Phone calls from the residents of riot-hit northeast Delhi went unanswered for almost 72 hours when the police didn’t respond to the frantic pleas of people trying to contact the emergency number 100, claimed a fact-finding report on Friday (February 28).
The report ‘Let Us Heal Our Dilli’, which was compiled by a civil rights group based on eyewitness accounts from the national capital, also said that the pinned targeting of Muslims from the region “reminded one distinctly of the targeting of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat 2002”.
A four-member team including Farah Naqvi, Sarojini N, Navsharan Singh, Naveen Chander visited areas Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Chaman Park, Shiv Vihar, Main Mustafabad, including Bhagirathi Vihar, and Brijpuri, which were most affected by the violence which started on Sunday (February 23) night and went on till Wednesday (February 26).
“The death toll is far less, but the targeting is truly frightening – where one shop is burnt, but the two adjacent shops on either side are not,” the report read.
According to the report, residents of these areas are upset with the Delhi government as neither did they receive any help from the police during an emergency like this nor did the ruling party stand with the victims. It also said that they were disappointed with the Centre’s delayed deployment of security forces to control the violence and restore peace and normalcy.
“Across the board, among Muslims and Hindus, there is enormous fury at the Delhi Police for just not being there when they were needed. People simply do not understand why. We heard repeatedly of frantic calls to the 100 line that went unanswered for 48-72 hours. We also heard (about people’s) anger at the AAP government for not being there on the ground to stand with the victims and vulnerable communities,” it said.
On Sunday (February 23), the one-lakh strong force Delhi Police control room received four calls from panicked residents every minute and on average, 225 calls every hour, the officers reported earlier.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, senior police officers said around 10,820 calls came in over the two days.
A tussle between the pro- and anti-CAA protesters which claimed 42 lives and injured more than 200 people, added with the continuous ringing of the phone gave the operational ‘command-and-control’ centre a tough time.
Senior Delhi police officers said the phone calls they received on Monday and Tuesday from northeast Delhi was double the number of calls they received from across Delhi on normal days. “We don’t remember the last time this happened,” HT quoted an officer as saying.
The control room ensured that there were enough PCR vehicles on the roads. The control room also commandeered on standby 7,000 personnel and 900 vans and two-wheelers, he said.
However, according to the report, in Mustafabad, people claimed that all the forces were busy in the visit of the US President Donald Trump and the Centre took longer than expected to ensure early deployment of Army or police in the affected areas which would have saved lives and protected their properties, the report added.
To give a sense of the “man-made tragedy” which the national capital fought for 72 hours, was the main aim of the team’s visit, the report stated.
The visit and the formulation of the fact-finding report was also intended to understand what the victims and survivors need immediately so that the government and administration can be collectively pressurised to provide for its citizens.
It also aims to bring the civil society and citizens across all divides to be mobilised to reach out and help the affected people, it said.
“Those who have lived through this targeted hate have lost their sense of security, peace and well-being. It will take years to rebuild these neighbourhoods,” it read.
The Police Control Room (PCR) received 3,300 distress calls on Monday and at least 7,520 on Tuesday. Most of these calls reported incidents of violence, arson, vandalism, assault and stone-pelting.
The communal riots which gave a view of targeted attacks on Muslims was also alleged by the report which stated that though the team did come across some of the cases where Hindus were also affected by the clashes, the violence was “clearly and unambiguously focussed on Muslims”.
“Hindus have also been hit and suffered damage. In Brijpuri, there was damage to the houses. Shops and banquet halls were burnt. In Gokulpuri we saw burnt autorickshaws belonging to Hindus,” it said.
“Even after the attack, no one from the state or central government has reached out to victims. And it has been nearly 4 days now to (since) the first attack on Sunday (February 23). There was no relief effort. No food, no places for the displaced to stay, no one to call,” it claimed.
On Friday, as the situation showed some signs of returning to normalcy and clouds of smoke cleared over the national capital, it revealed the actual extent of the damage from the worst riots in the city in over three decades.
A total of 148 FIRs have been registered and 630 people have been either arrested or detained so far in connection with the communal violence, a Delhi Police spokesperson said.