Delhi riots: Face-off between Bhim Army, CAA backers a trigger
Stones thrown by a Bhim Army supporter protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at Maujpur Chowk on Sunday afternoon, and his group being chased away by a rival group of pro-CAA protesters, who gathered at the spot at the call of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra, were the triggers that sparked Delhi’s worst communal riots in three decades, according to an initial assessment by the police.
The details of the sequence of events, as pieced together by Delhi Police through inputs from personnel on the ground Sunday, were shared with HT by at least two senior officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the police assessment, which has been shared with the two Special Investigation Teams (SIT) formed by Delhi Police Thursday, tension was palpable in north-east Delhi on Saturday night, when a group protesting the CAA blocked the Jafrabad Main Road. Tempers shot up after Mishra visited the area on Sunday and demanded that the police remove the protesters within three days or his group would do it.
According to the police’s assessment, supporters of the Bhim Army — a Dalit organisation led by Chandrashekhar Azad — first pelted stones on pro-CAA supporters at Maujpur Chowk at 4.42pm Sunday. Following this, about 100-125 anti-CAA campaigners including Bhim Army members were chased by the pro-CAA group.
After stone-pelting from both sides, some Bhim Army members — already identified by the Crime Branch — asked other anti-CAA supporters to gather in areas around Kardampuri and Jafrabad, according to the assessment.
One of these persons is believed to be Bhim Army’s Delhi head, Himanshu Valmiki, who the police claim mobilised more people around 6pm on Sunday.
This spiralled into frequent incidents of stone-pelting and arson in the bylanes of Maujpur and Kardampuri, according to the assessment. “Bhim Army brought several people including women to Jafrabad on Saturdayagainst CAA. We already have tweets and messages posted by some instigators. There were other groups which also had a role in blocking the Jafrabad road on Saturday,” said one of the officials quoted above.
Vinay Ratan Singh, the Bhim Army’s national president, said the allegations were baseless. “Our protests against CAA in different parts of Delhi that day were peaceful and successful. Our members were not involved in any violence. Rather, we received a message that our Delhi president Himanshu Valmiki’s vehicle was burnt,” he said. Singh did not deny that his activists were present in the Jafrabad-Maujpur stretch on Sunday, but added: “Our people had left from there.”
Valmiki didn’t respond to HT’s calls.
The police assessment said that Mishra tweeted at 1.22pm on Sunday, asking his supporters to gather at Maujpur-Jafrabad. By 3.07pm, he reached there with his supporters and started shouting slogans against anti-CAA protesters.
A message from policemen on the ground to senior officers said “situation is tense”. Police have not ruled out the role of Mishra in instigating the violence, and a report will be given to the high court after checking all videos, the second official said.
Mishra, who appealed for calm after full-blown riots broke out, said on Thursday that he was criticised for urging anti-CAA protesters to clear road blockades. “We have been witnessing these vulgar protests for over 70 days now in which some big politicians and so-called activists are involved; they are flaming feelings against the police and the defence forces. Violence in the name of anti-CAA protests should come to an end, it has gone too far now,” Mishra, who took out a peace march, said.