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Anatomy of violence: Two critical points that left police on back foot

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New Delhi, Feb 29, 2020-

A move by a far-Left women’s rights group, Pinjra Tod, to mobilise locals in northeast Delhi and the near-lynching of Deputy Commissioner of Police Amit Sharma by rioters were two critical points that left security forces on the back foot, police sources said on Saturday.

They said it all started from February 22 evening when Pinjra Tod members started mobilising locals protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and directed them to gather at Jafrabad metro station.

“The anti-CAA protesters came and squatted at Jafrabad metro station on February 22 at 10 p.m. We thought protesters would gather at the old site at Seelampur service lane, which is around a kilometre away,” a police source said.

The new set of protesters gathered at Jafrabad metro station included around 500 women, small children and 400 men. They came out from congested bylanes and gathered at the metro station. However, the core group consisted of outsiders.

The police could not take action to remove them as they were outnumbered. “We had limited women personnel, so we could not act. Besides, there are High Court and Supreme Court orders about the right to protest. However, we did not allow them to set up tents, microphones or a platform at the site,” said a source.

By February 23 morning, the crowd swelled to around 3,000 people. “We had limited staff even as Pinjra Tod members were mobilising the crowd with locals’ support,” said the source.

Explaining the situation, sources said Delhi’s northeast district could be the most congested part in the country. The area around Jafrabad and Maujpur is so congested that around 80,000 people live per sq km.

Seeing the rising number of people at Jafrabad metro station, a kilometre away at Maujpur metro station, another community also gathered and started a dharna. They said they would jam the entire stretch of Maujpur. It was here that BJP leader Kapil Mishra came and addressed the crowd and then left.

“We tried to reason with them, but they wouldn’t listen,” said a police source.

The template for both the situations — at Jafrabad and Maujpur — was the same. At Jafrabad, most of the people in the crowd said that if protesters were allowed at Shaheen Bagh, then they too could protest. “At Maujpur, the crowd asked: why don’t you remove Jafrabad protesters?’,” said the source.

In the evening, stone pelting started on protesters at Maujpur, but the police were able to control it.

“At the same time, there was some tension at Chand Bagh. A Deputy Commissioner of Police went there and controlled it.

Schools in northeast Delhi to remain closed till March 7

“We made adequate arrangements for Monday February 24: US President Donald Trump was on a visit and was about to arrive that evening. The eastern range officers were exempt from being deployed for security. They had their own problems to deal with,” a source said.

Though it took time to mobilise the force, adequate number of police personnel and officers were deployed.

“Our major concern was to protect Maujpur, as the area is surrounded by a particular community,” said a police officer. “It was easy to mobilise people from Jafrabad and Kardampuri in a few minutes.”

On February 24 around 9 am , a call was received that Chand Bagh rioters were targeting a petrol pump.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Amit Sharma reached Chand Bagh with three companies on February 24 at 9 a.m. after he received a call that a petrol station was targeted. He rushed there, and between 9:30 a.m. and 10 am, he was attacked and Assistant Commissioner of Police Gokulpuri were almost lynched and a Head constable, Ratan Lal, was shot dead — the bullet passed from his left shoulder, piercing his heart, and got stuck in the right arm.

The three-company force which was with the DCP Sharma disappeared after he was attacked. Thereafter, large-scale rioting began.

The challenge now was to send all the reserve force to Chand Bagh. The Joint Commissioner of Police heading Eastern Range Alok Kumar was tasked with the job.

He made his move on the 66 Feet main Jafrabad Road. He was stuck at Kardampuri where his force came under a fierce attack. Similarly, Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Jasmeet Singh was stuck near Maujpur.

Then Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Joy Tirkey and Joint Commissioner of Police Manish Agarwal were called in.

Using a different route — Usmanpur to Pushta Road — they reached Chand Bagh and controlled the situation.

By 4 p.m, the police managed ro reclaim Wazirabad and 66 Feet Road at Jafrabad.

“At many places, both sides were firing at each other using countrymade revolvers. They were also against the police. At some places, policemen came right into the middle,” said a police source, adding that the police personnel could not resort to firing because they were attacked from both sides.

“We (police), however, carried out limited firing,” said another police source, asserting that none of the officers retreated.

“We didn’t allow any lynching… though covering each point is impossible.”

At Shiv Vihar, an Additional DCP was with 15 personnel; they could not manage to enter inside the area, but they remained unfazed. They stayed on and contained the riots.

“Rioting started at around 20 locations simultaneously and our men stood there to control the rioters. They didn’t move back,” said a police source.

Maximum calls — 7,500 — were received from Noor-e-Ilyahi, Brahampuri and Yamuna Vihar.

On February 25, the situation remained the same.

“We were able to control the situation by late evening. Then we entered the lanes and bylanes and fully took control of the situation,” said a police officer.

Soon, policemen were seen inside Khajuri Khas, Dayalpur, Karawal Nagar and Jafrabad.

Police sources said it was a conscious decision not to resort to firing at rioters even when police teams were trapped. “Our only priority was to contain the riots and bring the situation under control,” said a police officer.  (Agency)

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