It is no more about CAA, now it is communal, say protesters

Updated: Feb 26, 2020, 10:11 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Eyewitnesses present in northeast Delhi's Maujpur-Jaffrabad area recall how the horror started on Sunday, when drunk men descended there along with BJP's Kapil Mishra

Rioters pelt stones during clashes between anti-CAA protesters and a right-wing mob in New Delhi on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
Rioters pelt stones during clashes between anti-CAA protesters and a right-wing mob in New Delhi on Tuesday. Pic/PTI

Everything was calm; people were peacefully protesting against the CAA and the NRC in the Jaffrabad Metro station area of New Delhi on Sunday, said two students who were recording videos of the movement for a documentary.

On Saturday night, around 300 women and 200 men gathered under Jaffrabad Metro station for a sit-in, two 21-year-old students told mid-day over the phone on condition of anonymity as they are already getting threats. They decided to document the people's movement against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and went to the Jaffrabad-Maujpur stretch around 6 am on Sunday.

"There was an unusually huge deployment of police force. By Sunday noon, the number of protesters rose to over 6,000. All of them were peacefully sitting there... without causing any disturbance," said one of them.

He added that around 3 pm, close to 400 right-wing supporters had gathered near a temple between Jaffrabad and Maujpur Metro stations and we saw them talking to the police. "They wanted the protesters at Jaffrabad to be removed," he said. While they were taking interviews near the temple, some people told them that instances of stone-pelting and sloganeering have been reported near Maujpur Metro station.

The students said they rushed to the site but could not get closer as there was no proper police deployment in that area. "There were tilakdharis on almost every corner of these lanes," he recalled, adding, "Locals had put up saffron flags in front of their houses to identify themselves as Hindus and to prevent their houses from being attacked. Around 5.30 pm, we saw a completely damaged Swift car roll down the road."

The other student went ahead to speak to the tilakdharis. Most of them were local residents, she said. "A man aged around 30 said their children have board exams from Monday and that they wanted the street to be cleared so that they can go to school. There were women too. Several near the temple were drunk men in their 30s and 40s, who were chanting Jai Shri Ram."

She said the mood "drastically changed" when BJP leader Kapil Mishra arrived at Jaffrabad and threatened to take matters in his own hands if the police fail to clear the area in the next three days. After he left, we witnessed around seven to eight incidents of violence.

"I saw one man jumping into a sewer to save his life... the right-wing supporters were still throwing stones at him. Another person who entered the gully, completely unaware of what was going on, was hit on the head," she said. "Mishra wants peace now. This wasn't his attitude on Sunday. He repeated the same statement three times, even when we spoke to him. The situation escalated right in front of him...if he wanted, he could have handled it right then."

Even they were not spared, she said, adding that at 8 pm around 20 people heckled them and forced them to chant Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Mata ki Jai. "However, there were a few prudent people in the crowd who said we were children and that we should leave otherwise we would get hurt... But I got calls on Monday night...they knew what I was wearing, and are targeting anyone who is reporting what is going on the ground."

Security personnel conduct flag march during clashes between those against and those supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in north east Delhi on Tuesday. PIC/PTISecurity personnel conduct flag march during clashes between those against and those supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in north east Delhi on Tuesday. Pic/ PTI

They said both the protest and the mood in the capital have become "communal". "They [the mob] are not targeting on the basis of CAA and NRC. I can assure you that those peacefully demonstrating against the CAA are maintaining their identity as protesters; they are not considering themselves to be of any particular community. But people who are attacking these protesters are attacking them because most of them are Muslim," he said.

The duo managed to sneak out of the neighbourhood around 8 on Monday morning. They said now the violence is spreading to other parts of Delhi too. "New Ashok Nagar experienced violence on Tuesday evening... a school has reportedly been set on fire at Mustafabad. We have also got reports of people armed with lathis waiting outside a paying guest accommodation where mostly Kashmiri students stay... they are trying to intimidate them."

IAS-turned-social activist Harsh Mander, who is vocal about his stand against the CAA, also said the protest has taken a communal turn.

"If you know the playbook of the establishment, this is how they deal with dissent. The first method is to convert it into a Hindu-Muslim question; the second is to lie and present multiple falsehoods to the people. And the third is to crush — with force. I think all three are on display right now in Delhi."

11 FIRs registered

The Delhi police on Tuesday said 11 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence in north east Delhi that has claimed 13 lives, and the force is responding to incidents involving anti-social elements. Delhi police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa said the situation in north east Delhi is under control, even as several parts of the area continued to reel under violence. Over 20 people have been detained and one person arrested till now, police said. Delhi, the national capital, continues to burn for the third day but Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who met on Tuesday, failed to contain the situation. The police conducted flag march in Bhajanpura and Khajuri Khas on Tuesday.

TV journalists attacked in Delhi, 1 critical

A journalist with JK 24X7 news received a bullet injury and two reporters from NDTV were beaten and punched by rioters in northeast Delhi, which was wracked by fresh violence on Tuesday.

Akash sustained a bullet injury while covering the communal clashes in Maujpur locality and his condition is serious. Press Club of India and Indian Women's Press Corps expressed concern over the attacks, stating that "mobs were checking religious credentials of journalists". Meanwhile, the CBSE has postponed the board exams for Stds 10 and 12 scheduled on Wednesday. There are a total of 86 centres in northeast Delhi.

Delhi police issue shoot-at-sight order

The Delhi police on Tuesday issued an order to shoot at sight for the northeast Delhi region. On Tuesday, a video surfaced of an armed police officer warning the crowd to remain indoors failing which they will be shot at.

The Indian Express and the Hindu also reported, quoting their sources, that the Delhi police have allowed the policemen on duty to shoot at those indulging in violence in the national capital's northeast region where clashes broke out between pro- and anti-CAA protesters. The violence that erupted on Sunday has killed 13 people in three days and injured around 190 others. Police have also sealed roads that lead to Ghaziabad.

13
No. of people killed in the violence

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