New Delhi: On July 18, Shanno and her husband unexpectedly ran into the station house officer (SHO) of Bhajanpura police station at the office of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), northeast Delhi. The SHO wanted to know why she was there.
Shanno told him exactly why she was there: to hand over a copy of a Delhi high court order dated July 17 that directed the DCP to provide security to her family.
The order said: “This court considers it apposite to direct the petitioner (Shanno) to appear before respondent no. 3 (DCP, northeast Delhi) on 18.07.2020 at 10.30 am. The respondent no. 3 shall evaluate the threat perception and provide such security to the petitioner and her family as he considers warranted.”
This is perhaps the first ever high court order to provide security to any witness of the communal riots that took place in Delhi between February 23 and 27 and resulted in 53 deaths and injuries for several hundred people.
Shanno’s husband, Saleem, had shot videos of some of the perpetrators of the violence in their neighbourhood on February 25. On April 18, after the riots, Shanno had lodged a complaint with the Bhajanpura SHO, identifying several people from her neighbourhood among those who had looted and burned down shops, assaulted and attacked Muslims, pelted stones and used bombs on February 25 near her home. The people she named included Chander, Daya Ram, Pappu, Bablu Goswami, Mohit, Yogi, another Dayaram trading in e-rickshaws, and several others.
Protecting a witness
On July 1, Shanno filed another complaint after some men confronted her husband near the inter-state bus terminus on June 12 and snatched away his phone at gun point. This phone, according to the complaint, had “videos of Bobby, Sonu, Bablu Bhai and others firing shots and rioting”.
The following day, according to this complaint, Shanno’s son and two-year-old grandson were seriously injured in ‘a road accident’ that Shanno only realised on June 30 had been another attack on her family, staged as an accident.
“At gun point, they snatched my husband’s phone that contained videos of their role in riots as an evidence,” said Shanno. “Days later, they asked me to withdraw my complaint of April 18, suggestively reminding me of the June 13 ‘road accident’ in which my son and two-year-old grandson sustained serious injuries the very day after the phone-snatching incident.”
DCP Ved Prakash Surya told me on July 18 that he would meet Shanno and then tell me how he planned to follow the high court order.
On July 19, Shanno told The Wire that she and her family still feared they would be attacked by “RSS men”.
When I phoned Surya after speaking to Shanno, Surya said he had met Shanno and her lawyer the day before and had “immediately written a letter to the special cell to assess the threat perception”. He added: “I have also directed our SHO and the staff to assure their safety. Proper security will be provided as soon as the special cell’s assessment comes in.”
When will that be, I asked.
“We will do it soon,” he replied. “Our staff visited them today also and are presently patrolling there.”
Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who had ordered the DCP to provide Shanno and her family with security, had also ordered the lower court concerned to expeditiously consider her application for the registration of an FIR for certain criminal offences committed by the culprits as identified in her complaint.
Shanno’s complaint of July 1 was detailed. Describing the scene when her husband was attacked on June 12 and his phone taken away, it said:
“Iss par mere shauhar darrhaye aur chup chaap phone de diya. Jaate jaate veh log bole ki ‘apni biwi ko samjhaliyo ki apni shikayat wapis le lenahi to tum sab mare jaoge aur iski kahi shikayat karne ki galti mat karna, police humare saath hai, humein fauran pataachal jayega (My husband got scared and silently handed his phone to them. While taking the phone, they threatened that we all would be killed if we informed anyone about this incident, because the police were with them and they would know immediately).”
The complaint also explained how Shanno learned that the ‘accident’ on June 13 that had injured her son and grandson had been no accident, but an attack staged to seem like an accident.
“Pehle to hum samajh nahi paye ki kya hua magar kal 30.6.2020 ko subah takree ban 9 baje Sonu mujhe ghar ke bahar mila aur bola ki ab bhi waqt hai tum sab apni shikayat wapis le lo nahi to 13.6.2020 humlai mein to tera beta aur pota bach gaya hai, magar iss baar nahi bachega (First we couldn’t understand [what had happened], but on June 30 around 9 am, Sonu told me that my son and grandson had survived the accident that day, but they would not survive the next time if we didn’t withdraw our complaint).”
The police arrive
On the night of July 18, the Bhajanpura SHO, Ved Prakash, and several other policemen, went to Shanno’s residence in Ashok Mohalla, Gali no. 1 of Gonda, to ask about the “issue”.
“I told them that he (the SHO) knew everything, including the people in the area who threaten us,” said Saleem. “Then they recommended that we install CCTV cameras and told us that the policemen would be on duty for our safety during the day.”
Saleem told me that policemen had duly arrived at their home early on Sunday morning and also later during the day.
“No, they have not deputed any policemen permanently outside our home or in the street and so far they have no document in writing,” he said, when I asked whether the police had provided permanent security and documented it.
Shanno said she was still “very scared”.
Her lawyer, activist Mehmood Pracha, said he would move the court of the magistrate in Karkardooma on Monday to register a case for the incidents detailed in Shanno’s complaint.