A Family's Ordeal in the Delhi Violence

Betrayal by neighbours, police and a BJP MLA

16 September, 2020

On the evening of 23 February, Mohammad Mumtaz, a resident of Khajuri Khas, was at his family-run restaurant, Sanjar Chicken Corner, when a Hindutva mob of over hundred people began pelting stones at it. Mumtaz managed to escape, and by 10 pm that night, the mob had burnt his shop down. In a complaint he later wrote to SN Shrivastava, the commissioner of the Delhi Police, Mumtaz stated that he had seen Mohan Singh Bisht among the Hindu rioters that night. Bisht is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of legislative assembly from Delhi’s Karawal Nagar constituency. Mumtaz wrote that he saw the legislator instruct a mob, “Samay aa gaya hai ki inn kattuo ko dhund-dhund kar maar de”—The time has come to track these Muslims down and kill them. (“Kattua” is a slur for Muslims.) According to Mumtaz, Bisht told the group to also burn Muslims’ homes and cars, and to loot and burn their shops.

The arson of his shop was not the end of Mumtaz’s ordeal during the violence that swept northeast Delhi. Two days later, Tarkeshwar Singh, the station-house officer of the Dayalpur police station, came to the lane outside Mumtaz’s house along with a police force and fired a tear-gas shell onto his terrace, Mumtaz said. Shortly after, Bisht reached the site, along with a group of associates. Mumtaz said he witnessed the BJP MLA take out a green explosive and throw it at his house. As the mob then began looting the house and the neighbouring ones, Bisht left.

Mumtaz said that when he visited the Dayalpur police station to register a complaint about these incidents, the police personnel instructed him to remove the names of the perpetrators whom he had identified. Mumtaz also expressed his disbelief that Bisht had attacked his house, noting that he had personally helped the legislator come to power during the Delhi assembly elections that took place weeks before the violence, and had even set up an office for the BJP MLA in his own house. 

In the chargesheet into Mumtaz’s case, the Delhi Police accused ten Muslim men of burning down Sanjar Chicken Corner, while incorrectly identifying it as “Punjabi Chicken Corner.” It did not name any of the individuals identified by Mumtaz. Shadab Alam, one of the Muslim men arrested in the case, said that all ten accused, and over a dozen others, were illegally detained and tortured at the Dayalpur police station for four nights, from 24 to 28 February. Two others corroborated his account. All these accounts, including that of Mumtaz and his family, formed part of The Caravan’s September 2020 cover story on the Delhi violence, “Crime and Prejudice.”

The Delhi Police did not respond to detailed questions sent ahead of the story’s publication. Mohan Singh Bisht responded, “People can take anyone’s name. I had no involvement.”