Delhi Police watched as Hindu mob brutally beat Muslim man, looted shop in Maujpur

Delhi Police accepted tea and snacks from a Hindu mob armed with rods and lathis, even as the personnel were deployed on the road between the Jaffrabad metro station and its neighbouring area of Maujpur, at around 5.30 pm on 24 February. Communal clashes ripped through the northeast district of Delhi between 23 and 26 February, with the violence morphing into targeted attacks on the Muslim community. Prabhat Kumar
26 March, 2020

On one side of the road under the Jaffrabad metro station was a group of anti-CAA protesters, a sit-in comprised entirely of women, followed by a group of protesters, mostly Muslim, and then a blockade erected and manned by the Delhi Police. On the other side of the blockade, barely 200 metres down the road was Maujpur, where stood a group of people sporting saffron tilaks and brandishing rods and lathis. Jaffrabad is a Muslim-majority area in Delhi’s North East district, while Maujpur is Hindu dominated. It was 24 February, around 5 pm and over the course of the next two hours I witnessed Delhi Police personnel stand by while the right-wing mob brutally beat a passer-by coming from Jaffrabad till he was bloody and on the ground. Members of the mob looted a Muslim establishment in full view of the police, which meanwhile was accepting tea and snacks from the group.

The area had been tense since the day before when the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra had made a provocative speech at a junction on the same road. Clashes had broken out soon after Mishra left and the violence engulfed the entire northeast district for the next three days. As the targeted violence increased in ferocity, allegations and accounts of police complicity and inaction piled up. That day, when I reached Jaffrabad, the police had broken up the violence and the situation was under control—it was calm and tense at the same time. The stretch of road separating the two sides was empty and littered with stones and tear-gas shells, the smoke still heavy in the air.  There was an alarming silence all around broken by the slogans being raised by the sit-in against the CAA and the NRC. 

As the police gave me permission to cross to the other side, the group accompanying me stayed back. They were students of journalism at Jamia Millia Islamia and had come to cover the violence. Most of them were Muslim. About a hundred metres down the road, a few policemen were sitting on the divider next to a burnt car. There was a burnt house next to it, too. On the Maujpur side, there was no fear, plenty of aggression, and chants of “Jai Shree Ram.” Everyone here, from teenagers to elderly people had iron rods and lathis and some were wearing helmets. They were chanting communal slurs and raising slogans like, “Hindu jaag gaya hai, maro salon mullon ko”—The Hindu has awoken, kill the bastard Muslims, and “Afzal got azadi, we will give you azadi too.”

Announcements were being made on mikes instructing the crowd to boycott media houses. “Do not talk to the media. We got to know that Aaj Tak is running some false news.” The announcements continued, “but let Zee News and Republic TV come in, they are ours.” People among the crowd were ensuring that no one recorded anything or took any photographs—anyone caught using cameras had their equipment destroyed. An elderly man, around 50-years-old, had sandalwood paste in his hand and was going from person to person to mark their foreheads.

A few members of the crowd were offering chai and snacks to the policemen who accepted all of it. The refreshments had been provided by two men who came on motorcycles loaded with cartons. As the police personnel were drinking tea, some members of the crowd broke into a locked store across the road. It was a small shop selling cigarettes and paan, with the name of the owner—Nasir Khan—written on it. It was a Muslim establishment in the Hindu-majority area. The crowd proceeded to loot everything in the shop even as the police personnel did nothing to stop them and continued with their tea.

After a few minutes, a passer-by was spotted coming from Jaffrabad towards Maujpur. At this point, someone in the Maujpur crowd shouted that the person was a Muslim and suddenly the whole mob was upon him. The mob kicked, punched and swung lathis and rods at the man repeatedly, all the while yelling communal slurs and saying, “Kill him! He is anyway not doing anything for this country; he eats here and sings for Pakistan, he has no right to live.” The police were still standing by and watching. Then one member of the mob shouted, “Take off his pants and check whether he’s a Muslim or not.” As the assault went on, the police were still drinking their tea.

After over a minute, a single policeman intervened and managed to stop the violence almost immediately. The man who had been assaulted was lying on the ground, blood pouring from his face and head. He was almost unconscious by then and whimpering in pain. Around three or four policemen now came and took the injured man into a house nearby, locked it and called for an ambulance. As the ambulance arrived, the right-wing crowd gathered outside the house shouting “Burn the ambulance and kill him! Jai Shree Ram.”

The narrative of police complicity that I witnessed seemed to bear out in the surrounding areas of Jaffrabad in the coming days too. When I left Maujpur, it was almost 7.30 pm and reports of targeted attacks on Muslim localities were pouring in from all over the district. Barely an hour later, a right-wing mob set fire to the tyre market in Gokalpuri, less than four kilometres from Maujpur. The entire market is owned by Muslims. Over the next two days, the tyre market was set afire twice more. Not a single shop was spared in the entire market, and residents and shop owners told me that all the establishments had been looted. Notably, the Dayalpur police station shares a boundary wall with the market and there is another police station within a hundred metres.

When I went to the area on 26 February, Jaffrabad and most of its surrounding localities— Maujpur, Khureji Khas, Gokalpuri, Mustafabad and Chandbagh—were under curfew. The Central Reserve Police Force, the Sashastra Seema Bal and Delhi Police were conducting a march through the affected areas. As I reached the tyre market in the afternoon, I saw that it was still burning and none of the residents or shop owners were around. I noticed a house, completely burnt, with two burnt cars outside it, on the road leading out from the market. This is known as the main Wazirabad road and the house was opposite the Mohan Nursing Home. The next day, I met Nawafil, a teenager, whose family owned the house—the front of the house had functioned as a shop while the back rooms were where the family lived. He told me that on 25 February, a Hindu mob looted the shop and house and then burnt it down along with the cars. Several news outlets have reported how over 200 calls were made to the police regarding the arson yet the police did nothing and the market burned for three days.

The same pattern played itself out four kilometres down the road from the tyre market, in the Bhajanpura area. The Sayad Chand Baba Dargah, located at the main junction of Bhajanpura, was gutted on 24 February, as was the petrol pump right opposite it. The dargah lies in the Muslim-majority locality of Chand Bagh and just across the road is Bhajanpura, a Hindu-majority area. Two days later, the shrine and its surrounding market were deserted due to the curfew. But on 27 February, when I returned there, I saw a man sitting in a destroyed fruit shop right next to the shrine. Burnt oranges and bananas were scattered all over the place. The man was teary eyed and sat with utter hopelessness, as a few photographers clicked photos of him. His name was Dilshad Khan, and the shop belonged to him. He had been sitting there from the morning. “People came, they burnt my shop, looted my house and left nothing behind. I kept requesting them to stop but they beat me instead.” He added, “I am sitting outside like this to tell people and give them a message, that communal harmony should be maintained and I don’t want to fight with anyone.” Poore Khan’s shop, which was right next to Dilshad’s, had also been looted and destroyed. “It had gotten tense on 24 itself. In the evening, they burnt my shop and looted it too.” He added, “The police did not do anything. They failed, utterly.”

The Jaffrabad police station refused to respond to my queries and directed me to the office of the deputy commissioner of police for the North East, Ved Prakash Surya. Surya and his office, too, refused to speak to me.