Updated: February 26, 2020 4:55:19 pm
For over three hours on Tuesday afternoon, residents of Bhajanpura burnt shops and pelted stones, gradually advancing towards the Muslim-dominated Chand Bagh area.
Till afternoon, there was little police presence to push them back. Eventually, at 5.05 pm, reinforcements arrived in the form of the Rapid Action Force and Delhi Police armed in riot gear, who lobbed teargas shells and pelted stones into Chand Bagh as part of their “area domination exercise”. Their tactics in dealing with Bhajanpura residents were relatively more muted, and involved asking them to back off minus the teargas.
Special CP (Law and Order) Satish Golcha, who led the flag march, was asked why police did not employ equal force while dealing with Bhajanpura residents. He told The Indian Express, “Those people (in Chand Bagh) are the aggressors; I saw it myself yesterday night. The people on the other side (Bhajanpura) are carrying weapons for self-defence. I know they will not attack me when I speak to them, but I can’t say the same when dealing with the other side. But I am not saying that one side is wrong.”
The death of 19-year-old Chand Bagh resident Sayid; the alleged burning of a mazaar (shrine); and the attack on women protesters, allegedly by Delhi Police, added fuel to the fire. Sayid (19), a driver by profession, reportedly died of a gunshot wound. His wife Shazia, who married him two months ago, said: “What is wrong if we fight for our rights?”
Residents of Bhajanpura complained about a petrol pump being torched, allegedly by Chand Bagh residents.
Simmering tensions exploded Tuesday morning when a Muslim youth was beaten up for straying into Bhajanpura. “I had to crawl my way back to Chand Bagh. It was an honest mistake,” he said.
This prompted some youth from Chand Bagh to break bricks into smaller stones and stuff them into white cement packets, and arm themselves with sticks. Bhajanpura’s residents barricaded themselves behind burnt cars and stationed themselves atop a local hospital.
The first instances of stone-pelting were reported from Bhajanpura at 3 pm. Soon, armed men patrolled the Khajuri Khas flyover, roughing up pedestrians who made videos as several hundred people set fire to shops and food carts below.
Smoke billowed from several areas in Khajuri Khas, and fire tenders could not douse them as they were not granted access.
At 5 pm, columns of RAF and Delhi Police personnel finally arrived in buses. Golcha, wearing a bullet proof vest, went around Bhajanpura, while RAF personnel snatched wooden sticks from stray bands of armed men.
When Golcha waved off the armed gangs, women wielding sticks complained to him, “Hum tumhara support karte hai”. “Theek hai,” he told them, and moved on, as they cheered for the police. As the flag march reached Chand Bagh, several RAF personnel rushed to the entrance and fired several teargas shells. The column moved forward and Golcha decided to call off the march. However, just a few metres behind him, Bhajanpura residents set up barricades on the road and pelted stones. The security cordon, rushed to them and told them to back off.
Breaking away from the main group, several RAF personnel charged into Chand Bagh and fired teargas shells, while residents pelted stones at them.
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