Delhi riots: A chronology
A visual tale of one of the worst riots and targeted violence in the history of New Delhi
On 22 February, a group, largely comprising women, sat down to protest peacefully against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) under the Jaffrabad Metro Station, occupying one of the carriageways under the raised metro line. There was no inkling, at the time, of the widespread violence that would follow.
On the afternoon of 23 February, a Sunday, a rally was organized in nearby Maujpur, led by Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra. Addressing his supporters, while standing next to a policeman, he demanded that anti-CAA protesters in Chand Bagh and Jaffrabad be removed within three days. If they weren’t, he warned in Hindi, his people wouldn’t listen even to the police. Soon after, stone pelting began in the area, and, by the evening, groups opposing and supporting the CAA were squaring off. There was heavy police deployment, and the situation seemed to be coming under control.
But on the morning of 24 February, Monday, Maujpur erupted in violence, with large-scale stone pelting, and members of two communities blaming each other for the wave of violence.Various news media reported how communities fought pitched battles through the day. Later that night, in neighbouring Gokalpuri, a tyre market with predominantly Muslim businesses was set ablaze.
The situation spiralled out of control on 25 February, Tuesday. The violence had spread to an even wider area on either side of the Jaffrabad main road. Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Kardampuri, Bhajanpura, Gokalpuri, Khajuri Khas, Yamuna Vihar and Brijpuri, all of them close neighbourhoods, got engulfed in the conflagration. Hindustan Times reported an instance of how a mob tried to set fire to a building with Muslim inhabitants, taunting them that they would be trapped and burnt. Through all the violence, the police forces deployed either proved ineffective or were accused of being mere bystanders while arson and rioting went on around them.
On Tuesday, reports started emerging of marauding mobs stopping vehicles and asking people their religious identity. Depending on the answers, members of one community were spared while members of the other were thrashed, their papers looted and vehicles damaged. One journalist escaped by saying her surnaname was “Sharma". There were many instances of journalists being attacked specifically, both on Monday and on Tuesday. A journalist from JK 24x7 was shot and injured, while reporters from NDTV and CNN-News18 were beaten up and a photojournalist’s bike was torched. There were also numerous instances of mobs snatching phones from journalists to delete incriminating photographs and videos.
On Tuesday, videos emerged of a mosque in Ashok Nagar being desecrated and vandalized by masked rioters. So far, the destruction of four mosques and one mazaar has been confirmed. An emergency hearing of the Delhi high court (HC) was called in the middle of the night to enable emergency services to reach the wounded, and for fire tenders to enter neighbourhoods. The Delhi police also issued a shoot-at-sight order to try and end the violence. On the morning of 26 February (Wednesday), police and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) conducted flag marches through many of the affected neighbourhoods. After hearing petitions regarding the violence, the Delhi HC rebuked the police for its “appalling" failure to contain the rioting .
Throughout Wednesday, national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited affected neighbourhoods separately, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted out a statement to maintain peace and harmony.
As of 28 February, the death toll had crossed 40, with many of the deaths due to gunshot wounds. Over 300 have been injured. A wary peace prevails. Two Special Investigation Teams (SIT) have been formed to probe the violence, and so far, 630 people have been arrested and 123 FIRs lodged. The Delhi HC has given the Centre four weeks to respond to a plea seeking FIRs against Mishra and other BJP leaders for hate speech.