‘Disturbing, scary’: Thousand gunshots rang, over 100 lives lost in Delhi this year
What is worrying is that many of the shootings were reported from east, south, central and west Delhi, rather than just the city’s more notorious outer reaches.Updated: Oct 23, 2019 06:05 IST
2019 started with gunshots at midnight.
On a dance floor in a south Delhi farmhouse, a few minutes past 12am on January 1, a man fired four bullets in the air to celebrate the arrival of a new year. One of the bullets killed a woman. Around the same time, a 10-year-old boy was accidentally shot dead by his father in north-east Delhi’s New Usmanpur. Less than five kilometers away, in Welcome, exactly at midnight, a 13-year-old sustained a similar bullet injury.
These, it turns out, were not isolated cases. The first day of the year sparked off a circle of gun violence on Delhi’s streets that some former and current police officers are describing as “disturbing” and “scary”.
Between January 1 and October 18, at least 1,017 shots were fired across the Capital in 310 incidents of shooting, an analysis by HT of all such incidents has shown.
The bullets killed at least 102 people and left another 164 injured. These do not include cases where victims were held at gunpoint but no shots were fired.
What is worrying is that many of the shootings were reported from east, south, central and west Delhi, rather than just the city’s more notorious outer reaches.
When contacted, Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik said that their data showed that the use of firearms in heinous cases declined this year. “We’ve launched a drive against arms smugglers. The crime branch and the special cell have been to places outside Delhi and busted arms factories. Police have been proactive in dealing with suppliers. There is a quantum jump in seizures, and in the number of persons arrested in comparison to the previous years. The crimes have decreased in the last two years,” he contended.
A similar analysis by HT between May 17 and June 15 – at a time when reports of gun violence in the city appeared to have spiked -- had revealed that 220 shots were fired in the Capital, resulting in 16 deaths and 22 injuries. The shooting incidents have continued since then. In September, for example, at least 164 bullets were fired in 40 incidents.
The crimes occurred across the city — from Barakhamba Road in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi to Sangam Vihar in the south, from Punjabi Bagh in the west to Rohini in outer Delhi. The 1,017 bullets fired were a result of gang wars, property disputes, robbery, enmity, and police shoot-outs. It also includes eight suicides, nine cases of celebratory firing, and seven incidents of accidental firing. Of the 310 cases of shooting, there were 37 cases in which police too fired at the fleeing criminals.
There is no ready comparative data from the previous years because police do not keep a citywide record of shootings. But several senior offices, past and present, many of whom asked not to be named, said criminals showing no fear in shooting at public places, often in broad daylight – either to settle scores with other gangs or in snatching bids -- is a new trend that does not speak well of how the city is policed.
“Shooting has become a menace in the Capital. Such cases show that the fear of the law among criminals is diminishing. Police are not able to effectively stop the supply of weapons in Delhi,” said retired IPS officer Ashok Chand, who was a deputy commissioner of the special cell in 1998 to 2005 and at the crime branch between 2010 and 2012.
“In order to tackle crime, the crime pattern as a whole should be studied. Police stations should specifically study the crime pattern in their areas to identify the weakness in the policing and then take steps to rectify it. From crime records, sources and technical intelligence, criminals should be identified for preventive action. There should be increased patrolling and surprise deployment of pickets after studying the crime pattern. Another aspect of preventive policing is to instil the fear of law in the minds of the criminals,” he said.
Deputy commissioner of police Mandeep Randhawa, who is the police spokesperson, said that firearms were used (but not necessarily fired) in 608 cases this year, as compared to 645 cases last year. “In 2017 and 2016, such cases crossed more than 700. This year, we seized 2,520 firearms compared to 1,612 last year. In 2016, the number was 1,090. The recovery of bullets is also more this year. We seized 8,317 bullets compared to 6,421 last year. This does not mean crime is more. This is a result of proactive policing,” he said.
According to the HT analysis, the incident in which the most bullets were fired this year was reported on September 8, when five men stopped former Bahujan Samaj Party MLA candidate Virender Mann and fired at least 30 bullets at him, killing him on the spot. The killers stopped Mann’s car in a busy street in Narela at 10am, while locals watched in horror. A fortnight later, in Dwarka, a 45-year-old property dealer was shot at least 12 times, while he was driving away from his office. CCTV footage shows the gunman climbing the roof of another car and firing at the man.
In most of the cases, the weapons used were automatic or semi-automatic guns smuggled from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, according to the Delhi Police statements.
Former deputy commissioner of police (DCP) LN Rao, who worked his way up the Delhi Police in a 30-year career, says cases of shooting, many of them captured by CCTV cameras, have terrorised Delhi residents.
“If any citizen is carrying an illegally procured gun and moving around the city, then this is the failure of the intelligence at the police station level. Police must improve their intelligence gathering. The increasing number of cases of shooting by gun shows that the local police have no idea about what is going on in their areas,” Rao said.
On June 11, following the rise in the crime incidents, Delhi’s lieutenant governor (L-G) Anil Baijal held a meeting and directed all senior police officers to come on the roads and start patrolling day and night.
After five murders over a 15-hour period on June 13-14, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged Baijal and the Centre to look into law-and-order in the national capital.
The data, however, suggests that the efforts have not yet borne fruit.Former Uttar Pradesh director general of police, Vikram Singh, called the figures “disturbing” in view of Delhi being the national capital. He said that the figures wouldn’t even be the complete data. “Police do not even get to know about a lot of shooting incidents. Celebratory firings, for example, come to police’s notice only if they have caused casualties or are caught on camera,” said Singh. He said that the police will need to find the chain of gun supply in reverse and put in extraordinary efforts to find the source of the weapons.