NEW DELHI: As the BJP-led government of the world’s most populous democracy unleashed a massive razzmatazz to welcome Donald Trump, President of the world’s greatest democracy, Delhi burnt.
The national capital remained on the edge for the third consecutive day on Tuesday as communal conflagration over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens continued to rage, engulfing not just northeast Delhi, but also Ghaziabad, in Uttar Pradesh.
Delhi Police officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that “shoot at sight” orders have been issued to deal firmly with those indulging in rioting. Curfew, however, has not been imposed. Section 144 of the CrPC remains in force in riot-hit areas, whereby gathering of more than three people is not allowed.
According to sources, NSA Ajit Doval was scheduled to visit the district headquarters of northeast Delhi on Tuesday night.
The death toll on Tuesday mounted to 13 and more than 186 were reportedly injured. Some reports said that about 70 people have received bullet injuries.
As northeast Delhi burnt, journalists trying to report and film the violence were also targeted and a TV journalist of JK27, Akash Napa, received bullet injuries. Reporting live from the spot, most TV journalists wore helmets to save themselves not just from stones that were being pelted, but also stray bullets.
The police and district administration of Ghaziabad reportedly “intensified their vigil” and Union home minister Amit Shah chaired a high-level meeting. He also met representatives of all the political parties and leaders, cutting across political divides, appealed for peace. On Tuesday evening, however, BJP general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh issued a clear, public warning to rioters, saying they need to be taught a lesson. He tweeted: “Jaffrabad Metro protest area totally cleared. The game starts now. Rioters need to be taught a lesson or two of Indian laws” with the hashtag #PlannedDelhiRiots.
He holds the most powerful post in the BJP after party president J.P. Nadda and is an RSS representative in the party.
As violence between anti and pro CAA protesters clearly turned into a Hindu-Muslim riot, the Delhi Police along with the Rapid Action Force staged a flag march late on Tuesday in Bhajanpura and Khureji Khas areas.
IPS officer S.N. Shrivastava was appointed as the new Delhi Police special commissioner (law & order) on Tuesday, after the home ministry repatriated him from CRPF to take control of the escalating violence. Officials said that police has also increased the security cover on the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border. Bars and pubs have
also been shut in neighbouring Ghaziabad.
On Monday, when the death toll was five, and over 50 people were reportedly been injured, the police had imposed Section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting assembly of four or more people in 10 violence affected areas of northeast Delhi.
Eight companies of the CRPF, including two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and one company of women security personnel, were also deployed in violence-hit areas.
However, mobs ignored the orders and ferocity of violence escalated through the day on Tuesday.
The violence between the two communities began on Monday after BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who has a history of making communal and incendiary comments, held a pro-CAA rally on Sunday in Maujpur, near Jaffrabad, where a protest has been on since Saturday night against the citizenship law.
Mr Mishra, who recently lost to the AAP candidate in the recently-held Delhi Assembly elections, also addressed the people who gathered in support of CAA on Sunday and threatened action against anti-CAA protesters if the Jaffrabad road was not opened.
He was contesting from Model Town and was banned from campaigning for 48 hours by the Election Commission for making communal remarks. Goading people to vote for the BJP on February 8, he had likened the elections to an “India versus Pakistan contest”.
After his speech on Sunday, the crowd allegedly attacked anti-CAA protesters, resulting in stones pelting from both ends.
Since then, violence has continued to worsen in the area.
In Jafrabad and Maujpur areas on Tuesday, plumes of smoke kept billowing out of burnt down houses and the air was rent with the stench of burning tires.
Besides setting houses on fire, mobs torched cars and scooters parked in the area. On Monday night, Gokulpuri tyre market was set on fire.
Almost all shops were gutted in the fire by the time it was brought under control by the fire department. Gokalpuri’s tyre market is located just behind the Gokalpuri Metro station and most of its shops are owned by Muslims.
On Tuesday, rioters from both the communities were seen moving around with swords, lathis, stones completely unchecked. The frenzied mobs chanting incendiary slogans — — Jai Shri Ram and Nara-e-tadbeer Allah hu Akbar — hurled stones, petrol bombs at each other.
The mobs also fired at will at each other. As the mobs ran amock, in most of the places police remained a mute spectator. The responsible official statements of police officials did not match the behaviour of the cops on ground.
There were tweets and reports of the police not responding to distress and SOS calls made to PCR’s 100 number.
Earlier it was learnt that Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik apparently told the home ministry that since it was stretched to the limit owing to US President’s visit for which 5,000 cops were deployed, it could not bring the situation under control “immediately”. Later, on Tuesday evening, Delhi Police’s public relations officer (PRO) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said nowhere in the MHA meeting was it conveyed by Delhi Police officials that “we do not have sufficient force”.
“We have sufficient force deployed on the ground and have also got additional force,” he said.
Several colonies in northeast Delhi remained clearly and dangerously divided. Saffron flags were hoisted on the houses of the majority community.
Some areas of Kadampur and Jaffrabad were controlled by those against the CAA and NRC, while the Maujpur was dominated by supporters of the controversial Act.
Pitched battle raged on the main road as people of both the communities poured out of the narrow, serpentine lanes and by-lanes of Maujpur and Jafrabad areas. As clashes continued, announcements from mosques and temples urged people not to spread rumours or act on them.
Police fired tear gas shells twice during the day to disperse warring factions.
Since ambulances were not being able to access the riot-hit areas, injured were being rushed by people in cars and bikes to the nearby GTB hospital.