Clashes broke out Sunday (February 23) evening between pro and anti-CAA groups near Jaffrabad in northeast Delhi after a large number of people who have been protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act blocked a road, while similar sit-ins started in several others part of the national capital.
Police fired tear gas shells as members of the two groups pelted stones at each other in Maujpur, soon after a gathering called by BJP leader Kapil Mishra who demanded that the police remove anti-CAA protestors within three days.
Tension prevailed in Jaffrabad area and a large number of security personnel deployed as hundreds of people, mostly women, who had been protesting against the CAA, blocked a road near the metro station since the Saturday evening, demanding a rollback of the contentious act.
Chandra Shekhar Aazad-led Bhim Army had also given a call for Bharat bandh and demonstrations against the CAA.
Similar protests, which mirrored the Shaheen Bagh sit-in where demonstrators have blocked a road since December, started in Khureji Khaas in Karawal Nagar and Chandbagh in northeast Delhi, and Hauz Rani in South Delhi on Sunday, prompting the police to step up security.
For security reasons, the entry and exit gates of Jaffrabad and Maujpur-Babarpur were closed.
The 400-metre-stretch between Maujpur traffic signal, where a Shani temple is located, to Babarpur station, was strewn with bricks and stones after the clashed.
The two groups blamed each other for starting the violence.
Delhi Police personnel later stopped the pro-CAA protestors when they tried to march towards Kardampuri where another anti-CAA protest was on. The security personnel formed a human chain to separate the groups and defuse tension.
“We are trying to identify the people behind the incident,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Eastern Range) Alok Kumar told reporters.
The situation is under control now, a senior police official said.
“We are continuously speaking to local leaders so that peace prevails in the area and are also requesting protesters to clear the main road,” he said.
He said that police personnel have been deployed at Maujpur area to prevent any untoward incident.
Taking to Twitter, Mishra said, “We have given a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi Police to get the road cleared. Get the Jaffrabad and Chandbagh road cleared.”
In a video tweeted by him in which he is addressing the gathering, Mishra said, “They (protestors) want to create trouble in Delhi, that’s why they have closed the roads. That’s why they have created a riot-like situation here. We have not pelted any stones.”
“Till the US president is in India, we are leaving the area peacefully. After that we won’t listen to you (police) if the roads are not vacated by then,” he told the gathering.
Shaan (28), a resident of Kabir Nagar, claimed the situation escalated after BJP leader Kapil Mishra tweeted that he would hit the streets.
“It was then that the stone-pelting began from their side. The other side also responded and the situation flared up,” he said.
Aman Sharma (22), a student and resident of Maujpur who was part of the pro-CAA group, said they were holding a protest against the closure of roads by those opposing the CAA.
“At around 2:30 pm, they (anti-CAA protestors) started pelting stones and glass bottles when we started our protest. We want the road to be opened,” he claimed.
Shadab (28), a student said the protest at Jaffrabad was peaceful and sought action against the Mishra.
“The situation flared up only after his protest and provocative slogans,” said Mohammad Sadiq (19), a student.
The police too did not take any action against Mishra, said Babu Khan (40), who was part of the group that was protesting outside the Babarpur station.
Nitish (27) said the blocking of the road will create further trouble for residents of Maujpur and Welcome areas.
A software engineer at a firm in Okhla, Nitish said it takes two hours for him to reach his office due to closure of the road at Shaheen Bagh.
“We don’t want this road to be closed. It will create problems for us,” he said.Anjali Verma, who was protesting to get the road opened, said people have started feeling insecure now.
Another pro-CAA protestor, Dinesh Kumar (38), said road no 66 was being closed at five places by protesters.
Similarly, a group of anti-CAA protestors, who have been on a sit-in at Gandhi Park in south Delhi’s Hauz Rani since last one month, took out a march towards the main road.
They also claimed that were lathi-charged. However, the police refuted the charge.
Later, the protestors also asked the shopkeepers in the area to close down their shop and sat at one corner of the road outside the park.
However, barricades were placed on the road to stop them from marching ahead. The protestors have now returned to the park, while others have left the venue.
Police said no permission was granted for the march.
“The protestors tried to block traffic at multiple locations and also in front of arterial roads in front of the hospital,” said Atul Kumar, DCP (south) said, refuting the allegations of use of force.
He said many of the protestors verbally and physically abused the police personnel and pushed the female police personnel towards the barricades, bit them and heckled them.
“They were persuaded and later they returned back to the protest site. Police personnel on duty showed extreme restraint and perseverance in front of this sustained abuse and ensured the highest standards of professionalism. Many police personnel including lady police personnel were injured and suitable action as per law is being taken,” he said.
Shawariya Muzaffar, a law student at Jamia Hamdard University, claimed they had blocked a part of the road, protesting against the CAA.
“The police lathi-charged with little concern for women and children,” she said.