NEW DELHI – The death toll in Delhi’s communal violence rose to 42 on Friday as the situation showed some signs of returning to normalcy and clouds of smoke cleared to reveal the extent of the damage from the worst riots in the city in over three decades.
As people gingerly stepped out for work and opened shops and other establishments in northeast Delhi, anxiety escalated outside the Guru Teg Bahadur(GTB) hospital where people waited outside the mortuary to receive the bodies of their loved ones.
Police and paramilitary personnel also maintained a strict vigil in view of the Friday prayers at mosques.
The maulvis of the mosques in riot-hit areas appealed for peace and harmony and put out announcements asking people not to fall prey to rumours and cooperate with police.
The GTB hospital has recorded 38 deaths, the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital three, while the Jag Pravesh Chandra hospital reported one death, officials said. Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa, however, maintained that the death toll stood at 38.
Randhawa told reporters that a total of 148 FIRs were registered and 630 people were either arrested or detained so far.
“No untoward incident was reported today (Friday),” he said, adding prohibitory orders were relaxed for 10 hours in several areas.
He said forensic science laboratory teams have been called in and the crime scenes are being revisited.
More than 250 people have been injured in the communal clashes over the amended citizenship law, police said, amid reports that one in every three victims suffered bullet injuries.
The areas mainly affected include Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Khajuri Khas and Bhajanpura.
While civic workers swept the streets and bylanes of northeast Delhi littered with bricks, broken glass and other detritus of three days of communal clashes, some shopkeepers sorted through the charred remains of their vandalised and burnt shops.
Shops and other establishments opened in some places and more private vehicles were seen on roads. Autos and e-rickshaws also began plying in some areas as people stepped out of their homes to get back to work or catch up on essential errands.
Officials also said they were making extra efforts to quell rumours, and were holding regular flag marches and interactions in the neighbourhoods of affected areas as confidence-building measures.
“My job will be to ensure people feel safe and also that police is there for them,” said senior IPS officer S N Shrivastava, who will take over as Delhi police commissioner from Sunday.
He said 331 peace meetings have been held in the affected areas over the last two days.
Shrivastava was repatriated from the Central Reserve Police Force(CRPF) and appointed as the special commissioner (law and order) of Delhi Police earlier this week when the violence started.
Nearly 7,000 paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the affected areas since Monday. Hundreds of Delhi Police personnel are also on the ground to maintain peace.
As survivors struggled to come to grips with the violence, victims recounted tales of horror.
“We jumped from the first floor with dupattas wrapped around our bodies to save ourselves,” said a 45-year-old woman at Al-Hind Hospital, recalling how she and her two daughters were forced to flee their home after a mob allegedly barged in and molested them.
The nightmare on Wednesday night ended only after the three entered a Muslim-dominated lane.
“I was at home when a mob barged in. I and my two daughters were molested and our clothes torn by the mob,” the woman, who runs an NGO in Karawal Nagar, claimed with tears in her eyes.
The Delhi Police also initiated an “outreach programme” as part of which its officials met imams and maulvis of mosques
The exercise was carried by senior officials outside mosques in Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar. These areas witnessed pitched battles between two communities for three days from Monday.
During the meeting, senior police officers were briefed about the recent riots.
The policemen posted in these areas briefed senior officials that people of these two areas, which witnessed large scale violence from Tuesday, have been generally peaceful and claimed it was the “outsiders” from adjoining areas such as Seelampur and Jaffrabad who indulged in violence.
Senior police officials were asked to take stock of the situation, especially keeping in mind that it was a Friday and some miscreants may take advantage of large gatherings to engineer an unrest again, they said.
The senior officials assured that police will take every action against the miscreants and ensure safety of locals.
After a visit to Jaffrabad, one of the worst affected areas, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma said the situation is peaceful but there is “tension in the air”.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Delhi government has set up nine shelters for the riot-affected people and is distributing food among them.
Addressing a news conference, he said the government has started distributing Rs 25,000 in cash, as part of compensation, to those whose houses have been burnt during the violence.
For assistance of the violence-hit people, Kejriwal said the government has appointed 18 magistrates and four night magistrates.
Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal visited the riot-affected areas to take stock of the situation and interacted with locals.
Baijal visited Maujpur, Jaffrabad and Gokulpuri, an official said. He was accompanied by senior police officers. This is his first visit to the riot-hit areas.
Distraught Father Awaits Son’s Return
Yunus, 38, has been making frantic rounds of hospitals and mortuaries for the last five days, hoping to find his 16-year-old son Yusuf.
A Class XI student, Yusuf left his home in northeast Delhi’s Chand Bagh, which has been wracked by violence for days, on Sunday to go to an eatery and hasn’t returned since.
“Around 5 pm on Sunday, I was working in lane number 15 when Yusuf came to me and asked for Rs 100. I gave him the money and he left saying he was going to an eatery. When I reached home at night, I found that my son hadn’t returned,” Yunus, who works as a plumber, told PTI on Friday.
“Yusuf does not have a mobile phone and we are not aware of his whereabouts. I went to the GTB Hospital today, but he was not there. I searched the mortuary as well but in vain,” the worried father said.
Asked why the family hasn’t lodged a police complaint yet, Yunus said, “The situation here hasn’t been conducive since Monday.”
With hope fading, he said the family will now lodge a police complaint.
Yusuf is the eldest of Yunus’ three children.
At least 42 people were killed and over 200 injured in the communal clashes that broke out in northeast Delhi after violence between supporters of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those opposing it spiralled out of control on Sunday.
Frenzied mobs torched houses, shops, vehicles, a petrol pump and pelted stones at local residents and police personnel.
Besides Chand Bagh, Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Babarpur, Yamuna Vihar, Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Shiv Vihar areas were among the riot-hit areas.