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Battle zone Daryaganj

Mob storms govt-run school on Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, beats up teachers before setting out on a rampage on Daryaganj’s streets, reports Karan Choudhury.

delhi Updated: Aug 31, 2007 00:49 IST
Karan Choudhury

It was the usual hustle and bustle in and around Daryaganj. Movie-goers were on their way to Delite Cinema Hall to catch the matinee show, the traffic was at its chaotic best and like in any other school, classes were under way in Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya on Aruna Asaf Ali Marg until a mob stormed the institute, baying for teacher Uma Khurana’s blood. Within minutes, Daryaganj turned into a battle zone, and for nearly five hours, residents, commuters, shopkeepers and policemen bore the brunt of the mob frenzy.

Enraged by a sting operation, aired by a TV channel in the morning, accusing Khurana of forcing some schoolchildren into prostitution, the mob misbehaved and manhandled the school employees and students. There were about 600 students and 25 teachers inside the school at the time of the attack. The police reached the school just in time to escort the teachers and students to safety. By then, the protesters dispersed, only to indulge in vandalism and pitched battles on the streets and bylanes of Turkman Gate, Daryaganj and certain adjoining areas.

While anxious parents rushed to the school to save their children, the mob directed its anger at motorists and shopkeepers by throwing stones at them. Passengers of a Blueline were dragged out and beaten up before the mob damaged the bus. One police gypsy was torched and two damaged while some protesters even attempted to break into a liquor shop. In all, more than 30 vehicles and a Blueline bus were badly damaged.

The police cordoned off the entire area and burst 15-20 rounds of teargas shells to quell the protests. “We have arrested 18 rioters for damage to public property and assault on government servants. Twelve officers, including three ACPs, were injured. A vajra van and three police gypsies were smashed. Ten civilians were also injured,” said Assistant Commissioner and Delhi police PRO Rajan Bhagat.

Police forces from the entire Central district were rushed to the area. Despite a lathi-charge, the mob only grew bigger. The mob wanted the teacher’s custody. Fakruddin Mallick, a protester, said: “We cannot have such people teaching our children. Such people should be flogged to death.”

Area traders and commuters had a tough time escaping from the volatile zones. Nishant Chawla, a businessman, said: “The mob wanted to destroy the liquor shop. They were continuously throwing stones at it, we had to run for cover.”

Nishant Luthra, a chartered accountant, could not do anything to save his car. “I saw the mob hammering my car and destroying it. I did not even know the reason behind the riot. Why are we being targeted? This is wrong.”

Sanjay Verma, a class VII student, was one of the lucky few to escape the mob fury. “I slipped from the exit gate of the Blueline bus and ran as fast as I could. They were beating the passengers and throwing stones at the bus,” he said.