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

25 February 2020
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
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

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.

Keywords: Delhi Violence Citizenship (Amendment) Act Delhi Police Hindu right wing RSS
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