No intel on build-up, Baijal pulls up police
Delhi’s lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal has rebuked the city police for an intelligence failure in its inability to detect the vast quantity of firearms, Molotov cocktails (also known as petrol bombs), stones and acid that had been stored by rioters for use in the February 23-25 communal violence that ravaged the capital
Baijal, who represents the central government, spoke his mind during a visit to the north-east district, the epicentre of the violence, on Friday, officials familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.
Prior stockpiling of projectiles, along with the mobilisation of mobs ready to run riot, by residents of riot-hit areas took the police by surprise, Hindustan Times reported on Saturday. Reports said 350 empty cartridges were recovered after over 500 rounds of gunfire.Stones, swords, empty bottles and petrol bombs were the most common weapons used in the rioting that left 42 people dead over February 24 and 25.
The central government is also unhappy that the whole intelligence machinery -- including the intelligence bureau (IB) and Delhi Police’s special branch -- hadn’t worked diligently enough on an assessment of the situation, the officials cited above said.
HT has learnt that not a single reliable input had been received by the authorities since February 22, a Saturday, on the potential scale of the rioting, until the violence peaked on February 25. February 22, a Saturday, was when protestors against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act started a sit-in at the Jaffrabad neighbourhood that was a possible trigger for the rioting.
The Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police’s Special Branch are supposed to visit the protest/dharna sites and talk to locals in the areas with a mixed population and history of communal clashes. They prepare a daily analysis on the basis of field visits that are used to determine the size of police deployment.
Delhi police officers blamed a complete failure of beat policing and the Special Branch’s disinterest in active gathering of intelligence from potential trouble spots for the department’s inability to detect how petrol, acid and stones were being amassed and stored, leading to the deterioration of law and order.
An officer said members of the force led by police commissioner Amulya Patnaik, who retired on Saturday, didn’t even enter the by-lanes in the congested neighbourhoods of north-east Delhi where much of the violence took place.
The police department also received an earful from National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who visited the area on Tuesday night and Wednesday and tried to assuage the concerns of local residents while the directing police top brass to stanch the violence.
A Delhi Police officer posted in north-east Delhi, who didn’t wish to be named, said: “We didn’t know the numbers of groups, areas where they could strike, who was leading them, or the nature of weapons. Subsequently, we didn’t have clear guidelines on what to do”.
At daily multi-agency centre (MAC) meetings that led up to the rioting, there had not been one word on the potential violence in north-east Delhi, according to a senior IB official. MAC is a forum where all central and state agencies come together to analyse internal security threats and share information on a daily basis.
Another IB officer said the agency was not ruling out involvement of any particular organisation in spearheading the violence but “no concrete information has been shared on it with the government yet”.
“Hundreds of bullet rounds have been fired in the Maujpur, Seelampur, Jaffrabad and other areas in the last three days. While this area is notorious for having large number of countrymade pistols, any organised effort to bring in weapons is being looked at,” said the officer, who too requested anonymity.