Trilokpuri riots: Was Delhi Police asked to go soft on rioters, wonder experts

New Delhi: The three-day unabated communal violence in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri locality has shaken the perception of safety and security in the national capital. It has also raised questions on the ability of the Delhi Police to handle a communal situation.

The area has been on the boil during last three days following a clash between two communities on Diwali night. The rioting and arson, the first big incident of communal nature since a long time, took place under the nose of the “world’s largest metropolitan police”, which reports to the Central government led by Narendra Modi. The latter had called for a 10-year moratorium on caste and communal violence during his Independence Day speech.

Trilokpuri has the dubious distinction of being home to the worst violence against Sikhs in November 1984, where residents were pulled out of their homes and burnt alive. Around 350 Sikhs were reported killed. Although the area has remained tense from time to time over minor incidents, this is the first communal clash between Hindus and Muslims since 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Trilokpuri, post the riots. PTI.

Trilokpuri, post the riots. PTI.

Violent clashes between the two groups erupted on Diwali night over a petty issue in Block 20 of the locality. The police intervened and controlled the situation but did not enforce prohibitory order (Section 144 of CrPc), which does not allow any public meeting, assembly of five or more persons, carrying of arms, banners and placards and shouting of slogans in disturbed areas.

Tension mounted once again on Friday night after former BJP MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya allegedly visited the area and was reportedly greeted by furious chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’. Locals alleged that he instigated people for a fresh round of violence immediately after one dies down. Heavy stone pelting took place and gun shots were exchanged between the two communities. The incident spread to other blocks as well. Some shops were set ablaze and vehicles vandalised. At least 15 persons, including 13 cops and two locals, suffered injuries.

The police used “mild force” and fired tear gas shells to disperse the unruly mob. After struggling for hours, the police finally controlled the situation. Apart from Delhi Police, Rapid Action Force (RAF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), water cannon vehicle and riot control vehicle were deployed.

But again, Section 144 was not imposed. The situation remained “tense but under control” till 10 am on Saturday.

Despite the large contingent of police, rioters once again gathered in large number in different blocks of the area, started stone pelting and exchanging gun fires. According to locals, the police took two hours to reach the spots. Five persons had suffered gunshot injuries in the clashes. Till last evening, 35 people, including 13 policemen had reportedly sustained injuries.

The situation was brought into control and Section 144 was imposed later in the evening.

When asked why the police took such a long time to impose prohibitory orders, which should be enforced after the first day of the violence, Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told Firstpost: “Our officers were closely monitoring the situation and when they felt the need to impose it (Section 144), they did so.”

"The situation is under control. No fresh violence or clash has taken place today," he added.

There was a chaos inside Mayur Vihar police station on Saturday evening. Everyone appeared unsettled. Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjay Beniwal was pulling up his juniors for letting a minor incident flare up in full blown riots. Amidst all this, 19-year-old inconsolable Shamal, a resident of Block 15, was running here and there in the corridor of the police station in search of her two brothers - Mumtaaz and Sarfaraz - who were picked up by the police. She wanted to register a compliant but instead of listening to her, male constables pushed her out on the instruction of their seniors.

Former Inspector General of the Uttar Pradesh Police SR Darapuri sees the inaction of Delhi Police during violence in Trilokpuri as a repetition of the ant-Sikh riots of 1984 and 2002 Gujarat pogrom. “Given the chronology of the incident, it appears that the Delhi Police followed its political masters and acted like mute spectator. I fail to understand why the deputy commissioner of the police, who has the authority to order imposition of prohibitory order on the basis of ground reports, kept waiting for the third day ignoring the volatility of the situation,” he told Firstpost.

“It reminds me the 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 anti-Sikh riots where the police chose not to intervene or taking communally biased actions,” said the top cop.

Since the Delhi Police is under the Central government, onus lies on the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). “The MHA should come clean why the incident was allowed to escalate and go on unabated for three days in the national capital. It should probe why initial measures to control a riot-like situation were not taken,” Darapuri added.

For Shri Ram Arun, ex-director general of the UP Police, the act of rioting and arson by a communal mob for three consecutive days in the national capital in heavy police presence is a “matter of serious concern”. “A tough action should have been taken by the police and hooligans should be dealt with iron hands but the police failed to do so. It is a serious lapse on the part of the police. Not imposing prohibitory orders, which could have not allowed the issue to escalate to such an extent, either might be deliberate move or mere negligence” he told Firstpost.

Former Commissioner of Delhi Police Ved Marwah suspects the role of the police. “Why was sufficient number of policemen not deployed in the entire area after the Diwali night incident despite the fact that Trilokpuri is a declared sensitive location? Why was anyone allowed to lead a mob in a communally charged atmosphere? How did outsiders gather in large number in the area? Why were pickets not erected to keep a tab on the suspicious entries and exits? And most importantly, why did the police wait for the third day to impose Section 144?” he asked adding that there is “something fishy”.

“I believe that the police had some instructions from political bosses; otherwise, the cops would not have been so irresponsible. This same modus operandi of police action was adopted in 1984 riots,” he added. Advocate Feroz Khan Ghazi, additional public prosecutor, Delhi High Court, told Firstpost, “The tension was allowed to go on unabated for three days and it is evident from the police action. Had the police been taken prompt action, the violence took place on Friday and Saturday could have been averted.”

Alleging that it was a “pre-planned attack on the minority community”, he said, “The incident has brought the role of the MHA under scanner. The BJP is trying to polarise voters to grab power in Delhi as well.”

“If not enforcing Section 144 was a negligence, why was the DCP concerned not served a show cause notice?” he asked.

“The steps taken by the police in the process of restoring communal peace and harmony are also a matter of concern. There are reports that young men are being illegally detained, and political representatives of one community are being permitted to enter the police stations whereas others are not. This has created an impression of communal and political bias and a lack of fairness. This is not conducive to restore peace in the area,” he added.

Updated Date: Oct 27, 2014 09:30 AM

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