to arrest only one person.
The man who pointed a pistol at a policeman Monday and allegedly opened eight rounds of fire was identified as Shahrukh and was arrested late evening. Apart from the single arrest, the police claimed to have detained over 30 people under different cases, but have not placed anyone under arrest yet.
“Our first priority is to bring the law and order situation under control. FIRs have been registered and the probe is on. We have identified a few persons and have also accessed video footage from CCTVs and mobile videos that were posted on social media. More arrests will be made soon,” Randhawa said.
Curfew was also imposed in pockets of Northeast Delhi late Tuesday.