Communal violence over the amended citizenship law escalated in Northeast Delhi on Tuesday taking the death toll to 13 as police struggled to check the rioters who ran amok on streets, burning and looting shops, pelting stones and thrashing people.
After overnight incidents of arson, tension smouldered in the national capital and as the day progressed streets in several localities like Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Maujpur, Kardampuri and Jaffrabad saw pitched battles between the members of two groups who also hurled petrol bombs and opened fire.
Late in the night, locals in Maujpur area claimed that announcements were being made by police on loudspeakers about promulgation of shoot-at-sight orders, but Deputy Commissioner of Police (Northeast) Ved Prakash Surya denied it.
Over 200 people, including 48 police personnel, have been injured and half of the civilians have suffered gunshot wounds, hospital authorities said.
The violence, which started on Sunday after anti-CAA protests blocked a road outside Jaffrabad Metro station and BJP leader Kapil Mishra called a gathering in favour of CAA, intensified on Tuesday, despite shored up security in the city in view of US President Donald Trump’s visit. The protesters withdrew from the site on Tuesday night.
As Delhi Police faced allegations of inaction, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, city police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and others on steps to restore peace.
IPS officer S N Shrivastava was appointed as the new Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Law and Order) after the Union Home Ministry repatriated him from the CRPF on Tuesday night to take control of the situation in the wake of communal violence in the city, officials said.
Protesters set afire a shop | Photo: PTI
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said 11 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence. Over 20 persons have been detained and only one person, identified as Shahrukh who had fired a few rounds in the air after brandishing a gun at a policeman, has been arrested.
Sixty-seven companies of police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed across the area, police sources said.
In scenes not seen in the national capital for decades, frenzied groups thrashed people on the road and vandalised vehicles. Mediapersons were also attacked. Akshay, a journalist with JK 24X7 News, received a bullet injury and was in a serious condition in hospital, and two reporters from NDTV were beaten and punched by rioters. Many other journalists were heckled and told to go back. Rioters damaged two fire tenders in Gokulpuri and crowds raising incendiary slogans set on fire fruit carts, rickshaws and anything that came in their way in the epicentre of the trouble Maujpur and other places.
Police fired teargas shells to disperse the rioters — armed with stones, rods and even swords and many wearing helmets to protect themselves — and was assisted by paramilitary personnel. Streets were littered with mangled remains of vehicles, bricks and burnt tyres, mute testimony to the violence and bloodshed that took on a communal taint on Monday.
According to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital officials, eight people succumbed to injuries suffered during violence on Tuesday, taking the death toll in 13. “Fifty per cent of those injured have sustained bullet injuries,” Medical Superintendent Sunil Kumar said.
Flag marches were conducted in Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas and other places, but clashes continued till late in night. Randhawa said the areas affected by violence are congested and inhabited by mixed population.
The meeting presided by Shah resolved that workers of political parties should join hands to restore peace and peace committees should be reactivated in all localities. Schools were shut and fearful residents stayed indoors.
"There is hardly any police presence in the area. Rioters are running around threatening people, vandalising shops. Families need to be evacuated. We are unsafe in our own homes," said a resident of Maujpur, requesting anonymity.
Another added that this is the first time in 35 years — possibly since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots — that he has seen a situation such as this. “The area had always remained peaceful,” he told PTI. Trouble continued through the day. Around 5 pm in Chand Bagh, for instance, security personnel were pelted with stones. They chased the mob, only to be attacked afresh with some people also armed with petrol bombs.
Petitions in SC, HC
Pleas relating to the violence reached the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on Tuesday and they will hear the matter on Wednesday. A Bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph will hear the fresh application on Wednesday.
Shortly after the mentioning in the apex court, a similar plea filed by human rights activist Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi was mentioned before the high court, which also agreed to hear it on Wednesday. Private and government schools in violence affected North East Delhi will continue to be closed on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced on Tuesday.
The Central Board of Secondary Education postponed the board exams for Class 10 and 12 scheduled for Wednesday in violence-affected Northeast Delhi. There are a total of 86 centres in the area.
“The exam will be conducted in rest parts of Delhi as per earlier schedule. A fresh date for the exam in Northeast Delhi will be announced shortly,” a CBSE official said.