Tension grips Delhi’s Kanjhawala after 23-yr-old man lynched, 1 injured
Police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel have been deployed in the neighbourhood even as senior police officers said the situation was under control and that efforts were being made to involve influential voices in the local communities to rein in mischief-mongers.Updated: Sep 24, 2020, 23:26 IST
A 23-year-old photographer was lynched and another youngster was left injured by a mob in outer Delhi’s Kanjhawala on Tuesday night, triggering tension in the neighbourhood. The families of the victim alleged it was a communal attack but the police said it was personal fight.
Police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel have been deployed in the neighbourhood even as senior police officers said the situation was under control and that efforts were being made to involve influential voices in the local communities to rein in mischief-mongers.
There were multiple conflicting versions about what led to the violence and the death of Mohammad Shaukat.
“Shaukat was only trying to intervene in the fight and save a man who was being thrashed by the mob. He was an innocent man,” said PK Mishra, deputy commissioner of police (Rohini). Shaukat’s family, however, said he was a bystander and was lynched because he was a Muslim.
The violence reported from the Jhuggi Jhopdi Colony of Sawda, an economically backward village in Kanjhawala, on Tuesday first saw a mob carrying baseball bats, rods, swords, stones and sticks beating up a man. Then, there was stone pelting, allegedly by both Hindus and Muslims.
On Thursday, the DCP said five of the about 20 members of the mob had been arrested and efforts were on to nab other suspects.
Tension had been brewing
Local residents said communal tension had been brewing in the neighbourhood for the last four-five months. “Hindus would verbally taunt and abuse us whenever they saw us,” said Mohammad Rihan, an 18-year-old Class 10 student who suffered a fractured leg in the attack.
Dinesh, the father of one of the arrested men, Harish, agreed that tension had been festering for months. “It all began with some silly quarrel between young boys,” Dinesh said.
Different versions to the trigger
In his statement in the first information report (FIR), Rihan said his friend Saider was in love with a local girl who later turned out to be the girlfriend of a 19-year-old man named Ankit from the same neighbourhood. “Saider raised the issue with his girlfriendand the matter was sorted a year ago. But when Ankit got to know of the girl’s relationship with Saider, he and his friends began looking for Saider,” Rihan said in the FIR.
Rihan allegedlytold police in his statement that on Tuesday night, a heavily armed mob came looking for Saider and when they couldn’t find Saider, they attacked him (Rihan).
The fight over personal issue was also the version offered by the DCP.
On Thursday, however, Rihan told HT that his statement to the police was coerced and that he did not sign it.
The DCP said while people are known to change statements with a change in circumstances and environment, there was no coercion of any kind. “We are probing the violence and the reasons behind it,” DCP Mishra said.
Ravi, the maternal uncle of another arrested man Vikas said the violence began when a local youngsteron a bike ran over Vikas’s foot and then slapped him on Tuesday night. “Vikas called his friends for help, but the matter was sorted. I don’t know what happened after that,” said Ravi. Ankit and Vikas are friends and immediate neighbours.
Also, it remains unclear who allegedly ran over Vikas’ foot.
The alleged mob violence took place around 8.30pm on Tuesday when Rihan was fiddling with his mobile phone outside his home. “They attacked me with baseball bats and rods before some people rescued me. They were saying that they were going to kill me,” Rihan alleged.
While Rihan was rescued by some local residents, the mob attacked Shaukat, who was returning from his photography shop and had allegedly stopped to watch what was happening. “Eyewitness have told me that the mob simply asked Shaukat his name and attacked him because of his faith. My son was an innocent person who worked hard to provide for our family of seven,” said Shaukat’s father, Azad, who works as a tailor in Kashmir.
The DCP, however, said Shaukat was targeted after he intervened to save Rihan.
According to Rihan, during the attack, the mob allegedly covered some CCTV cameras with bedsheets and picked up stones from a construction site nearby to pelt at the houses of Muslims.
“When stones and bricks landed at our terraces, we pelted them back at the mob to chase them away,” said Khamruddin, a resident of the same lane.
By the time the police arrived, the mob was gone. In the FIR, the police have mentioned that they received 19 PCR calls from the colony between 9.53 pm and 11.52 pm and reached the spot to find the lane and the main road filled with stones and a pool of blood at one spot.
The injured men were taken to Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Mangolpuri where Shaukat succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday morning and Rihan’s injuries were treated, the DCP said.
When Shaukat’s body was brought back from the hospital on Wednesday, scores of people protested with his body on the road for an hour before senior police officers convinced them of action.
“We have registered a case of murder, attempt to murder and rioting and ensuring that none of the people involved in the violence are spared,” said DCP Mishra.