I Kept Men Ready, Order Never Came: Delhi Cop on What Went Awry
A senior police official tells inside story of what went wrong during Delhi violence.
Several senior police personnel are privately feeling saddened at the failure of the Delhi Police to stop the communal violence that took place between 23 and 26 February in northeast Delhi and the beating the force's image has taken as a consequence.
The Quint spoke to a few such officers to get the insider’s knowledge of why the police acted the way they did during the violence-hit days.
“Former Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik will not only be remembered for Delhi riots but also for bringing down the Delhi Police’s image to that of the Uttar Pradesh Police, maybe worse than that. Even when major incidents took place in the city, be it serial blasts in 2005 or Nirbhaya rape case, people criticised us (Delhi Police) but didn’t lose faith. But now things are beyond repair.”A serving IPS officer in Delhi Police told The Quint.
Former Delhi Police Commissioner Ajay Raj Sharma said the police’s failure to swing into action immediately allowed violence to continue for days.
“Kapil Mishra and Parvesh Verma’s inflammatory speeches provoked people. But police did nothing. Police should have acted and arrested people once the riot started.”
Was the police late in getting information about the violence? Did they not have enough manpower?
Before we get into these questions, let’s take a look at the chronology first.
What Triggered the Violence?
Here is the sequence of events that led to Delhi violence:
- On 22 February, a large group of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protesters, largely comprising women, sat down to protest at Jaffrabad metro station, blocking the main road.
- On 23 February, Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra organised a rally in Maujpur in Northeast Delhi. He demanded removal of anti-CAA protesters in Jaffrabad within 3 days. He warned that if protesters are not removed they wouldn’t listen to police. Mishra said all this standing next to policemen.
- Within a couple of hours of Mishra’s speech, stone-pelting began in different parts of northeast Delhi. And by the evening of 23 February, violence broke out.
“Delhi Police should have anticipated a riot-like situation in Delhi after Shaheen Bagh protests started. What did the Station House Officers (SHOs) of police stations and senior police officials do to take preventive measures? Nothing.”A serving IPS officer in Delhi Police told The Quint
The violence that started on 23 February could’ve been easily controlled but the police did not act till 25 February, the officer added.
Seven SHOs of Most-Affected Areas Remained Silent
All of us know how powerful an SHO is in his locality. It is their primary duty to maintain law and order in the area. And it is the duty of beat constables to report to his/her seniors immediately if any crime or unrest occurs in the area handled by him/her.
“Wireless is the fastest mode of communication. So if a policeman or beat constable informs of violence or any other crime in his/her area, it will go to every Delhi Police officer who is close to a wireless. Definitely wireless calls were made by beat constables when violence started on Sunday, I heard them myself. Then why didn’t northeast district senior officers act upon it? Why didn’t top officers sitting in police headquarters pass orders to control the situation?”A serving IPS officer in Delhi Police told The Quint
Seven police stations that witnessed maximum violence were Jaffrabad, Bhajanpura, Usmanpur, Khajoori Khas, Karawal Nagar, Jyoti Nagar and Gokal Puri. One police station has a strength of at least 150 policemen. Reports said police received one distress call every minute on 23 and 24 February when the violence was at its peak.
Therefore, a minimum of 1,050 policemen were getting real time information about the violence. The senior officials in the chain of command, starting from Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) , and the Joint Commissioner of Police (Jt CP) – all three from northeast district – have to pass on information to their seniors sitting in police headquarters such as the Additional Commissioner of Police, Special Commissioner of Police and finally the Commissioner of Police.
But none of the officials in the chain of command seem to have acted. All of them watched Delhi burn.
“If the SHO, ACP or DCP did not have enough manpower, why didn’t they ask for extra force? It would have hardly taken any time for additional force to reach the violence-hit area. I was completely aware of what was going on in NE district. Anticipating the situation, I kept my men on a standby on Monday evening but I can’t move with my forces until I get orders from the top. Finally, I got orders to move to violence-affected areas on Tuesday morning.”A serving IPS officer in Delhi Police told The Quint
Another police officer said that he informed the DCP of northeast district about a charred body in a violence-hit area and requested him to get it taken to the hospital immediately. But the DCP did not act on it for hours.
'It Was Planned Violence'
Another question that is on the top of the mind of many: Was it a planned violence? Who are the people behind it?
“It started as a clash between anti- and pro-CAA supporters. Outsiders entered different localities, started violence by pelting stones and burning cars. But later it turned into a communal riot with targeted violence. For example, I saw myself that a shop owned by a Hindu located between two shops owned by Muslims was burnt. Similarly, rioters attacked a jewellery shop owned by a Muslim but didn’t touch other jewellery shops in the vicinity.”A servicing Inspector in Delhi Police
The officer also mentioned another instance which indicates that the violence was planned – 50 bottle petrol bombs recovered inside a bakery, and huge catapults at AAP councillor Tahir Hussain’s house and at a petrol pump.
“On Wednesday 26 February evening, the local MLA came to meet me for the first time ever since violence broke in the locality. My first question to him was where were you all these days? He gave no clear answer.”A serving IPS officer in Delhi Police told The Quint
'Called DCP, ACP and SHO Several Times but None Came'
Shiv Vihar in northeast district was one of the worst-hit. Several schools, shops and houses were reduced to ashes. We spoke to the head of the Akhil Bhartiya Aman Committee, an NGO that acts as mediator between police and public to maintain peace, to know why the area was allowed to burn for almost 3 days.
“I got news of violence from Shiv Vihar. I called police repeatedly on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I called Gokal Puri’s ACP, SHO and beat constable. I also called DCP of northeast district but nobody addressed my grievance. All of them said we were busy and then some switched off their phones. When rioters were burning the city what was police doing?”Asgar Ali Saifi, Chairman, Akhil Bhartiya Aman Committee
A school owned by a Hindu person in Shiv Vihar was completely charred on 25 February. The owner told us that he informed police about the incident instantly. But the cops came to the school after almost 24 hours.
Just two buildings away another school owned by a Muslim was destroyed and burnt.
So far the Delhi Police has registered 45 cases under the Arms Act. Many have received bullet injures.
Where did these people get guns from? Were they brought from other states to the northeast district or were the arms there already? In either case, the transporting or manufacturing of these arms may have taken place under the nose of the police.
“Homemade pistols are manufactured in several houses in the northeast district, and mark my words, the SHO of the area is aware of these houses. But they are allowed to do so for obvious reasons, commission goes to several pockets. Now, police should raid and seize arms to prevent further violence,” said a serving inspector in Delhi Police.
The officer added that it is essential for the police and administration to provide proper counseling, aid and justice, especially to families who have lost their loved ones.
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