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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

We hid, we found no witnesses, we were outnumbered: Delhi Police say in riot FIRs

Starting February 24, violence spread rapidly across northeast Delhi, leading to 53 deaths across the next three days at last count. Since then, police have registered 712 FIRs and arrested over 200 accused.

Written by Mahender Singh Manral , Kaunain Sheriff M | Updated: March 13, 2020 9:18:37 am
Delhi violence, northeast Delhi violence, Delhi clashes, Delhi riots, Delhi government, Delhi news, city news, Indian Express Delhi violence: A group of men raise slogans at Khajoori-Bhajanpura road in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

🔴 “We ran away from the spot to save ourselves. We hid ourselves… downed the shutter.”

🔴 “We could not find the caller…no independent witness was present at the spot.”

🔴 “Three of us tried to control the crowd, it was impossible… they outnumbered us.”

These are admissions made on record by Delhi Police and like a refrain in a series of at least 14 FIRs registered by them between February 24 and 26 at four police stations over the communal riots in northeast Delhi. Except in one case, no arrests were recorded at the time of registration of these FIRs investigated by The Indian Express.

Starting February 24, violence spread rapidly across northeast Delhi, leading to 53 deaths across the next three days at last count. Since then, police have registered 712 FIRs and arrested over 200 accused.

On Wednesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Delhi Police deserved praise for not letting the violence spill out of the district.

An investigation of the FIRs filed in those initial hours, at the Khajuri Khas, Bhajanpura, Dayalpur and Jyoti Nagar stations, shows that the police had seen enough on the night of February 23 to indicate the situation could spiral out of control.

northeast Delhi violence, CAA protest, death toll, delhi protest, Delhi riot, Delhi police, Delhi news, indian express news Delhi Police at the violence site near Mauzpur-Babbarpur metro. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

Warning signs on February 23

One of these FIRs was registered by ASI Hukum Singh on the protests at Sherpur Chowk at 9 pm on February 23, hours after a speech by BJP’s Kapil Mishra, who gave police a three-day deadline to evict anti-CAA protesters from the streets. “I saw a crowd from both communities protesting for and against the CAA near Sherpur Chowk. One community said CAA is against the country and the other raised slogans that it is in the country’s interest. I called the SHO and told him to send the force,” the FIR states.

“They also set Punjab chicken shop on fire. The crowd again assembled at Munga Nagar, near Chand Bagh Pulia and started pelting stones at each other. We reached the Pulia and dispersed the crowd,” the FIR states.

Jaffrabad violence, Jaffrabad clashes, Jaffrabad tension, delhi clashes, delhi violence, delhi caa protests, delhi police, delhi city news Violence started in Maujpur, Babarpur soon after ex-MLA Kapil Mishra left. (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

Another FIR was registered by ASI Vijayant Kumar on an incident of rioting at 9 pm on February 23 at Wazirabad Road. Identical allegations were made, though both FIRs make no mention of any arrest.

‘Ran away and hid’

Several FIRs pointed to how police found themselves outnumbered, suggesting a failure to deploy sufficient personnel and an underestimation of how fast the violence was escalating.

An FIR registered on February 25 by constable Sangram Singh, who was on duty with just two officers at E block in Khajuri Khas, refers to a crowd at Sherpur Chowk indulging in arson and stone pelting. “It was impossible to control such a huge crowd…we ran away from the spot to save ourselves. We hid ourselves near Pradeep’s parking and downed the shutter,” the FIR states.

Delhi violence: Two vajra vahans, one riot police vehicle, and six buses, carrying paramilitary forces of the RPF and the SSB pulled in to the Maujpur chowk. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

In the same FIR, Singh claims that while hiding, he saw a “crowd assembled” at the terrace of former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, who has been named as an accused in the murder of IB staffer Ankit Sharma. “They were throwing stones towards Pradeep’s terrace,” Singh claims in the FIR, adding that he can “identify some persons from the crowd”.

“Three of us tried to control the crowd. It was impossible to control such a huge crowd… We received a lot of PCR calls. Our staff also tried to control the mob, but they outnumbered us,” it states.

In another FIR registered at 11.25 pm on February 25 at Khajuri Khas station, Constable Khalique stated he was on duty with “four officials and the SHO”. The FIR states that the SHO tried to disperse a “huge crowd” but in vain. The FIR states that at noon, “CAA-NRC protesters from Chand Bagh indulging in stone pelting”, “around 1,200 persons attacked the police”, “some persons instigated the crowd”, and the mob “set Bhajanpura police booth on fire”.

northeast Delhi violence, CAA protest, death toll, delhi protest, Delhi riot, Delhi police, Delhi news, indian express news Delhi violence: Gokulpuri tyre market.

Police arrested four accused in connection with the FIR — Musqeem, Sarfaraz, Aman and Ikram.

‘No witnesses’

The FIRs also indicate that even though “huge crowds” gathered on the streets and PCR lines kept ringing, police could not find independent witnesses to identify the rioters and make arrests.

An FIR registered by ASI Arvind states that at 2 pm on February 24, he received a message from the duty officer at Bhajanpura police station about “a huge crowd gathering at the petrol pump”, and left for the spot with seven personnel.

“Several persons from the crowd had climbed on the petrol pump station and were raising slogans against CAA-NRC. The crowd was getting violent. In the meantime, over hundred youth from Chand Bagh jumped over the divider and set the petrol pump station on fire. The crowd also attacked police,” he said in the FIR.

Right under Delhi Police nose, men with rods, sticks assault, set homes ablaze, check ID cards, smash CCTVs A mob attacks a person at Khajuri Khas crossing in Delhi. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

This time, too, the SHO warned protesters to disperse, but the crowd ran towards the Yamuna Vihar service road, “on their way”, indulged in arson and rioting. He also claims he can “recognise a few persons from the crowd”.

The FIR states that the duty officer received a call that the DCP was injured and extra force was required. “Head constable Manish reached the spot but could not trace the caller; he also could not find an independent witness,” it claims, adding that “no witness came forward to record his statement”.

Another FIR related to an incident at 9 pm on February 24 near the Noor-e-ilahi petrol pump station, filed on a complaint by ASI Vedpal, states that police received a call that “11 persons have received gunshot injuries”. “But when we reached the spot, we could not find the caller; he did not pick up the phone; also no independent witness was present at the spot,” it states.

A third FIR, registered by ASI Ashok about an incident at Maujpur, states that at 9 pm in Maujpur, there was “firing” between two sides. “However, when we reached the spot, we could not find the caller; he did not pick up the phone; also no independent witness was present at the spot,” the FIR states.

Fire as a weapon

The FIRs also detail how rioters used arson as the preferred method of destruction — even in the presence of police. An FIR filed by ASI Vijay Kumar on an incident at 1.13 pm on February 25 at Ashok Nagar states: “The caller informed us that 1,000 person have gathered, who have set the Masjid Maula Baksh on fire. We reached the spot. On the ground floor of the mosque, seven shops and four houses were also set on fire.”

The FIR states: “Around 200 persons started raising slogans. Some of them had flammable chemicals, while others had lathis. I warned them to disperse. But they started setting vehicles on fire.”

ASI Kumar states that the crowd escaped to “gali number 6” and “set more vehicles on fire”. Police also claims “no witness has come forward to record their statement”.

Another FIR, registered by constable Deepak Singh in connection with “anti-CAA protest” at Brijpuri Pulia, states: “Nearly 1,200 persons had gathered. Many of them carried sticks and rods. The crowd was getting violent and set houses, shops, school and vehicles on fire.”

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