New Delhi, Feb 25, 2020: Stone-throwing between rival groups, arson and vandalism on Tuesday marked unrelenting violence over citizenship law protests for more than 24 hours in a part of Delhi, in which 18 - including a policeman - have been killed and over 250 injured. At least 70 of those injured have gunshot wounds. Shops were burnt and people armed with sticks and rods were on streets in Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh and Karawal Nagar in northeast Delhi, which saw clashes between protesters for and against the controversial citizenship law spiral into unprecedented violence in the capital yesterday.
The Union Home Ministry ruled out calling the army, saying adequate central forces and police are on the ground, said government sources. Over 6,000 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed along the stretch. This evening, police resorted to using tear gas shells in Chand Bagh to control the clashes, NDTV reported.
The death toll in the violence that broke out in several areas of Northeast Delhi has claimed 13 lives so far, said officials at the GTB Hospital on Tuesday. Delhi Police fired tear gas at agitating mobs in Chand Bagh in Northeast Delhi, which has been on boil for the last two days. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia on Tuesday afternoon visited the injured admitted to the Hospital. Meanwhile, Maujpur area of north-east Delhi continues to be tense with rioters destroying private properties and indulging in arson. Journalists have also been attacked, with rioters forcing them to delete videos and photos of the violence.
The Supreme Court will hear former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah’s petition seeking lodging of FIRs over the violence tomorrow, while the Delhi High Court will hear petitions seeking an SIT probe and a direction to the Centre to bring in the Army. The apex court is also slated to hear tomorrow two separate petitions seeking removal of Anti-citizenship law protestors from Shaheen Bagh.
Rival mobs from different communities armed with sticks were ranged against each other in parts of Bhajanpura. Negligible police presence made the situation worse. Inadequate police presence or policemen refusing to act was also visible at Chand Bagh nearby, where stone-throwing damaged many shops. Smoke was seen rising from buildings set on fire late last night. A tyre market in Gokulpuri was set on fire and buildings vandalised by people armed with sticks and rods.
The Union Home ministry has asked for no provocative statements to be made and said that Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are being monitored to ensure no anti-social elements take advantage of the situation.
Fresh violence has been reported from northeast Delhi areas such as Karawal Nagar, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Vijay Park and Yamuna Vihar. While stones were thrown in neighborhoods such as Maujpur, the fire department has been getting more SOS calls, many of them unattended after three firefighters were been injured yesterday. A group of people set a fire engine ablaze and threw stones at another. In Maujpur, a group of people travelling in an e-rickshaw were thrashed and looted of their valuables this morning. In Gokulpuri area, a mob set a tyre market on fire last night.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had raised the subject of police action with the Home Minister and had asked if the police could be empowered to act.
"The police personnel could not do anything because they were not getting orders from their seniors. I will raise this with Amit Shah-ji. They can’t decide whether there should be tear-gassing or lathi-charging without orders from above," Mr Kejriwal had told reporters before his meeting.
A total of 67 companies, each with about 70 to 100 personnel, have been deployed in the Northeast district, including police and paramilitary forces. "We have enough forces on the ground. Senior police officials are constantly monitoring the situation," said Delhi Police’s MS Randhawa this evening. "The Home Ministry is continuously supporting us. We have adequate force in place. We deny the allegations of not enough forces," said Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik.
Among the over 100 injured are 48 police personnel, many of whom have been hospitalised. Mr Kejriwal, who expressed sorrow at the death of the Delhi Police officer, called the violence "very distressing" yesterday and urged Home Minister Amit Shah - under whose control Delhi Police rolls up - to "restore law and order and ensure peace and harmony is maintained". Political analyst Yogendra Yadav also took to Twitter to raise alarm over the clashes.
Government sources said the violence in the national capital appears to have been "orchestrated" by some for publicity as it comes at a time when Donald Trump is visiting the country.
The Delhi government has ordered all private and government schools to be closed in the northeast Delhi district today in the wake of the violence.Delhi Metro has closed the Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Gokulpuri, Johri Enclave and Shiv Vihar stations.
Large gatherings have been banned in northeast Delhi under Section 144. They have also been imposed outside Delhi Police Headquarters after calls for protest marches by the JNU Students Union.