Media barred, police attacked protesters: Two photojournalists recount the Delhi violence

Delhi’s Chand Bagh area, at around 2.25 pm on 24 February. According to eye witnesses, a Hindu mob set a petrol pump and cars on fire. Rohit Lohia
25 February, 2020

Since mid December 2019, people opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act have held peaceful protests, sit-ins and demonstrations in various parts of Delhi. The sit-in protests on roads, especially the one at east Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, has consistently earned the ire of leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. On 23 February, the BJP leader Kapil Mishra issued “an ultimatum” to the Delhi police, to oust the protesters from the roads. That afternoon, mobs of people supporting the CAA—predominantly Hindu men, chanting slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram”— arrived at the protest site in Delhi’s Jaffrabad and Maujpur areas. Violence erupted in these localities, and escalated the next day.

On 24 February, Hindu mobs continued to come together in various north east Delhi neighbourhoods, including Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura and Karawal Nagar. At some sites, the mobs and the CAA protesters reportedly pelted stones at each other. According to eyewitnesses and news reports, the Hindu mobs set cars and shops on fire, and brutally beat up Muslim residents. From these accounts, it is also evident that the police personnel supported and aided the armed Hindu mobs.

At least seven people were killed in the violence—a head constable and six civilians, according to news reports—and dozens were injured. Media personnel, too, recounted facing extreme hostility on the ground—some journalists said that the mobs prevented them from reporting the violence, while others recounted being attacked and threatened. The Caravan spoke to two photojournalists—a 30-year-old Muslim photographer and a 26-year-old—who were present in the area for several hours on 24 February. The 30-year-old said that both Hindus and Muslims saw media personnel as a threat. The 26-year-old recounted that mobs of Hindu men set cars and a petrol pump on fire in the presence of police personnel, and that the police aided them in pelting stones at the predominantly Muslim CAA protestors.

Account from a 30-year-old Muslim photographer: “Nobody from either side wants to see the media”

I was working with three photographers and we were trying to get close to Jaffrabad, Seelampur or Chand Bagh, depending on the situation on the ground. We managed to reach Maujpur Mod, near the Jaffrabad site, by e-rickshaw. The moment we entered the Maujpur Mod, which is essentially a chowk, we saw that a few cars that had been set ablaze and a lot of people were present there.

We realised that we had reached the Hindu side because everyone there was wearing tilaks. My fellow photographers and I were clicking pictures of a nearby shop that was on fire, when a bunch of men approached us and asked us to show them the pictures we had taken with our cameras. I did not show them—I knew that if I showed them the pictures, they would ask me my name and other details. I was already scared as they were chanting “Jai Shri Ram.” They checked my fellow photographer’s camera—he is Hindu—and asked him to delete all of the pictures. They asked my Hindu photographer friend to show his ID card. During this the whole commotion, there was an elderly aunty and uncle in a building close by who kept telling the Hindu hooligans to leave us alone, asking them why they were bothering us. We figured out that they were Hindus from the local neighbourhood. Later, other Hindus, who were also from the neighbourhood, suggested we leave the area. “Don’t stay here,” they told us. They cautioned us and told us to take helmets from them if we were pushing ahead.

Understand the situation: there is a nala—a drain—over which there is a bridge. Across the bridge, to the left, is a Muslim mob, and to the right is a Hindu mob. There is stone pelting happening from both the sides. Anyone who goes onto the bridge, in case he is visibly Muslim, is done for. Even if he is not visibly Muslim, the hooligans will check his card, and then he will still be done for.

I was exactly at the location where the Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui took a photo of a mob lynching a Muslim man. We were there, and when we were coming back from Maujpur chowk, a Muslim group surrounded us after seeing us with a camera. They were about to beat us up, but I cajoled and assured them that I am a Muslim and that the photographers with me were my friends. With great difficulty, I managed to earn their trust. They guided us towards the main road, put us in an autorickshaw and told us to move out from there. When we were surrounded by Hindus, my Hindu photographer friend had gotten us out of there.

Nobody from either side wants to see the media. They are treating the media as one of the biggest enemies. Yesterday, the mob torched a reporter’s motorcycle. The situation is quite bad.

As told to Kaushal Shroff.


A car on fire at Chand Bagh, at around 4.45 pm. According to eyewitnesses, a Hindu mob set a petrol pump and cars on fire. Kajal Pattani

Account from a 26-year-old photojournalist: “The police was moving with the mob, pelting stones at the protestors”

We left from someone’s home in old Mustafabad at around 11–11.30 am on 24 February. There was a lot of chaos in the morning—people were running in the street with rods and whatever they could find. Then, we arrived at the Chand Bagh protest site, where we had heard a lathi charge had taken place. When we reached there, the police had detained a few people there, but after the Chand Bagh protesters spoke to the assistant commissioner of police there, the police released the detainees. 

After that, the protesters held a chakka jam—they blocked the main road of the Chand Bagh protest site. They were saying, “How did they lathi charge at us?” They told the police to go back. The police lathi charged the protesters again. There were only a few police personnel there. The protesters surrounded the police—men from one side and women from another. The protesters pelted stones at the police and forced the police to run away. It got really brutal from there.

The police started to use tear gas against the protesters—they had started a bit earlier itself. Then, the women started stone pelting. The men were separated from the women as the police had used lathis and tear gas against the men to shoo them away, not the women. They were a part of the same protest.

At around 1–1.30 pm, a right-wing Hindu mob of around two hundred men arrived near the protest site, carrying stones and chanting “Jai Shri Ram!” We could see that they were with the police—we were on a rooftop, from where we were covering this.

The Hindu mob started stone pelting at the protesters. Then, the mob burnt the petrol pump—there was a truck nearby, they first burnt that, then they burnt the petrol pump. Then, all the cars that were there, on the opposite side of the protest site, near the petrol pump—they burnt all of them. The mob burnt an e-rickshaw, then rolled it towards the Chand Bagh side, towards the protesters. They did this with many vehicles—I don’t know to defame the protest or what. 

The mob started shooting with guns at around 4 pm. They were in civil dress, wearing helmets. At one point during the day, a person standing just next to us was also shot. We are not sure if he is dead or what. 

On the protesters side, the women protesters left after it got brutal, and all the protesting men came forward. The protesters and the mob were then pelting stones at each other. The protesters were earlier around five or six hundred, but the number declined with time. On the main site, there were around two–three hundred who were left fighting. However, there were many people in the by-lanes. Few police personnel were present there. At the beginning of our visit, they were around fifty–sixty of them at the site, then the mob was far more in number.

The police was moving with the mob, and trying to control the protesters. The police was throwing tear gas at the protesters again and again. The protesters just had stones in their hands, they were picking up the shells and throwing it back. A tear-gas shell blasted in a protester’s hand too—people said that the blast was so bad that his bones were visible. The police was not doing anything to protect the anti-CAA protesters. The police was moving with the mob, pelting stones with them. It was also pelting stones at the protesters.

I left at 7 pm. The mob had taken over the entire area by then—they were several hundred in number. They burnt the protest site. There was stone-pelting and tear gassing at the homes. So, we had to run from there. All of Chand Bagh was on fire.

Then, we came back to Mustafabad. We could not go out in the night as this area was locked down from all sides. Tear gas—which was used only by the police and the Central Reserve Police Force—landed near us around five times, and we had to run. My eyes are still very tired. Initially, we were on the ground. But then, a lot of people had surrounded us saying, “Don’t shoot here.” A photojournalist with me requested them, so they made a human chain and helped us go. They were ready to beat us.

The mob was shooting from the Mohan Nursing Home and Hospital’s rooftop with a long rifle. One of my colleagues was stuck in the hospital. There were live bullets. Even in Mustafabad, the situation was tense. There was a lot of chaos outside on the roads. People were carrying sticks and everything in their hands, saying, “RSS people are coming from the other side.”

As told to Amrita Singh.