In the wake of the carnage that swept northeast Delhi in late February, news reports on the violence appear to have missed one prominent element—the recurrent and devastating use of explosives by Hindu mobs. Numerous complaints filed before the Delhi Police by Muslim residents of the area, which The Caravan has copies of, accuse mobs of destroying lives and property with the use of bombs. But the media coverage of the issue predominantly focused on the use of explosives in one particular instance—those discovered on the terrace of Tahir Hussain, an Aam Aadmi Party councilor accused of killing an Intelligence Bureau staffer, Ankit Sharma. Yet, these complaints spoke of Hindu mobs using explosives openly and without fear, with accounts of such attacks from northeast Delhi’s Mustafabad, Chand Bagh and Karawal Nagar areas.
While reporting this story, I discovered a possible explanation for the prominent use of explosives going under the radar—in my presence, a police official who was recording one complainant’s statement actively discouraged him from reporting their use in the violence. Two other complainants said that when they lodged complaints in the immediate aftermath of the violence, the police had registered first-information reports that excluded the names of the accused and the details about the explosives. As a result, these complainants later filed new complaints at a police help desk that had been set up at a relief camp in Mustafabad’s Eidgah grounds. But this does not appear to have led to any specific investigation into the use of explosives during the violence.
“At around 11 pm on 25 February, my son received a call on his number from within the neighborhood that my shop was under attack and being looted,” Ilyas, a resident of Mustafabad, wrote in his complaint, which was filed at the police help desk on 19 March. Ilyas stated that he ran to his shop and found that a group of people, out of whom he named at least seven, who were carrying weapons in their hands and taking out goods from his shop and putting them inside a tempo. “Then Anil sweet seller came to the scene and asked everyone to move back. First, he shouted slogans of ‘Jagdish Pradhan zindabad,’ ‘Nand Kishore Gujjar zindabad,’ ‘Satyapal sansad zindabad.’” The slogans hailed the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Pradhan, Gujjar and Satya Pal Singh—as reported in the first part of this series on the Delhi violence complaints, all three were among the BJP leaders accused in the complaints but escaped investigation.
“He then threw a bomb into my shop, which exploded with a loud bang,” Ilyas wrote. “The roof of my shop blew up in a way that could be seen around the area and my ears went numb.” He then ran home out of fear, Ilyas wrote in his complaint filed at the help desk. He also noted that he had first filed a complaint at the Gokulpuri police station in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and explained why he had filed another complaint despite the registration of an FIR.
On 3 March, the Gokulpuri police registered an FIR against Ilyas’s complaint. The complaint, as recorded in the FIR, stated that rioters had looted his shop and set it on fire. It added that he had lost goods worth approximately eight or nine lakhs. It did not, however, name the individuals that Ilyas named in his second complaint nor did it mention the allegation that he had witnessed someone he recognised destroy the property with an explosive.