“You can call it self-preservation or revenge, but mainly it was revenge,” a 22-year-old Hindu resident of Karawal Nagar, who said he participated in communal violence in northeast Delhi, said. Over two interviews with The Caravan, the 22-year old described how during the violence in February 2020, he and other Hindu men targeted shops and vehicles belonging to Muslims, destroying these or setting them on fire. He admitted to beating up Muslim men for refusing to say “Jai Shri Ram.” The 22-year-old told The Caravan that the Delhi Police gave Hindu rioters free reign to target Muslims. “They told us to go and attack inside, in the Muslim areas, that they won’t come there … They said, ‘Show us that you’re Hindu,’” he said. He added that a police official told him that the Hindu rioters were being “given a chance,” and that “when we get a message from above, I will stop you. But until then, do what you want.’”
The 22-year-old also alleged that he had met a member of the Bajrang Dal, who handed him a rod to use while smashing properties of Muslims. According to him, the Bajrang Dal member also encouraged Hindu men to unite against Muslims, saying that “if you don’t do something now, you will never be able to do anything.” The 22-year-old said that the man from the Bajrang Dal told the mob to unite as Hindus and to discard their political affiliations for the duration of the violence. The 22-year-old said that through the days when the violence was ongoing in Delhi, he received messages and calls on WhatsApp that incited him into attacking Muslims. He said that the messages described, among other things, a heinous attack by Muslims on Hindus, and called for Hindus to be prepared to attack Muslims in the dead of night.
The 22-year-old further said that he witnessed a mob of Hindus killing three Muslim men. One among these, he said, was thrown onto a vehicle for refusing to say “Jai Shri Ram.” The mob then set the vehicle on fire, killing the man. The 22-year-old praised the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra, saying that Mishra had “done good work … he has taken the public along with him, he has given many suggestions.”
Between 24 and 26 February, northeast Delhi was engulfed in communal violence. Of the 53 people who were killed, 38 were Muslim. On 23 February, Mishra had given an incendiary speech at the Jaffrabad metro station. Nearby, Muslim residents of northeast Delhi were conducting a sit-in protest against the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens—one among many such peaceful protests in India which had begun in mid-December 2019. Mishra had threatened that if the police did not clear up the crowd, “the matter would be taken out of the police’s hands.” His speech—delivered in presence of Ved Prakash Surya, the deputy commissioner of police for northeast Delhi—was followed by skirmishes between Hindu mobs and Muslim protestors.