NSA visits riot-hit areas
HC anguished over DP failure to lodge FIRs in hate speeches
NEW DELHI, Feb 26:
After two days of communal clashes that claimed 27 lives, a brittle quiet settled over parts of riot-hit northeast Delhi today but there was violence in some other places with shops set ablaze and the body of an IB staffer found in a drain.
Police conducted flag marches and security personnel spread out across the northeastern edge of the national capital in a bid to quell the violence raging since Sunday.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited some riot-hit areas.
“What has happened has happened. Inshallah, there will be complete peace here,” he said as he walked through the mostly mixed neighbourhoods and congested lanes of northeast Delhi and met locals.
On Tuesday, he undertook a late night tour with Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik and newly-appointed Special Commissioner S N Shrivastava.
Shrivastava’s appointment came in the wake of Patnaik facing flak for failing to curb the spiralling violence in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s visit, sources said.
The Delhi Police said it has arrested 106 people for their alleged involvement in the violence and have registered 18 FIRs.
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“No untoward incident was reported today and PCR calls from northeast Delhi have reduced,” Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Mandeep Singh Randhawa told reporters.
On day three of the trouble, the death toll stood at 13 on Tuesday.
“The death toll at GTB Hospital has risen to 25,” GTB Hospital Medical Superintendent Sunil Kumar said. Unusually, the estimate of more than 200 injured and the dead has come not from the police but hospital authorities.
Hospital authorities said of the deceased at the GTB, at least nine received gun shots. One of the deceased is also a woman, authorities said.
Two deaths were also reported on Wednesday at LNJP Hospottal taking the total count of fatalities to 27.
The Intelligence Bureau staffer, identified as Ankit Sharma, was found dead in a drain in Chand Bagh where he stayed. Sharma may have been killed in stone pelting, officials said.
Shops and schools were closed and many streets deserted with police making announcements that no one should come out of their homes.
Officials said the CBSE Class 12 English exam on Thursday has been postponed in the northeast and parts of east Delhi in view of the turbulent situation due to violence.
There was heavy deployment of force in Chand Bagh with security personnel not allowing anyone to come out.
The blackened walls of a ‘mazaar’ in the locality spoke volumes of the violence the day before.
In Ashok Nagar, a mosque was vandalised and set on fire by miscreants, a day before. The shops outside the mosque, belonging to Hindus and Muslims, were also set on fire.
After two days of mobs roaming unchecked through the streets, looting shops and setting property on fire, the uneasy quiet was a respite.
But not everywhere.
In Gokulpuri, for instance, smoke darkened the skies with rioters setting on fire shops.
Meharban, in his mid-thirties, was allegedly beaten by a mob in Chand Bagh area and later thrown into the drain.
“I went to buy flour. People there asked whether I was a Muslim and then started thrashing me. They later threw me in the drain of Chand Bagh,” he said.
The incident occurred around 2.30 pm. Meharban, who sustained head injuries, could barely talk, was taken to a hospital in a PCR van.
Their livelihoods lost with their shops looted and their children in a state of panic after witnessing the bloodshed, many people were seen leaving their homes. Among them was a family that promised to be back, but said they did not know when.
At the GTB Hospital, many grieving family members were waiting to collect the bodies of their dear ones.
Asked if the victims have been identified, GTB Hospital Medical Superintendent said, “Many people have been identified, some are yet to be.” He, however, declined to divulge the identity of the deceased.
Patients have several kinds of injuries, including from gunshots, stones and other weapons and many were hurt while jumping from rooftops to escape the rioters, hospital authorities said.
The “gush” of injured patients had reduced to a trickle.
The injured recounted horrific accounts of violence that they witnessed and how they managed to escape the deadly violence.
Districts magistrates of North-East and Shahadra districts accompanied by senior officials of the Revenue Department and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) were also the hospital to take stock of the situation.
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court today expressed “anguish” over the Delhi Police’s failure to register FIRs against three BJP leaders over their alleged hate speeches in connection with the CAA-related violence and asked the police commissioner to take a “conscious decision” on it by February 27.
The court asked the special commissioner of police, who was present in court, to forthwith convey its “anguish” to the commissioner and observed that the city had seen enough violence and it should not witness another 1984 anti-Sikh riots-like incident.
A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh said when the police can register 11 FIRs in connection with incidents of violence, including arson, looting, stone pelting, why did it not show alacrity when it came to the alleged hate speeches by the three BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra.
“Why are you not showing alacrity when it comes to registration of FIR in these cases? We want peace to prevail. We do not want the city to witness another 1984 riots. This city has seen enough violence and anguish. Let it not repeat 1984,” the bench said.
The court noted in its order that Special Commissioner Praveer Ranjan has assured he will sit with the police commissioner on Wednesday itself and watch all video clips to take a conscious decision on the issue of lodging of FIRs and convey it to the court on Thursday.
It made it clear that it was not confining the proceedings to the video clips of these three BJP leaders and the court will look into other clips as well.
The bench also issued notice to the petitioners — human rights activist Harsh Mander and activist Farah Naqvi — on an application moved by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta to implead the Centre in the matter.
Before dictating the order, the bench remarked, “The city is burning”.
“The city is not burning. It’s only a few areas,” Mehta responded.
The court was hearing a plea by Mander and Naqvi seeking lodging of FIRs and arrests of those involved in the communal violence in parts of northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). At least 24 people were killed and around 200 injured in the violence.
The hearing, in a jam-packed courtroom, witnessed heated arguments between Mehta and Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, on who would represent the police commissioner.
Mehra and Mehta also differed on the issue of registration of FIRs in relation to the hate speeches.
While the SG said the court should wait for the response of authorities concerned on the issue of lodging FIRs against the BJP leaders, Mehra contended there was no reason not to do so and FIRs ought to be registered against everyone involved in the violence.
Mehta said he has spoken to the highest authority and any decision taken by the court now may aggravate the situation.
Mehra, however, was of the view that FIRs should be registered at this stage if a cognisable offence has been committed and later on, if enough evidence is not found, the police can file a cancellation report.
Earlier in the day, the court, which observed that the situation outside was very unpleasant, asked Mehta to advise the police commissioner on the issue of lodging of FIRs against the leaders.
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Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, said it was shocking that the senior law officer was suggesting to wait at this stage to lodge an FIR.
Asked by the court whether these leaders have publicly denied making such statements, Gonsalves replied in the negative.
The video clips of speeches made by Thakur, Verma, Mishra and BJP MLA Abhay Verma were played in the courtroom.
While watching Mishra’s video, the bench asked the name of the police officer seen standing next to the BJP leader and was informed by Gonsalves that it was DCP (north-east) Ved Prakash Surya.
Gonsalves further said the court in its order should say in strong words as to how the police should act in the prevailing situation as it had been quiet till now.
Taking strong objection to this submission, the SG said the court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) and accused the petitioner of selective outrage based on video clips of three specific individuals.
When Gonsalves said the police must protect law without any fear or pressure, Mehta shot back saying “police is not having a picnic, they are facing acid attacks”.
“Delhi Police and Union of India is requesting your lordships that based on these selective clips, don’t exercise your extra ordinary jurisdiction at this stage. Today is not the day and this time is not the correct time to take a call on this.
“The petitioner is confining why his public spirit has arisen only regarding these three persons and not the 50 other hate speeches,” he said.
“I have made my submissions. I am putting a word of caution that this court, being a constitutional court, should not hurry in directing lodging of FIRs. It will be registered when situation is conducive”, Mehta added and requested the court not to become “angry”.
To this, Justice Muralidhar said it was the court’s constitutional duty to protect the law and “this is not anger, this is anguish. A constitutional court’s anguish is very serious and everyone should take it seriously”.
The court also asked the special commissioner the reason for not lodging FIRs and whether he has seen the video clips.
“If you don’t have an FIR, how are you going to proceed. These speeches are leading to more speeches and yet you are saying it is not the appropriate stage. Just register the FIRs Mr. Ranjan. And communicate this to the commissioner in the same spirit forthwith,” the bench said. (PTI)