Clashes between Hindus and Muslims that began in Delhi’s Trilokpuri area on Friday evening were on till 24 hours later, leaving at least 13 people injured, including eight with bullet injuries.
Though prohibitory orders were imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC on Saturday night, security forces struggled to gain control, with clashes spreading to at least five blocks in the area. At least three of those injured are critical.
Groups armed with knives and swords roamed the streets till 1 pm on Saturday. Despite heavy presence of security personnel, including forces from neighbouring districts and the Rapid Action Force and CRPF, rioters, many of them in their teens, threw stones at each other.
Sources said that clashes had also spread to neighbouring East Delhi areas of Khichripur and Kalyanpuri, though the incidents there were not as violent. “Forces have been deployed from adjoining police stations, including North-East, North and East Delhi. The situation is under control,” said a senior police officer.
While there were different versions on what triggered the violence on Friday evening, all involved a “mata ki chowki (a temporary religious structure set up by East Delhi simmers for 24 hrs, 13 hurt in riotsHindus to house a deity)”. One group said some individuals had desecrated the structure, but others claimed tension had been simmering in the area since Bakrid on October 6.
Sources in the police said an altercation had also been reported in the area on Diwali night, but it had been brought under control within an hour.
In a statement late on Saturday night, the Delhi Police said at least 60 suspects had been detained for rioting and arson. “In the evening of October 24, a riot took place in Tirlokpuri area of East Delhi between two groups. Fourteen persons, including 13 policemen, were injured in the melee,” the statement said.
The Trilokpuri MLA, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Raju Dhingan, blamed “vested” interests. “It started with an altercation and politically vested interests escalated it. The police and a peace committee are trying to reach out to people, asking them to maintain calm,” he said.
Former BJP MLA from Trilokpuri Sunil Vaid claimed he had warned about the presence of bootloogers and gambling dens in the area, and had been shot at as a result. “The area has been declared sensitive by the Election Commission and Delhi Police. It requires proper law and order,” he said.
A resident, Nishu Singh, claimed tension had been simmering for a while. “Last night, violence went on till 3 am. Despite police presence, it started again this morning. We will stay awake all night if we have to to protect ourselves,” Singh said.
Several people, mostly Muslims, could be seen leaving their homes. Mohammad Irfan said, “We are leaving for a few days. We are the minority community and can be surrounded easily, and our families are in danger.”
He also accused police of targeting Muslim youths and assaulting them.