When 22-year-old Mushahid gained consciousness on 8 April, he found himself on a hospital bed. Mushahid is a resident Khajuri Khas, one of several areas in northeast Delhi that witnessed anti-Muslim violence in February 2020. On the afternoon of 7 April, Mushahid told me, three men sat in his e-rickshaw that he drives around Khajuri Khas and asked him to take them to a factory in Gokulpuri. Upon reaching, he said, they offered him a cold drink, and then threatened to kill him and his entire family if he did not withdraw a complaint he had filed about the Delhi violence. Mushahid had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mohan Singh Bisht, among other Hindu locals, of attacking his neighbourhood. The last thing he remembered was one of the men slapping him hard. His emergency-registration card, recorded at 11:02 pm on 7 April, stated, “Ingestion of unknown substance mixed in cold drink by some unknown person 8.30 pm today. Found unconscious at Gokulpuri.”
Mushahid had fled Delhi following the communal violence last year. He returned only in September, to join his father as an e-rickshaw driver, and to pursue his master of arts in political science through a correspondence course. He told me he returned because he was emboldened by others in his neighbourhood who had filed police complaints against the perpetrators of the violence. Among those who inspired him to return was Mumtaz Mohammad, another resident of Khajuri Khas, whose account I earlier reported for The Caravan. Mumtaz, too, had named Bisht in his police complaint, and said he subsequently faced threats from local residents and the police.
Mushahid filed his complaint on 13 September. In it, he described incidents of communal violence that he witnessed on 23, 24 and 25 February 2020. In each incident, he named Hindu residents of Khajuri Khas whom he saw carry out acts of violence, and recounted their communal sloganeering, as well as slogans hailing the Delhi Police and Bisht. He also wrote that he overheard the perpetrators discuss that they had received instructions from Bisht that “not even one Muslim should survive, and the police are with us, nobody can harm us.” Mushahid wrote that on 23 February, he was at the Sanjar Chicken Corner in Khajuri Khas, which is owned by Mumtaz, when a large group of people began pelting stones into the shop and ransacked it.
Mushahid wrote that the next day, when he stepped out of his house around 5 pm, he saw Hindu locals from the neighbourhood loot and then burn down Muslim-owned businesses. This included the motorcycle shop of one Maqbool. Mushahid wrote that he saw the Hindu mob break open the shop’s shutter with a metal rod, loot the shop, and then burn it down with petrol. He wrote that later that night, he saw the same crowd throw petrol bombs into Muslim houses.
On the morning of 25 February, Mushahid continued, a Hindu mob entered the lane where his house was situated and began pelting stones and petrol bombs at the houses in the lane. He wrote that he saw one of the locals throw an explosive at one house, which caused a large explosion, and that one member of the mob even fired his gun at Mushahid. Then, Mushahid wrote, Bisht arrived at the lane. “I saw Mohan Singh Bisht take an explosive from the hands of his associate and throw it at Mumtaz bhai’s house, which caused a huge explosion in the house,” Mushahid wrote. The mob then looted the Muslim houses, including Mumtaz’s, Mushahid added.