Delhi riots toll climbs to 38, FIR filed against AAP leader

Security forces flag march in violence hit North East Delhi on Thursday.
Security forces flag march in violence hit North East Delhi on Thursday.

No major incident in 36 hours: MHA

NEW DELHI, Feb 27: The death toll in Delhi’s worst riots in more than three decades climbed to 38 today as the violence ebbed but did not subside completely and thousands of people began picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and livelihoods.
Four days after communal clashes that began in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and spiralled into bloodshed, arson and looting, the body of a man was found in a drain in Johri Enclave and there were scattered incidents of vehicles and shops being set on fire in Maujpur, Bhajanpura and other areas.
While there was no precise figure for the number of arrests, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Delhi High Court that 48 FIRs were lodged in relation to the violence.
Delhi Police transferred the riots probe to the Crime Branch and formed two Special Investigation Teams.
The GTB Hospital in Dilshad Garden, where many of the 200 injured in the riots that broke out on Monday are being treated and where scores of people lined up outside the mortuary to claim the bodies of their loved ones, recorded five more deaths.
Eleven more deaths were reported on Thursday, taking the total death toll to 38, a senior Delhi Health Department official said.

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The opposition Congress took the issue to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Accusing Home Minister Amit Shah of “abdication of duty”, a Congress delegation led by party chief Sonia Gandhi urged President Ram Nath Kovind to call for his resignation and remind the Centre of its “raj dharma”.
“The situation is returning to normal. We are here to reassure people that we are with them,” newly appointed Special Commissioner S N Shrivastava, who visited the affected areas, told reporters.
Battle scarred and desolate with scorched, blackened walls, the ashen remains of vehicles, glass shards and bricks, several fires still burnt in the mostly mixed neighbourhoods of the national capital’s northeastern edge.
Shops, pharmacies and other establishments were closed and people stayed indoors unless it was imperative to step out. Several families were seen leaving with whatever they could salvage from their vandalised homes.
As they tried to come to terms with the losses to their shops, workshops and in some cases fruit and vegetable carts, residents recounted the violence of the night before.
In Yamuna Vihar, three to four rioters came around 4 am today to burn vehicles.
“One of them was holding a bucket in his hand. He started pouring some liquid on three vehicles. One of the cars caught fire. We raised an alarm after which they fled,” a local said, saying groups of people in the neighbourhood stay up all night to keep watch.
A few kilometres away, a charred board at a private school in Brijpuri read, “Welcome to a very happy school”.
The 52-year-old Arun Modern Senior Secondary School looks no less than a cemetery, said an official, looking around at the damage which he estimated to be over Rs 70 lakh.
The GTB Hospital also presented a picture of despair with some sobbing uncontrollably and others maintaining a stoic silence with barely held back tears as they waited at the hospital to receive the bodies of those killed in the communal mayhem.
Among those who lost their lives was 22-year-old Ashfaq Hussain, an electrician who got married only 10 days ago and was shot while he was returning home in Gokalpuri after attending to a complaint.
Still trying to wrap his head around what had happened, his relative held up a smiling photograph of his bride Tasneem Fatima.
Relatives of 35-year-old Mudassir Khan from Kardampuri said they have been coming to the mortuary for two days to claim his body.
“Today, we have been waiting here since 8 am and the post-mortem is finally underway,” said Arbaaz Khan.
Mudassir, who worked in scrap manufacturing unit, was outside his house on Monday when he was attacked by a mob, his family said. He sustained a bullet injury on his head and was declared brought dead by doctors at GTB hospital.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced his Government will give Rs 10 lakh to the families of those who lost their lives and those seriously injured will get Rs 2 lakh.
He also said the Government will bear the cost of the treatment of those injured in the violence and admitted to private hospitals.
Asked about the alleged involvement of his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain in the riots, Kejriwal said, “If those involved in the riots are found to be from the AAP, give them double punishment.” The AAP later suspended Tahir from the party.
Hussain has denied any involvement in the riots or the killing of an Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma whose family accused him of being behind the murder, saying they are “baseless accusations”.
Police later registered an FIR against Hussain on a complaint by Sharma’s father.
Meanwhile, the Government hit back at comments on the violence by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and by “few individuals” as well as by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“We have seen comments made by USCIRF, sections of the media and a few individuals regarding recent incidents of violence in Delhi. These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicising the issue,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
“The statements which have come out of OIC are factually inaccurate, they are selective, they are misleading. There is an effort on the ground, to restore normalcy, to create confidence,” Kumar said.
Taking cognisance of the concerns of students taking board exams, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will conduct fresh exams unable to appear for papers in other parts of the national capital due to the violence in northeast Delhi, officials said.
Meanwhile, no major incident was reported from the northeast district of Delhi in the last 36 hours, the Home Ministry said tonight.
The ministry issued a statement around 10 PM after Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the situation in the violence-hit parts of the city in a meeting with seniors officials and the top police brass.
The ministry said there was no major incident in last 36 hours in any affected police station of Delhi’s northeast district, while 514 suspects were either arrested or detained for questioning.
Further arrests would be made in the course of investigation, the MHA said.
Prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC will be relaxed for a total of 10 hours tomorrow in view of improvement in the situation, it said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court today made the Centre a party in the PIL which has sought lodging of FIRs and arrests in communal violence in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and gave it four weeks to file a reply to the petition.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said that “looking at the complexity of the situation”, the central government was seeking more time to file a reply to the plea which has also sought lodging of FIRs against three BJP leaders over their alleged hate speeches in connection with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) related violence.
On Wednesday, a different bench of the high court, comprising of Justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh, had expressed anguish over the police failure to register FIR against the three BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra — over their alleged hate speeches and had asked the police Commissioner to take a “conscious decision” on it by today. Justice Muralidhar was transferred late last evening to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, days after the Supreme Court collegium had made the recommendation.
When the arguments commenced post-lunch on Thursday before the new bench, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta at the outset said some of the alleged hate speeches in question were three weeks to more than a month old and yet instead of waiting for one more day the matter was mentioned by the petitioners before the bench headed by Justice Muralidhar on the ground that there was “great urgency”.
Mehta said the petitioners could have waited for one more day as the matter was listed for hearing before the Chief Justice’s bench today.
The SG said that everyone was trying to restore normalcy in the national capital and urged the court not to intervene at this stage as it would not be conducive to maintaining law and order in the city.
He further said: “Considering the prevailing situation, it is the considered opinion of the police authorities that any decision at this juncture may not be conducive for restoration of normalcy. The decision (on lodging of FIR) will be taken at an appropriate stage in accordance with law”.
The SG also submitted that the authorities have examined all the audio/video clips and other material including that on Twitter and “after having carefully considered all these materials, a conscious decision is taken to defer the decision on the question (of lodging FIR)”.
He also urged the court to allow the impleadment application moved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), instead of waiting for the petitioners’ reply as done by the previous bench.
“Union of India’s impleadment cannot depend on the yes or no of the petitioner,” said Mehta, who also stated he was authorised by the LG to appear for the police.
Delhi Government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, who also claimed to be appearing for the police, said he will not get into the issue of appearance and instead urged the bench to issue some directions in view of the seriousness of the situation prevailing in north-east district of the city.
Mehra said, “The court yesterday had asked why FIRs regarding hate speeches were not lodged when FIRs for other offences have been registered”.
He also told the bench that as on date 48 FIRs have been registered in connection with the deaths, arson, loot and other offences committed in that area.
The death toll in the communal violence reached 34 on today, with around 200 people injured.
“In larger interest of the citizens some directions may be issued,” Mehra told the court.
However, the SG said the MHA and police need time to file a reply.
He also told the court that the hate speeches would be looked into and a decision would be taken on what has to be done and added that the decision taken would be indicated in the MHA response.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for petitioners Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi, said there was “hatred in the air” due to the alleged hate speeches and “it resulted in the deaths, arson and looting”.
He said if hate speeches led to murder, then those making such speeches would be responsible for the death.
“FIR has to be lodged immediately, today itself. These people should be arrested and taken off the streets,” he added.
The High Court had on Wednesday had observed that the city had seen enough violence and it should not witness another 1984 anti-Sikh riots-like incident. (PTI)