New Delhi: The Delhi police has so far arrested over 170 people in connection with the 700-odd First Information Reports it has registered for the communal violence which rocked the city over three days beginning February 24.
Allegations however have been made that young men have been randomly picked up, most of them Muslim. A senior officer told The Wire there was “no discrimination” and cited the fact that among the arrested are “82 Hindus.”
The Delhi riots have left 53 dead according to officials and more than 200 seriously injured.
The riots were marked by incidents of stone pelting in several parts of north east Delhi. Some of the video footage of the violence shows police personnel allegedly hurling stones and charging at people who are purportedly Muslims. This has led to allegations that police had handled the riots in a biased manner.
A senior police officer insisted to The Wire that in most cases, the cops went after those who “attacked them,” irrespective of who they were.
“I can say with confidence that there was no large design behind the police personnel chasing a particular group. They just went after whoever attacked them.”
On the charge that the police allowed violence to continue and properties belonging to Muslims to be burnt, the officer claimed that police had to ensure that they had the numbers before taking action.
“We tried to control the situation but since the violence was taking place in very densely populated areas, it was not easy to get to them without being adequately equipped and going in adequate numbers.”
Large scale detentions
Now that the police has registered more 700 FIRs and has started detaining and arresting people, locals have begun alleging that innocent youth are being picked up. In many cases, family members have said that they do not know where their sons are being taken.
Talking to The Wire, Mohammad Shakir, a resident of Chaman Park in Mustafabad, who was part of a delegation to meet police officers, said, “From our area, around 25-30 youth have been picked up and we do not know where they are.”
Another member of the group who met police, Haji Rahmul Ilahi, pointed out the enormous gap in making sure information reaches the detained person’s family.
The Babu Nagar resident said 48-year-old Anees, who had gone to Yamuna Vihar police station, was picked up there itself by the police.
“We later learnt that he had been taken by the Crime Branch to their office in Rohini”.
A Delhi police officer sought to clarify that only people suspected of violence are being picked up for questioning.
“On the basis of our investigation, we take them for questioning and release them if they are found innocent. Usually they are made to wait for less than the 24 hours allowed for this.”
The officer said the police has also obtained a lot of video footage of the violence. “We have footage from some cameras installed by Delhi government. In fact, we managed to solve a murder – not related to the CAA violence – within hours with such footage recently. We have also obtained the recording from cameras installed in private properties.”
Union home minister Amit Shah, under whose charge the Delhi Police is, made a claim on March 11 that the police had identified 1,100 rioters by running a facial recognition software on the video footage.
Police too said images are being scanned and the faces of those seen indulging in violence are being examined to identify them.
The officer that The Wire spoke to said that while members of both the communities are alleging that it is their people who are being targeted unreasonably, they are not coming forward to state who from among their respective communities were going out and indulging in violence.
“It is their responsibility too to identify the perpetrators,” he said.
Some of officers have allegedly shared their personal mobile numbers with locals and urged them to pass information to them confidentially if they do not wish to be identified.
Meanwhile, in view of the complaints from a large number of Muslims, coupled with helplessness that they are being persecuted by the system, the Delhi police has opened a helpdesk at the Eidgah relief camp in Mustafabad.
Police personnel at the camp have received 92 complaints directly from people over the first four days of operation from March 8. Most of these complaints pertain to Karawal Nagar, Dayalpur and Gokulpuri police stations.
The staff at the camp has been taking the complaints, making a daily diary entry against a diary number and sending these to respective police stations.
When The Wire visited the Eidgah camp, several of those temporarily lodged there said police had made mistakes pertaining to the names of complainants in the FIRs that have been lodged at various police stations.