It is noon at Gokalpuri police station, and there is silence. The public facilitation desk, the first cubicle after the entrance, is empty. As is the SHO’s room. Three women constables sit at the reception, looking into their mobile phones. “Thana khaali hai. Sab field mein hai. Teen din se yahi haal hai,” they said to people who occasionally walk in. And yet, something has changed from Tuesday to Wednesday — after widespread violence, a tenuous calm.
Less than 100 metres away, at the Gokalpuri tyre market set ablaze over the last three days, a lone constable from the police station sat on the pavement and watched fire officials at work. On Tuesday, he had stood at the entrance, watching as men with bikes, lathis in their hands, sped past raising slogans. He has one explanation for what changed overnight: “Upar se order aa gaye raat ko…. Ab sab shaant hai.”
Two and a half kilometres away, at 1 pm at Jafrabad police station, inspector Lekhpal Singh got off his Gypsy and walks inside, a bulletproof jacket strapped to his torso. He stopped only for a glass of water. Asked by The Indian Express if the situation around him is calm, he said, “Ask quickly. I have to go back out again. Everything is calm and we have controlled the situation. No FIRs have been registered and no detentions have happened at this police station.” In five minutes, he left again.
Standing at the door, constable Sunil Kumar kept a hawk’s eye on civilians standing in the lanes. Occasionally, he shouted out, “Andar jaiye, shoot at sight orders hai.” The road outside the Jafrabad police station bears witness to the worst of the violence. Every lane is littered with stones, burnt shops and cars. Maujpur Chowk is within 500 metres. Kumar said, “For the first three days, what could we do? There was no force with us. This police station has 80 people at full strength, discounting personnel on leave. They were so many, and if we had acted against the rioters at low strength, it could have been worse. From yesterday evening, the paramilitary began to pour in. By early morning, everyone was stationed in the right places, and nothing has happened since.”
Around 2 pm, at Bhajanpura police station, senior police officers walked out of the premises, leading a flag march through the streets. In Khajuri Khas, DCP (Northeast) Ved Prakash Surya drove around in his car in a convoy to restore confidence. For the lower ranks of the Delhi Police constabulary, there was a clear sign at midnight. “We saw on the news that NSA Ajit Doval had come to the ground, and was taking a meeting of senior police officials. That is when we were all aware there was now intent to act,” a constable at Bhajanpura said.
As he spoke, he watched videos of the violence that engulfed the area, in particular of shots being fired at police personnel by a man identified by the police as Shahrukh.
At Seelampur police station, situated in the middle of a colony with a mixed demographic, a constable watched two families pass by, bags in hand, ostensibly leaving their homes until things return to normal. “Aren’t we allowed to have a religious preference? But if a sahab says stop the violence and control everyone, we control everyone. It does not matter what religion they are. We are clear today that there can be no more loss of life. And we will protect them,” he said.