Head Constable, Six Civilians Killed in North East Delhi Violence

The violence began soon after BJP leader Kapil Mishra gave the police an "ultimatum" to clear the anti-CAA sit-in protests, after which pro-CAA groups gathered.

New Delhi: For the past 56 days, the national capital region has witnessed peaceful protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, including those where protestors have blocked roads. Yet 48 hours after a local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party threatened violence against those opposing the CAA in northeast Delhi, a police constable and four civilians were killed as government supporters who took to the streets clashed with anti-CAA protesters and the police.

By evening, a tyre market in Gokalpuri was burning, with leaping flames lighting up the sky – hardly the sort of visuals the Modi government would like to showcase to US President Donald Trump, who landed in Delhi from Agra as part of his 36-hour tour of India.

The Delhi police said in the evening that a head constable had died in the violence which engulfed Maujpur. The constable, Ratan Lal, was deployed in Gokalpuri, the area where violence was reported. Lal was reportedly hit on the head with stones and taken to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The violence that engulfed the capital has also claimed the life of Mohammad Furqan, a civilian, reports have confirmed.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Shahdara, Amit Sharma was also reported as having suffered injuries to his head and hand. He was hospitalised and out of danger, PTI reported.

People supporting the government’s new citizenship law beat a Muslim man in New Delhi, February 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Section 144 has been imposed at 10 locations in North East Delhi, ANI reported. Entry and exit gates of Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Gokalpuri, Johri Enclave, Shiv Vihar, Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat and Janpath have been closed, the DMRC tweeted.

The violence continued for the second day after BJP leader Kapil Mishra on Sunday gave an ‘ultimatum’ to the Delhi police to clear protest sites within three days. On Monday, after the policeman’s death, Mishra – who had given an open call for violence – tweeted that “violence is not the way to reach a resolution”.

Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s deputy chief minister, has also appealed for peace.

The Delhi government has announced that all government and private schools will be closed in North East district on Tuesday. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has also urged Union human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal to postpone board examinations in the area scheduled for Tuesday.

A video of one of the incidents of violence showed a man pointing what appears to be a gun at a policeman.

On Monday night, the Delhi police said it had detained the man, identified as ‘Shahrukh’.

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla has said the situation in the national capital is “fully under control and sufficient forces are deployed on the ground.”

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Monday said that only the common man and the nation are at loss due to violence. She also appealed for peace to prevail.

Local politician Yogendra Yadav also urged the police in a tweet to “prevent communal violence”.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi on Monday said the death of a Delhi Police head constable in violence over the amended citizenship law was a “ploy” to embarrass India during US President Donald Trump’s visit and likened it to the massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpura in 2000 during the then US president Bill Clinton’s trip to the country.

Union minister of state for home G. Kishan Reddy has said: “Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party and those people who are supporting protests against CAA should tell who is responsible for damaging the image of India.”

However, both leaders chose not to comment on the call BJP leader Kapil Mishra had made two days earlier threatening violence if the anti-CAA protesters were not cleared from the streets.

Chandbagh escalation

In Chandbagh, Shahdaab, who is participating in the anti-CAA protests, claimed that at about 10:20 am, “people from the RSS came along with the police, and began a lathi charge at the protest site”.

He estimated that there were approximately 150 women in the main protest enclosure, with 200 men alongside. The lathi-charge allegedly took place for over half an hour, with both members from the pro-CAA group as well as the police allegedly injuring protesters indiscriminately, including women. At least one woman has sustained a head injury, he stated.

Injury reportedly sustained during tear gas shelling in Chandbagh. Photo: By arrangement

Anti-CAA protesters allegedly began pelting stones in response to the violence, and the police have since used tear gas to disperse the melee. The conflict is ongoing, with reports of vehicles being set on fire near the petrol station at the area. According to The Telegraph, at least two houses were set on fire.

In the Maujpur area, police used tear gas shells and smoke grenades to disperse crowds, Reuters reported.

Hundreds of people supporting the new law clashed with those opposing it, with stone pelting from both sides, the agency said. The two groups have been ‘clashing’ since Sunday and the people supporting the law were seen chanting “Jai Shree Ram,” amid heavy stone pelting from both sides, eyewitnesses told the agency.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took notice of the violence, urging Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and home minister Amit Shah to ‘restore law and order in the area’.

Baijal instructed the Delhi police commissioner to maintain law and order, PTI reported.

Kapil Mishra’s threats on Sunday

On Sunday, BJP leader and former MLA Kapil Mishra threatened those who were protesting against the CAA in Maujpur and Chandbagh areas of northeast Delhi with violence if the police did not clear the area. Hours after his rally, clashes broke out on Sunday evening between groups opposing and supporting the contentious law.

According to news agency PTI, the two groups pelted stones at each other and police fired tear gas shells to control the situation.

Mishra, who was among the many BJP leaders who used incendiary slogans during the campaign for the Delhi elections, had held a rally near Jaffrabad, gave the Delhi police a ‘three-day ultimatum’ to clear the sit-in demonstration near the metro station. He threatened that if the protesters are not removed, he and his supporters would not ‘listen to the police’.

“Till the US president is in India, we are leaving the area peacefully. After that we won’t listen to you (police) if the roads are not vacated by then,” he told the gathering.

According to the Indian Express, the BJP leader and his supporters gathered near the Maujpur-Babarpur Metro Station, which is about 2 km from the Jaffrabad anti-CAA protest. More than 200 people gathered at the spot and apart from slogans such as ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’, the chant “Shoot the traitors” could also be heard, the newspaper reported.

Locals to the Express that the violence began almost immediately after the former MLA left, at around 4:30 pm. “…a group of people seen running from the Jaffrabad side towards Babarpur. As stone-pelting erupted from both sides, more locals gathered and violence spread towards the interiors of Babarpur. Teargas shells were used by police to disperse the crowd, whose numbers rose to more than 500,” the report says.

The newspaper reported that portions of boundary walls were broken to use the stones for pelting. Members of the Delhi police were seen pelting stones along with CAA supporters, the newspaper said, adding that the police refused to respond to questions on this allegation.

The pelting came to a pause around 5:40 pm, but began 10 minutes later underneath the Maujpur-Babarpur metro station. The situation was finally brought under control at around 6:30 pm.

For security reasons, the entry and exit gates of Jaffrabad and Maujpur-Babarpur were closed.

The 400-metre-stretch between Maujpur traffic signal, where a Shani temple is located, to Babarpur station, was strewn with bricks and stones after the clashes.

A group of protesters after clashes between pro and anti-CAA groups near Babarpur area of East Delhi, February 23, 2020. Photo: PTI/Atul Yadav

According to PTI, the Delhi Police later stopped the pro-CAA protestors from marching towards Kardampuri, where another anti-CAA protest was being held.

“We are trying to identify the people behind the incident,” joint commissioner of police (eastern range) Alok Kumar said. Another police official told news agency PTI that talks are being held with locals. “We are continuously speaking to local leaders so that peace prevails in the area and are also requesting protesters to clear the main road,” he said.

He said that police personnel have been deployed at Maujpur area to prevent any untoward incident.

Shaan (28), a resident of Kabir Nagar, claimed the situation escalated after BJP leader Kapil Mishra tweeted that he would hit the streets. “It was then that the stone-pelting began from their side. The other side also responded and the situation flared up,” he said.

Aman Sharma (22), a student and resident of Maujpur who was part of the pro-CAA group, said they were holding a protest against the closure of roads by those opposing the CAA. “At around 2:30 pm, they (anti-CAA protestors) started pelting stones and glass bottles when we started our protest. We want the road to be opened,” he claimed.

Shadab (28), a student said the protest at Jaffrabad was peaceful and sought action against the Mishra. “The situation flared up only after his protest and provocative slogans,” said Mohammad Sadiq (19), a student.

Police accused of lathi-charging protesters at Hauz Rani

In Hauz Rani area of Delhi, a group of anti-CAA protesters who have been on a sit-in said they were lathi-charged by the police when trying to march towards the main road.

The area’s MLA, AAP leader Somnath Bharti said that he had received messages about “barbarous act of Delhi Police on women protestors severely injuring large number of them”. The injured protesters were brought to Madan Mohan Malviya Hospital in Malviya Nagar, where Bharti said he was able to ensure medical care to four injured people. He demanded a magisterial enquiry into the incident.

Some female protesters said they were “touched inappropriately” by male police officers. The Wire has not been able to independently verify these accusations.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police said permission had not been granted for the march. “The protesters tried to block traffic at multiple locations and also in front of arterial roads in front of the hospital,” said Atul Kumar, DCP (south) said. He also rejected the allegations of use of force by the police.