5 dead in street battle at protest site in north east Delhi

At several places in Jafrabad and Maujpur, people passing by in auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers were stopped, dragged out on the roads, and beaten.

For several hours on Monday, the Delhi Police did little to prevent the violence in north-east Delhi’s Jafrabad and Maujpur, where groups of people in support of and against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) clashed and pelted stones, according to eye witnesses on the road connecting the two Metro stations that became the epicentre of clashes that left five people dead — four civilians and a policeman.

At several places in Jafrabad and Maujpur, people passing by in auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers were stopped, dragged out on the roads, and beaten. Some protesters carried swords, threw petrol bombs, and set houses on fire. In most of these cases, police personnel were stationed nearby. On social media, a video clip of a man in a red t-shirt, brandishing a pistol and pointing it at a policeman before firing on the side, was circulated widely.

Journalists on the ground said phones were snatched and photographs on their cameras forcibly deleted.

Former Uttar Pradesh director general of police (DGP) Vikram Singh said the violence could have been prevented if the police had acted more swiftly and firmly.

“The reports are disturbing. I think we are seeing something like this in Delhi after 1984 anti-Sikh riots. There were groups protesting against each other so why did not the police not take action? The police allowed the trouble mongers to gather and gave them time to do what they did,” Vikram Singh said.

Most of the violence was reported in north-east police district of Delhi Police. During the day, the special commissioner of police, who heads the north zone, was not seen anywhere in the area. The senior-most officer spotted on the ground was joint commissioner of the eastern range, Alok Kumar.

The Delhi Police did not give details on how many personnel were deployed in north-east Delhi. A drone was deployed in Bhajanpura.

Kumar told reporters at the spot in the evening that the area had been tense since Sunday afternoon. “There was heavy deployment at strategic locations. Stray incidents of violence were being reported from many places. We have our officials at important stretches in the area. One of our officers, DCP (Shahdara) Amit Sharma was also injured in stone pelting. We are conducting flag marches.”

But Monday’s violence was two days in the making.

The trouble begun on Saturday, when several people protesting against the CAA blocked a carriageway on the main road near Jafrabad Metro station.

On Sunday, there were reports of stone-pelting as people for and against the newly amended citizenship law faced off in the area.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra had, on Sunday, warned the police to clear the blocked road within three days else “we will not listen to you [police]”.

“The area was tense since Sunday afternoon. So why did the police not anticipate trouble and take preventive measures?” asked Vikram Singh. “There is nothing that would have stopped them from detaining identified trouble makers and sending them away from Delhi. The police are responsible for what happened today. Also, what about intelligence gathering? On a day when the United States President is in the city and when the situation is tense, the intelligence gathering should be of a high standard.”

Delhi Police officers on the ground said they had separated the groups of supporters and protesters to prevent them from clashing.

A majority of the supporters of the act were near the Maujpur-Babarpur Metro station, while a large part of the other group was at the Jafrabad Metro station side. Most protesters at the spot said that police started acting sternly and began pushing back the two groups only around noon, after heavy stone-pelting.

A police officer at the spot said that more security personnel were brought in at around 3pm on Monday.

Another former director general of police (of Assam and Uttar Pradesh), Prakash Singh, said the police action over the last two months — including at the protest blockade site in south-east Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh — has been disappointing.

“The word to describe what happened today is ‘disappointment’. As a police officer, one need not look up for instructions to do the right thing. Why did they not nip trouble in the bud by removing the protesters at Shaheen Bagh? They have so many women battalions. Why did the police allow the protesters to block roads? I am at a loss for words. Police have done nothing to stop those who are fanning the tension in the name of the citizenship law,” Prakash Singh said.

Towards the end of Monday, different hospitals in the vicinity continued to receive cases of people injured in the clashes. Smoke continued to billow from shops and buildings that were set on fire.

Source: The Hindustan Times

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