Delhi Violence : NCHRO Fact Finding Report Published : It’s not a ‘Riot’, but a targeted anti-Muslim brutality colluded by Delhi Police.
14 March 2020
A team of NCHRO went for a fact finding to various places in the North-east Delhi which was stricken by brutal violence that broke out on February 24. This report is focused on many areas that we visited on March 6, 2020 namely Chandbagh, Khajoori Khas, Mustafabad, Garhi Mandu Old Village, and Shiv Vihar. We also visited the relief camp at Eidgah set up by Delhi Waqf Board which presently serves as a temporary rehabilitation camp for the riot-affected families. The report focuses on assessing the extent and nature of the violence that ensued at various locations.
The method of data collection focused on developing an understanding of the socio-political and economic conditions of each region, the role of external forces, the role of the state and its security forces etc. in the violence. This report is aimed at directing its readers to specially understand the violence with an aim to curb and manage the aftermath of violence, particularly for the victims of violence and to understand the common political atmosphere.
The data presented in this report is based on interviews, audio and video recordings, photographs and transcriptions. Garhi Mandu Village: Garhi Mandu is a relatively remote region in the North East Delhi where the riots have caused a major shift in the social and political landscape of the region. The victims of riots in Garhi Mandu, whose houses are burnt down are temporarily put up at Community Centre in Rajiv Nagar, where a relief camp is set up for victims of riot in Garhi Mandu, all of them Muslims. We first visited the Community Center in Rajiv Nagar, after which did we visit the village to assess the extent and nature of violence that ensued on 24 and 25 February.
At the temporary relief camp, some victims shared with us some of their ordeals. As we visited, there was a medical camp set up to attend to the injuries of victims injured at the violence. Nigar Sultana, a middle-aged women whom we interviewed told that she along with her family members fled from village to this shelter on 24th night after they were attacked. Her husband Javed was injured in stone-pelting. She told us that co-villagers were involved in stone-pelting.
They were able to save their life but on 25th February their house was burned after it was looted. She told me that some people of her village have returned to the village but she does not feel safe to return. Javed, her husband complained that despite their desperate call for help, the police did not come to their rescue. The family got a compensation of Rs. 25,000 from Delhi government but an uncertain future awaits this family as they have lost everything and will have to start from a scratch in order to survive along with three children.
Different Photos of Garhi Mandu Village The ordeal of Nazim is not different from that of Nigar’s. She came to this camp on 24th noon along with her six family members. None of her family members were injured but they lost everything along with livelihood as their house was looted and burned. Her family cannot for the time being return to their house as it is not in a condition for living, and secondly they are no longer sure about their safety in the village. Her family was dependent on foam work but now there is no way to resume the work without financial help from government assistance, which is not there and the family is also not hopeful about the prospect. Hafeeza along with her nine family members came to this camp on 26th February after their neighbor’s house was attacked. The family was dependent on making hats for bridegrooms. She told us that they have not received any compensation from government even though they need it desperately.
As families in the shelter were in constant surveillance, they did not utter a word about the conditions in the relief camp. Some of them told us that they have no complain about food but it was obvious that living condition is far from satisfactory at least for children. Hafeeza told me that her husband and her 14 years daughter Tavassum is ill and they are not getting proper medical attention. They expect help from any source to rebuild their lives. Many of them shared their phone numbers with us with an expectation that we would report their plight so that they would get some help.
It must be noted that since we got only 40 minutes to interact with the victims and that also, only with a very small number of people, it is difficult to make any broad observation. But it can be noted that the relief camp set up by the government is visibly unhygienic and unattended. After our visit to relief camp, our team departed to visit Garhi Mandu Village. Gharhi Mandu Old village is considerably a remote village that is populated by working class Hindu and Muslim population. The local inhabitants are mainly from the Hindu Gujjar community with a considerable number of Muslim minority families in 35 households.
Garhi Mandu is one of the regions severely hit by communal violence, the nature of which clearly establishes that what ensued there on 25 February is anti-muslim communal violence led and organized by the local population. Unlike other areas where the victims of violence had at least hinted at the role of outside forces, the victims in Garhi Mandu Old Village assert the absolute role of local forces in the whole episode of violence. All of the 35 Muslim households that exist among non-Muslim, houses were selectively looted and set on fire. Even though the count is unknown, some tenant houses of Muslim families that live in the village were also looted and destroyed. The victims of violence unanimously blamed the police force for not only inaction in curbing the anti-Muslim violence, but for active complicity in it. The victims, all of them Muslims, therefore feel utmost insecurity and hopelessness against their own neighbours, and the police force who was complicit in the violence.
The Masjid in the area, Mubarak Masjid was also looted and destroyed by fire. The Imam of the Masjid was attacked, and beaten up in the evening of February 24. Here are notes from two interviews from the area: Mubarak Masjid, Garhi Mandu Among the people we met was Mahboob Alam, a tenant resident in a house rented out by a Hindu landlord. Mahboob runs a rickshaw and his livelihood is shattered since the break out of violence. Mahboob left his home even before the violence broke out, in anticipation of the worst that could happen.
Mahboob’s house was set on fire, but his rickshaw was spared fortunately. While local residents were at least granted an immediate relief of Rs. 25,000, tenant families like that of Mahboob’s are unable to claim even that meagre amount despite being the most affected by the communal violence. And because of his utmost insecurity, Mahboob was also reluctant to answer any questions around the perpetrators of violence. There were two more tenant families like Mahboob’s that we met, who also raised concerns on payment of rent. We met Aqeel Ahmed who at that time was attending to the injuries that he had sustained in his forehead.
Aqeel lives near Mubarak Masjid which was completely destroyed by the Gujjar mob. Aqeel stayed at his house amidst violence and thus had to sustain injury. His house of four members was also set on fire but it was partly saved after they poured motor water against the flaming fire. Here are some key summary observations on anti-Muslim violence in Gharhi Mandu: -The violence that happened on 24 and 25 February was clearly an anti-muslim brutal violence by Gurjar/Gujjar Hindus. All of the Muslim households among the non-Muslim houses were selectively looted and destroyed, including tenant households.
The violence seems to be locally organized, with planned looting and destruction of houses and vehicles with petrol bombs. At one end of the village near the Mubarak Masjid, we noticed a graffiti writing on a wall which read ‘Gurjar Sher’ or Gurjar Lion, which was seemingly written in the midst of ongoing violence. -The police was actively complicit in the violence as unanimously told by the victims.
The police watched inactively as the houses were looted and set on fire, and refused to pay heed to appeals of victims to save them against loses. -As Mahboob Alam pointed out, even though a immediate relief of 25,000 rupees was granted to victims, tenant families are unable to claim any of the relief compensation, making them most affected by the violence. -The victims were provided a temporary relief camp in Rajiv Nagar but the camp is unhygienic and unattended. Basic needs of the victims are not fulfilled including medicines, clothes and food.
There is an increasing pressure from the authorities to shift them back to the village at the earliest. -The victims live in an increasing insecurity since the violence. There is a legitimate distrust among the Muslims of neighbouring Gurjar community who had led and organized the violence. -There have been no reported cases of death, but minor and major injuries were sustained during the attack. The nature of violence suggests that the local forces aimed at destroying the livelihood of the local residents. -Unlike other areas stricken by violence, Garhi Mandu seems less attended to by the civil society and NGOs. This might be due to the fact that Garhi Mandu is considerably a remote village.
The residents need an increased civil society support. Chand Bagh and Khajoori Khas Extension: Our team visited Chand Bagh and the adjacent Khajoori Khas extension, one of the areas that is widely reported to have been severely hit by violence that was instigated starting on the evening of February 24, following which the effective control of the region slipped into reign of terror created by the riotous mob for the next two days. It can be read from news reports that violence spread to this area after the protest site in Chand Bagh, which had been continuing the anti-CAA protest for more than a month, was attacked by certain miscreant forces. Many reports have emerged from Chand Bagh and Khajoori Khas regarding the nature of violence, which are often conflicting.
On the one hand, certain reports projected the now arrested local AAP leader Talib Hussain as the instigator of communal riots, and on the other, there were reports of outside riot mobs belonging to Hindu Nationalist organizations that instigated, organized and led the targeted violence. Our visit to Chand Bagh also reflected the conflicting nature of the narratives that emerge from the victims belonging to Muslim and Hindu religious groups.
In Khajoori Khas where the demography of the region indicate co-existence of Hindu and Muslim households, a clear pattern of targeted anti-muslim violence could be identified. Chand Bagh: While driving to Chand Bagh, we saw the burnt protest site of Kardampuri. We were told by Mr. Davinder of Paigam that rioters tracked down the lanes and houses of protestors and attacked them. The Chand Bagh protest site was also attacked. We also saw the burned petrol pump While entering the riot-affected area, we saw the Mazaar on the main road in Chandbagh which was burnt with tyres and glass bottles of petrol and the Police help desk which was situated right next to it.
The police help desk was unharmed. Barely meters away from the Mazaar in Chandbagh lies the Shri Durga Fakiri Mandir which does not bear any mark of attack. Some local residents said that they saved it from miscreants by forming a human chain. As we reached Chand Bagh, we saw many burned shops on the main lanes of Chand Bagh. We stopped by the parking area which shares its boundary with suspended AAP councilor Tahir Hussain’s building.
The parking which has been rented by Pradeep Verma had many vehicles which were burned down. Pradeep said that the burning of cars in the parking area was carried out by a mob but he denied that they shouted any slogan. He also said that from the terrace of Tahir Hussain’s building, people threw stones and petrol bombs that also damaged the cars. On the upper floor of the parking area premises, there were preparations going on for a wedding function. The Halwai were attacked. The food that was being prepared was still lying there in the same condition. The site bore marks of attack and most of the parts have been burnt. An old lady shared that this attack was carried out by people who wore masks and were shouting slogans that she did not understand. She said that they were Muslims.
On the lane in front of Tahir Hussain’s building, there were shops that had been burned. A specially-abled woman Saraswati who used to sell tobacco products said that the temporary structure of her shop had also been destroyed. She said that this happened on February 24. All shop keepers were asked to hide and then a mob came, whom she identified as Muslims and who were allegedly supported by Tahir Hussain damaged all shops. On being asked about Tahir Hussain, she said that she never thought that he would do this, expressing her shock and sense of betrayal. “People voted because he worked but he did this”, she said. She, despite having had carried a respect for him, did not doubt his role in the violence of which she is a victim. In the lane next to a burned shop, a young man said that while throwing stones and burning down shops, a mob of Muslim men also tried to enter the lane but they locked the entry gate of the lane.
All men of the lane came out to protect the lane and ensure that the mob does not enter. He said that because they did not allow the mob to enter, there has been no damage. There were two Muslims families who lived in the lane but they left out of fear. He also held Tahir Hussain responsible for the attack. He said that there were outsiders in the mob but locals were also involved as “they knew the lanes, the roofs”.
He mentioned that he himself had given shelter to two Muslims in his house. He told them, “Since you did not throw stones so then why should we harm you?” He held politicians responsible for this violence. He said that this was the first time that such an incident happened. In his whole account, while he mentioned how a Muslim mob had destroyed shops and tried to enter the lane, he did not tell us or made any mention about many lanes such as galli no. 4 which lied on the opposite site of the road that has witnessed mass destruction and where almost all Muslim houses were burned.
While many residents here held Tahir Hussain responsible for the riots that affected the Chand Bagh area, Santosh, whose house is in the lane just opposite to Tahir Hussain’s house on being asked about Hussain and his reputation said that Hussain had never caused any problem to fellow residents earlier and enjoyed a good reputation in this area.
“He had even helped fellow residents in organizing festivals such as Diwali, Eid and Holi”, Santosh said. He also mentioned that the rioters were people from outside and that the local residents were not involved. On the main road, we also saw a two-storey Honda Bike Showroom which was badly burned. The shop was owned by a Muslim man named Jameel Ahmad and we got to know that more than 150 vehicles were charred. Conflicting information about Tahirs involvement whether he is protecting lives from mob or colluded.
We saw that there was repairing work underway and we saw two people in the showroom who were visibly Hindus but they refused to say anything, including their identity and association with the showroom. A few steps away we saw another showroom selling electronic items named Govind Appliances which remained unscathed. The attack on Jameel Ahmad’s property thus seen is a huge attack. This seemingly stands in conflict with the narrative of certain locals, who had identified Muslims instigated by Tahir Hussain as rioters in main road of Chand Bagh.
Khajoori Khas: As we moved towards Khajoori Khas to witness the aftermath of violence, the nature of violence, noted that the attacks in this area were clearly targeted anti-muslim communal violence. Around 40 Muslim households that exist between non-muslim households were selectively targeted, plundered and destroyed from the morning of 25 February. House of a BSF jawan Mohammed Anees in galli no. 5 was also set on fire. In Khajoori Khas, what should be noticed is use of pistols by the rioters. Locals testify that various rounds of shots were fired in the air by the riot mob in the morning of February 25. A Masjid, named Fatima Masjid, was also partly destroyed in the attack.
Here is a brief chronology of what ensued in Khajoori Khaas on 24 and 25 February. Burnt and vandalized Mazaar on the main road at Chandbagh with an adjoining Police Help The violence in Khajoori Khas started in the evening of 24 February. As testified by the victims in galli No.4 and 5, the Muslim businesses in the main road were targeted and attacked. As we visited, it was evidently seen that Muslim businesses situated between other shops were burnt down, while the remaining shops continued to function.
For instance as pointed by the victims, the bakery opposite galli no.5, Aggarwal Sweets continue to function as on normal days, as around five shops behind it belonging to Muslim locals of the area were destroyed as then. In the morning of February 25, the violence spread to inside the gallis and into the Muslim houses. A mob of around 100 attempted to enter the galli even than the local youths tried to resist them from entering. Then, various rounds of shots were fired into the air, and the locals ran away, scampering for their lives.
The brutal violence by riot mob continued unabated for three hours, by looting and burning down the Muslim houses and by firing shots. The police remained inactive or inefficient in controlling the mob. The appeals by victims through helplines were not headed by the authorities on time. The Fatima Masjid in galli no.4 was attacked by petrol bomb, and parts of its tiling and ceiling is destroyed in the violence.
The Imam in the masjid testified that petrol bombs were thrown towards the masjid in various rounds, in an attempt to completely demolish the structure. The Imam himself with three others were trapped inside the masjid all this while, and saved themselves in the first floor of the masjid for three hours. As we visited, Jumah prayers were held in the masjid on March 6. At around 2 in the afternoon, the central forces formed a chain through galli no.4 and 5 and rescued the locals from the riot mob.
At around two in the afternoon, the state security forces rescued the Muslim locals by forming a human chain. But they failed to stop the plunder and loot of Muslim households. Testimony of Mohammed Khatibulla, living in galli no.4 points to the complicity of state forces in the violence. Khatibulla’s house, along with his brother’s house adjacent to it were looted and burnt down by the rioters. His daughter’s marriage planed the following month, but Khatibulla is hopeless after all of his life’s savings and properties are lost in the violence. Khatibulla kept on the run as the violence was ensuing, saving his life against the rioters. He, among all of the victims we spoke to, asserts that they did not expect to survive the violence.
Khatibulla was rescued by the central forces. But noticeably, his house was looted and set o fire after being rescued. This on points to the fact that police were unwilling to control the mob even after they took charge of the area. Adding to that, one of the women named Shabana told us that the on February 26, a mob, some of them wearing clothes of police and helmet attacked them and burned their houses. She said that they shouted “Jai Shree Ram” and “Dilli Police Zindabad”. The women hesitated but hinted that this was carried out with the help of local people. “Local honge warna kaise pata chalta ki kaunsa ghar hindu ka hai, aur kaunsa musalman ka?” said another woman.
A group of women showed us the number of times they had called Delhi police that day when their houses and Fatima Masjid were burned. Some of them had even recorded the calls (we have these recordings). In the recordings, even when the woman sounded very panicked and fearful for her life, police officers were very casual. The policemen kept saying “abhi bhej rahe hain.” A woman who gave us the audio recordings recalled that the police kept saying that they are sending people but no one came to help them despite making dozens of frantic calls for help. A woman recalls that one of the police officers asked her, “Kitne log hai? Gin ke batao.”
Another woman recalls that when she told the police officer that she has a months-old child, he said “kisi ko chot to nai lagi, ambulance bhej du?” These women clearly said that police didn’t send any help at all. A Mandir on the opposite side of the road in khajuri khas. It wasn’t harmed as people said they protected their lane. But many of the victims testify that there have been external forces that were involved in the violence, with active participation of certain local forces as well. All of those in riot mobs either wore a helmet or covered their face using clothes. On average, victims testify that the violence was organized and led by outside riot forces including petrol bombs, but with either complicity or active participation of the locals. A garage belonging to a Muslim local in galli no. 4 was attacked and all vehicles burnt down.
The owner testify that all the vehicles numbering 14, including cars, auto-rickshaws and bikes, were burnt down by petrol bombs thrown from the terrace floors of locals. The use of terrace of local Hindus to throw petrol bombs on muslim properties indicate the complicity of the locals. Two houses in the same lane in Khajoori Khas, the one on the left which is owned by Hitesh Kumar Sharma who works for Delhi Police remains unscathed, while Abdul Mannan’s house was attacked and burned. Some women share stories of how they had escaped the mob. They had to jump from their terrace carrying small children.
Some people left their house and took shelter in a three-storeyed building, thinking that it would be safe but the rioters burned the first floor as well. The rioters looted the house and then burned it. A woman named Nuzhat Begum narrated her story. She took us inside her home to show the horrific state of her house (House No. 428) which was looted and burned down. She told us that they used to live in a rented home and recently they had shifted here. They had taken a loan for it which they still have to pay and now as this incident took place, all their documents, new TV and motorbike were either burned or looted. One of her sons is appearing for 10th board exams. He told us that his admit card was also burned and his teacher helped in getting a new admit card. A house that was burnt in Gali No. 4 Khajoori Khas She also said that when the rioters came, she and other women with small children jumped from one terrace to another for safety.
She shared that after they entered the house, they first looted and then destroyed her house, the rioters had even put a lock on the gate so that the people of the house couldn’t go outside, these goons shouted “Aur le lo azaadi.” A man and his wife also complained that there were problems pertaining to distribution of ration and food. A woman complained that they have not got any food. She also said that food should be distributed as per the number of people in a house. As of now, only those who can go to get the packet are able to get food. A young boy Imteyaz showed his house which was also completely burned. He shared that his family lived in the house on rent.
They had a battery rickshaw but they were suggested to park it somewhere as there was fear that it would be burned down. The rickshaw was burned down and when the mob came to their street, they burned their house as well. He said that they have no other source of employment. His family has taken shelter in a relative’s house. They want to come back but still have a lot of fear. Fatima Masjid in Khajoori Khas that was attacked by the mobs. It was very clear that in Khajoori Khas Extension the violence was completely one-sided as only property belonging to Muslims were burnt and destroyed. We could clearly see the houses of their Hindu neighbours that remained untouched and we also saw them going about doing their daily work normally while on the other hand the Muslim neighborhood was turned to ashes. Shiv Vihar: Shiv Vihar is an area in north east Delhi that was worst affected by the riots.
This area is divided into two parts. On the right side of the bridge is the area where only Hindus live and both communities live on the left side. During the riots, those living on the left side of the bridge, where the Hindu and Muslim families co-exist, were more affected. The houses on the main road of this side, which were largely owned by Muslims, were badly damaged. Unlike other areas where there have been damages exclusively to Muslim properties, in Shiv Vihar we could notice that certain households belonging to Hindus were also damaged by the violence. Seeing the condition of some of the burnt houses it became clear that they were looted and then set on fire.
One half of the first floor of a house was completely destroyed, likely by bursting a gas cylinder. From visits to various places where violence was instigated, it became clear to us that gas cylinders of the household had at many cases been instrumentalized by the rioters so as to cause maximum damage, especially to two-storeyed houses. One house on the street which belonged to a Muslim was looted and then set on fire. The houses in front of and next to this one, homes that belonged to Hindus, remained untouched. It is possible that they were left untouched due to the visible religious symbols present on those homes. The house owners also attested that their homes were looted before being torched. On the other side of the culvert, the Hindu-dominated area has not seen much damage. The glass windows of the two houses near the road are broken. Those standing next to the bridge, Hemant and others, said that the stone pelting started from the roof of the gym on the other side of the road. However, after further enquiries, one of them said that it cannot be ascertained from which side the stone-pelting started. On moving further into this area, there is a street that was split in two during the riots. Many shops, mostly owned by Hindus, were burnt in this street. On enquiring with people there, Manish, Mukesh and others, it was not clear who started the riots.
According to them, stones were being pelted by both sides. Munni Devi, a Hindu resident had her house set on fire by the mob. When asked why her house was burnt, seeing as there was pictures of Hindu gods above the gate, she replied saying that she did not know and that the mob respected neither god nor people. The gate of her house she said was steel and that mob used hammers to break down the gate by breaking its holders which were attached to the adjacent wall. When asked about the composition of the mob, she said she did not know as she and her family fled before its arrival. At the corner of her house a camera stand was on display. When asked what happened to the camera and the footage, she said that the mob had broken the camera and destroyed the system inside. Munni Devi and her family stays with friends and relatives at nights and spends their days at the burnt-out house trying to salvage what remains.
A resident who wished to remain unnamed recalled how post the violence at Shiv Vihar, most of the boys of the area have fled. Standing in front of the remains of her family’s burnt out house and textile shop below, she narrated how the mobs dragged household items out on to the road before setting them afire. Pointing to a spot on the ground where the bonfire of her family’s goods was made, she cursed how the police, now seen in Shiv Vihar in great numbers did nothing for 3 days to stop the mob. She also remarked how police were seen accompanying the mob. When asked whether she has filed for any compensation, she said the SDM said she could get Rs. 25,000 after only glancing at shop. He did not estimate of the goods lost nor did he even enter the shop.
Suhail Mansoor, a young man less than thirty years of age has lost his entire house to the mob. The family’s house a slender 3-storey building was set alight by the mob. When asked why his house was targeted which housed the families of himself, his two brothers and his father, he remarked that his father had only recently renovated the house and as a result, the family prosperity was on display as opposed to other houses which were in more decrepit states. Pointing inside the house, he showed remain of the burnt-out husks of two vehicles; a scooter and a Royal Enfield Motorcycle which he remarked was less than 3 months old. His father was distraught, frequently sobbing about how his entire life’s work had gone up in flames.
Suhail then proceeded to narrate the incidents of the day when the mob arrived. Word of the mob arrival had preceded the mob’s actual arrival. Many Muslim families were perched on the roofs of their respective buildings during the evening. Then some persons came running through the street saying the mob was close by and coming. At this, families quickly rushed down, leaving their possessions and ran for safer areas. When asked about the police’s role, he said the police only dissuaded Muslims from defending themselves against the mob but disappeared soon before the mob arrived. Suhail remarked that most houses targeted were either those which displayed relative prosperity or those which displayed Islamic symbols on the faces of the houses. When asked where he and his family resided now, he said with friends but as no single friend could accommodate them all, they were split up at between 2 to 3 houses.
During our visit, we were able to speak to Chintu, an NGO worker at Shiv Vihar who claims to be part of a group mobilized by the Delhi Government to conduct surveys and provide medical relief. When asked what she thought had happened in Shiv Vihar, he said the first and most important thing was to provide relief and that there was little use in assigning blame after everything had happened. He assured us that efforts towards rehabilitation is being carried on despite the continuing state of terror. But the residents of the areas who have responded to our team had a conflicting view against that of Chintu. On an average, victims claimed that the people in this area have only received basic food items. And no compensation for the financial losses incurred by the residents have been provided by the government so far. Instead, forms were being circulated by the government where people are being asked to fill information regarding the damages.
From the violence that happened in Shiv Vihar, it can be ascertained that people from both Muslim and Hindu communities have fallen victim. But yet, owing to the origin and nature of violence and the vulnerability of any minorities, Muslims have been the larger victims in the riots without an active intervention from the police to save them. While the houses and shops of Munni Devi and other Hindus have not escaped the mob, these are exceptions and not the rule. In many gallis of Shiv Vihar, there exist several places where Muslim houses have been exclusively targeted while adjacent houses of Hindus are untouched or looted at worst. Mobs are said to identify Muslim houses either by their lack of Hindu iconography or by the presence of Islamic iconography. It is important to note that despite the violence, there still prevailed a sense of community among the people living in the area.
This was clear from what was said by people belonging to both communities. The neighbors had given shelter to their Muslim tenants Imamuddin and Zahid during the worst of the riots, something corroborated by both of them. Much like other regions, in Shiv Vihar too there is a prevailing sense of shock in the aftermath of violence, and there is an increasing tendency from both communities to assign outside forces as instigators of violence thereby breaking the prevailing sense of peace and harmony among the residents. Eid Gah Relief Camp, Mustafabad:
This Eid Gah in Mustafabad which belongs to Delhi Waqf Board has been turned into a rehabilitation camp for riot-hit families. Around 1200 people have been temporarily housed in the tents installed in the open space owned by Delhi Waqf Board. The victims of violence are mostly from Shiv Vihar, a region severely hit by riots. Id Gah relief camp functions as an important location in the aftermath of violence where the coordination of relief efforts are attempted. There is a notable presence of civil society groups and organizations in the camp. One of our teams that visited Id Gah relief camp was able to speak to victims of violence who have taken refuge in the camp, many of whom have lost their only house and who continues to live in fear in the aftermath of violence.
We talked to a woman named Shaheen who was from Shiv Vihar. She said that in her lane, the Muslims population was less in number. Muslim houses were burned in her area. Houses were looted and the good ones were completely burned down and destroyed. Two mosques were also vandalized. She along with her family of four left Shiv Vihar and came to this camp for fear of their safety. She said that she is aware that her house has been burned down and she has no place to go to.
Looking at the situation and number of people in this camp, Shiv Vihar seems to be one of the worst-hit areas where Muslim Houses were targeted. Shaheen said that “Hamara wahan ab kuch nahi bacha, sab jala diya.” On being asked if there were disturbances or cases of violence earlier in Shiv Vihar area, to which she answered, “Aisa pehle kabhi nahi hua, sab aapas mein hansi Khushi rehte the, tyohaar bhi saath mein manate the, aisa hoga kabhi nahi socha tha.” Another person whom we had talked to, Shamsuddin, is a resident of Shiv Vihar with his spouse and five children.
He has been at the Eid-gah relief camp for four days now. When asked about the composition of people at the camp, he remarked that most were from Shiv Vihar but few from other affected areas as well. He remarked that near 1,500 people were in the area and that he didn’t believe reports that placed numbers at 3,000.
He stated the Delhi Government had offered no help and that camp was being run by Muslim organisations and charitable trusts with many college students volunteering towards their relief. When asked about who were in the mob which attacked Shiv Vihar, he said that at least half were local Hindus. He also said that there were several RSS people working in Shiv Vihar for some time now and that they helped mobilize the mob and point out the houses to be attacked. Mustafabad:
One of our teams visited Mustafabad to assess the nature of violence in the area . We collected very limited information from the area, and thus a comprehensive understanding is impossible. But the interesting nature of the data collected throws some key insights into the social landscape of the area and the ensuing violence. Of the three interviews we collected, three are from the Hindu community, one among whom remained unapologetic and defended the violence. Another man named Bharat also claimed not to know the identity of persons in the mob. He said the mob appeared late in the evening at which time, he proceeded to his neighbors’ house, who is a Muslim to reassure them of their safety.
He claims he told them that they are safe and that they should stay in their house. Nonetheless, apparently the Muslim neighbors fled the next morning and are yet to return. Bharat says he spoke to them on the morning of the fact finding asking them once again to return reasoning that everything was now safe in the area and that there was present a huge deployment. The Muslim neighbors have yet to return and when asked for their phone number, Bharat claimed he did not have it. Bharat says that previously, the area has no history of communal tension and that Hindus and Muslims live side by side in the area with no problems.
A young man named Ayush was rather vocal about the mob and its actions. He remarked that several local boys were in the mob and also said that the mob was needed to protect Hindus from Muslims. He recounted how it was Muslims who attacked first, when a pro-CAA demonstration sat down next to the Jaffrabad chakka jam which was attacked by the anti-CAA protestors. He said that Muslims had stones, weapons and bombs with them and to defeat this section Hindus also needed such weapons. Having spoken to a limited number of people and with limited facts at our disposal, it is difficult to make comprehensive conclusions. But what is important here to note is the varying narratives emanating from various social identities. Gokulpuri:
In our visit to Gokulpuri, we first spoke to the locals in Gokulpuri Tyre Market, after which we moved to Sanjay Colony, where we met victims, all Muslims, who had lost their houses and businesses in the violence. The priest in the nearby Shiv Shakti Mandir claims to know nothing about the mosque being burnt. When asked how that was possible, being that his temple was so close by, he said that he closed his temple in the evening and went home. He only came to know of the mosque being burnt in the morning. When asked whether the mob consisted of locals or outsiders, he said he doesn’t know and when pressed further, he said that it must be outsiders because locals would not do such a thing. He also said the area suffered no communal tensions before and that everyone lived peacefully together.
At the Tyre Market, the police had barricaded the area outside the Tyre Market and only government and administrative officials were allowed to go there. Therefore, we were only able to speak to a few people outside the Tyre Market. We couldn’t gather reliable data from near the Tyre Market area owing to the tight administrative control, and local influences. Several local and passers-by gathered around when the fact-finding team was speaking to persons who owned shops in the market which was put to fire. But notably, a person named Shivam, a resident of Gokulpuri expressly stated that there was a large contingent of locals among those who set fire to the market. When asked how he knew this, he replied “everybody knows this (sab ko pata hai)” but refused to divulge any further information. Shivam also expressly stated that locals did so after being instigated by Kapil Mishra’s speech. Role of Kapil Mishra in instigating violence was further reiterated or corroborated by residents in Sanjay Colony.
In Sanjay Colony, all the shops belonging to people from the Muslim community were those that were set on fire and the houses were looted. At this time, we spoke to two working women named Sifhat and Roshan Khatoon. They said they had left their homes on the 25th of February and went to Loni. Both the women lived in a rented house in Sanjay Colony, both were from Purnia district of Bihar, and worked in a Hindu home. Sihfat said that, “we were very scared, we saw this for the first time in Delhi, but our Hindu employers are very good, they told us not to get upset and come and work at our house”. But in their neighborhood in Sanjay Colony, two others, Noushad and Khurshid, a couple having three girls, had collected jewelry, money, fridge among other things for their wedding. But during the violence their house was looted and set on fire.
This was done by some outsiders along with their Hindu neighbours. Noushad and Khurshid have still not returned to their home. Sihfat said that while it is being shown that the riots were led by Muslims, it is those who are opposed to the protests against CAA-NRC-NPR who have carried out the violence. In fact, meetings have taken place where people have been paid thousands of rupees to orchestrate this violence, in which police are also involved. Sihfat said that her son studies in the 11th standard in a government school. But she doesn’t intend to send him to school any longer as she is afraid that he would be killed just like so many others. When we went further, we found a big street which had only one Muslim house.
That house had been looted by the Hindu mob. There was a 20-year-old boy named Mohammed Faisal who was a first year college student who was pursuing his studies from open learning. He said, “those who committed robbery in our house also included my Hindu friends and people from the neighborhood; people who used to play cricket with me as a child, those who used to come to our home during Eid and to whose houses we would go during Diwali. But this violence has completely changed everything.”While telling us all this, Faisal started to cry. He said, “I had been dreaming of joining the Delhi Police, I was preparing for it. But now I feel like we have no one here. And after seeing the behavior of the Delhi Police, my dream is over.
The police have not done the right thing, they were supporting those who were spreading the violence.” Faisal said that Kapil Mishra and Gokulpuri district administrator Nirmala Tiwari have a big hand in spreading violence. The people had been demonstrating peacefully against CAA-NRC-NPR for a long time. But these two leaders spread venom among people with their speech, called people from outside and killed the Muslims. Faisal said, “We had built the Jannati Masjid with great effort; a mosque where even Hindus used to bring their sick children for blessings. But the rioters threw a petrol bomb into the mosque and burnt the Quran. They are not true Hindus.”
A boy named Harendra lives next to Faisal’s house. He told us that the people in the crowd wore masks and helmets and looted Faisal’s house. After looting the house, they tried to set fire to it. But we begged them to stop and not set fire to the house. Then, they left the street shouting “Jai Shri Ram”. This was a planned attack on Muslims that was orchestrated and executed with the involvement of the administration and the police. In Gokulpuri, it should be noted that people from multiple locations claimed that it was Kapil Mishra, the local BJP leader who was widely reported for giving hate speech against anti-CAA protests who instigated the riots.
In addition, Faisal as written above, mentions the role of Nirmal Tiwari from the administration in ensuring that the episodes of violence is executed. Like elsewhere, there can also be found a certain kind of tendency among the locals to assign the violence to as a work of outside miscreant forces. But as is reflected in the interviews of victims, it clearly appeared to our team that what ensued was a targeted and organized attack on Muslims which was executed with the involvement of the administration and the police.
Interview: O.M.A Salam, Chairman, Popular Front of India.
Ever since the violence broke out in various parts of North East Delhi, Popular Front of India, a Muslim organization have been under media and central government attack on charges of inciting the riots. At the Eid Gah Relief Camp, one of our teams met with Chairman of Popular Front of India, O.M.A Salam to question and discuss about the audacity of such allegations. The Chairman of Popular Front of India Mr. O.M.A. Salam had come to visit the victims in Mustafabad Eidgah.
We asked him about the allegation that PFI has been linked to the violence in North-East Delhi to which he said, “We have always been giving the message that RSS led Sangh Parivar is very dangerous to the existence of the secular democratic republic of India. We have always warned everyone that RSS is like a cancerous growth and whenever they get a chance they drag our names linking us with incidents because we are the only ones who keep exposing them and their fascism. But still they can’t find any evidence against us though they really try very hard to use their media to tarnish our image.”
Interview of PFI Chairmen OMA Salam about allegation in violence When we asked him to give his comments about the violence that has been unleashed in NorthEast Delhi, he said, “Since the very date when the Citizen Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament, various agitations started happening throughout the country and these protests were spontaneous, no organizations, no leaders were involved in it. People came forward with peaceful protests, there was no violence anywhere at all. But you can clearly understand when the violence started, at the beginning only three states Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, only these three BJP ruled states had cases of violence that too due to Police firings, not because the protestors did anything. Now look at the situation in Delhi, on the same day where a pro CAA protest started and on the very same day violence also started which clearly means that people who were democratically engaged in the protest against the CAA they were very peacefully conducting the protest, there was no violence at all.
Therefore, the violence was started by people from BJP goons themselves who were directly firing at people, attacking people. Now the media is calling it a communal riot but the reality is that it is a one-sided pre-planned attack, an attempt for genocide against the Muslims. From morning onwards, we have been visiting different areas and now it is very clear that especially in areas where we have mixed population, where both Hindu and Muslims live, in such places only Muslim Houses have been attacked, burned and destroyed selectively. This leaves nothing to our imagination as things are crystal clear.”
Key Summary Observations:
- The data collected from various sites of violence in North East Delhi, namely Garhi Mandu Village, Chand Bagh, Khajoori Khas, Mustafabad, Shiv Vihar and Gokulpuri presents to us various insights that point towards the genesis, nature and extent of violence that engulfed the nation, the terror of which lasted a week. Briefly, it can be ascertained that general pattern of violence in all the regions indicate that they were an organized anti-muslim violence. In places like Garhi Mandu Old Village and Khajoori Khas, there was not even a single victim from a nonmuslim household while all Muslim households were exclusively targeted with an aim to completely destroy them. In some areas, victims include Hindus whose businesses have been destroyed or home attacked and looted. But, a comprehensive understanding of the violence suggests that they are cases of exception, while the rule remained the anti-muslim communal nature. In all the places, there are cases of attacks in Masjids and Mazaars. Broadly, there are some main observations that must be noted to understand the anti-muslim violence in North East Delhi.
- One, the police, or state security forces in general, were at all places unable to curb the violence even when at places and time they had control over the region. In Garhi Mandu, as respondents testify, the police was complicit in the violence led by the local population. In Khajoori Khas, it must be noted, the security forces enabled protection cordon to rescue the local muslims against the rioters. But, they yet failed to contain the plunder and loot of muslim houses even after taking charge of the area. In Gokulpuri as well, the victims points towards the complicity of police.
- It should thus be understand that the complicity or inefficiency of the security forces to a great extend influenced the nature of the communal violence. The execution of anti-muslim communal violence would not have been possible, had the police and security forces intervened to curb the violence by taking necessary measures.
- Two, with an exception of Garhi Mandu, locals testify the role of external forces in instigating the violence. In all other sites except Garhi Mandu (where the violence was led and organized by local Gurjar Hindus), the victims testify that there were external forces who had instigated the violence. In Khajoori Khas, where locals reported of gun violence, victims testify that loot and plunder of such an extent couldn’t be possible without planning by external forces. Owing to this factor as well, there is usually a shared sense among the victims of shock and betrayal, especially in places where there previously prevailed atmosphere of communal harmony. The victims specify the combined force of the state complicity and external criminal forces in destroying the communal harmony that prevailed.
- Thirdly, the role of local population in the violence cannot be undermined or negated. Even with criminal organization and infiltration of external forces, victims testify that such brutal violence could not have been possible without the active role of at least a section of the local population. Garhi Mandu is a case where the whole episode of violence was organized by locals. Testimonies from Khajoori Khas, Shiv Vihar and other areas also points to the active complicity of certain section of locals.
- Fourthly, there is a lack of organization in the administration to curb the menaces emanating in the aftermath of violence. Or, at least, there is widespread grievance among the victims against the lack of administrative intervention. While an immediate relief of 25,000 rupees have been granted to most victims, it is undoubtedly a meager amount even to manage the immediate aftermath of violence. Victims, most of whom have lost everything in life, is left without hope by the government administration.
- Lastly, the plights of migrant workers are often overlooked. After the destruction of livelihood, there have been widespread outmigrations back to native villages by migrant workers. There have been no measures to address such important issues of people most affected by violence. Additionally, while most victims are granted compensation or at least stand a chance for it, migrant workers who live as tenants in rented houses haven’t received and fear that they may not get a single penny as compensation for the losses they have incurred.
- 1) Release all persons arbitrarily arrested during the course of the violence in North East Delhi and thereafter.
- 2) Strict action against all perpetrators of violence including those noted to have made hate speeches and inciting violence against the people protesting against CAA, NRC and NPR.
- 3) Independent enquiry into the actions of the police.
- 4) Establish state relief camps, provide monetary and material support to private relief camps and implement measures to rehabilitate all affected persons.
- 5) Compensation of full value of all properties, movable and immovable, personal and productive, lost during violence.
- 6) State-sponsored reconstruction of all damaged and destroyed properties, including residential, commercial and religious/cultural properties.
- Fact Finding Team Members
- Dr. Nazish Hena Khan Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, Bharati College, University of Delhi.
- Khushboo Kumari, 3rd year Student of BA Hons Journalism at Bharati College, University of Delhi
- Davinder Pal Singh Barjatia. PAGAAM, Phule Gauravshali Adarshwadi Muheem, Helping hands.
- Adv. Ansar Indori General Secretary, NCHRO Delhi Chapter
- Devika Mittal Assistant Professor, Bharati College (Delhi University)
- Saurabh Sagar Activist with Democratic Students’ Union.
- Adv. Aftab fazil Coordinator, Sir Syed Education social welfare Society
- Neha Tiwari Social Activist, New Delhi
- Shiba Aslam Fahmi Journalist, New Delhi
- Tara Rai Student Ashoka University
- Sumedha Pal Journalist, New Delhi
- Bhim Executive Committee Member, KYS
- Avinash Activist with Democratic Students’ Union.
- Firoz Alam Activist with Democratic Students’ Union.
- Anirudh Social Activist, New Delhi
- Gopal Mishra Social Activist, New Delhi
- Birju Naik Lokraj Sangthan,New Delhi
- Dr. Bhavna Bedi Member, NCHRO, New Delhi
- Siddique Kaappan State Coordinator, Delhi NCHRO
- Aazam Abdul Nisthar Activist with Democratic Students Union