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The police must be held answerable for the Sangam Park riot of 31st January

03 Feb 2016

PUDR strongly condemns the police’s role in the outbreak of riots between members of the Valmiki and  Muslim communities, in the Sangam Park area in North West Delhi, on 31st January, 2016.  PUDR’s investigation into the incidents of 30th and 31st January, and meetings with residents and the police on 31st January and 1st February clearly establish the police’s culpability.

  1. The genesis of the incident is reported to lie in tensions sparked off on the previous day, 30th January, by  a Muslim boy’s allegedly having  forcibly entered his Valmiki neighbour’s house, and  grabbed the  latter’s  minor sister by the hand.  He was beaten up by her brothers, who are members of a local organisation called the Valmiki Group. Following an altercation between the two families the accused was taken to the Sangam Park police chowki in B block, at about 8.30 pm. He was beaten outside the police chowki as well, even as a crowd built up. Anti-Muslim abuses were hurled which were meant to incite, and allegedly a call went out from the Valmikis to start collecting bottles etc. Members of the two communities clashed near the police chowki, and there was some stone pelting. Skirmishes were allowed to continue uninterrupted till about 12.00 pm when an FIR was registered and the accused boy arrested. What is apparent is that the police did nothing to disperse the crowds and prevent the communal tensions that continued for over three hours.
  2. The following day, on Sunday 31st January, when the locality was tense and Muslim shopowners had downed shutters, the police gave a call for an amity meeting between the two communities at 3.00 pm at Valmiki park, located almost right opposite the Sangam Park police post. About 200 Valmikis congregated at the Park. Hardly any of the Muslims showed up. The DCP however did not arrive as per schedule, and a Constable asked the residents to wait, and left.  At about 3.45pm the Valmiki mob surged towards the masjid. Despite the chowki being located less than 100 yards , the local police did not intervene, ignoring the urgent pleas by local residents who rushed to the chowki as soon as the unrest began.
  3. It was only when the situation went out of hand with about 300 people in the street, and bottles and bricks being hurled, and vehicles damaged, that the police acted. Reinforcements were called in. The police arrived in large numbers, in about 12-15 jeeps and at least one bus.  There were over at least 250 policemen in riot gear, and tear gas shells had to be fired to disperse the crowds. The police managed to bring the situation under control by about 5.30pm. The DCP North and DCP North West had arrived at the scene by 6.00pm.
  4. As a result of the police in-action, reportedly about 30 people were injured, some with head injuries sustained from the shattering glass bottles and bricks. The surrounding houses and vehicles, predominantly Muslim, were targeted. Two motorcycles were burnt and several other vehicles damaged. Reportedly, some shops were vandalised. There was some retaliation from the Muslims, primarily in an effort to prevent the mob from breaking into the masjid and into houses and shops.
  5. Many Muslim families, especially women and children left the area on 31st evening, hurrying away  with bag and baggage, even as the higher police officials were conducting meetings. On the afternoon of 1st February, Muslim residents were being asked by the police to reopen their shops and get their families back. We however learnt from the residents that those who had left were not returning in a hurry as they still feared for their safety.
  6. Residents across communities have claimed that outsiders had been brought in, and the violence was organised. The Additional DCP however had no explanation to offer on how and why the situation escalated into a riot 16 hours after the alleged incident of molestation, or why the local police failed to control it.
  7. The police has filed an FIR into rioting and arrested eight people across communities. Some of those named in the FIR are absconding. Residents alleged that the ones to be picked up were those who were injured, and went to the hospital to get MLCs registered and for medical aid. The locals said that 9 Muslims, and 6 Hindus have been named. However this could not be confirmed, as the police refused to divulge either the total number accused, or the community wise break-up of the arrested and accused. The explanation given was that we would interpret this information incorrectly. From this we surmise that the greater number of  those arrested are Muslim.

PUDR believes that the following questions all signal towards the police’s responsibility for the riot:

  1. Why did the police call an amity meeting on 31st afternoon, after the issue had been settled with the arrest of the accused?
  2. Why were the Valmiki residents allowed the opportunity to congregate in such large numbers, so close to the Masjid, given the previous day’s tensions?
  3. Why did the police not anticipate such an attack given the disparity in numbers in Sangam Park with 70% Valmiki residents as against 25% Muslim?
  4. Why was there no adequate police protection at Valmiki park?
  5. Why did the police not take immediate action when trouble started?
  6. How did such a ready supply of bottles and bricks become available in such large quantities?

In the course of the fact finding PUDR learnt that there is a growing lumpen element amongst Valmiki youth in the area, which has patronage across party lines. One such organisation is the Valmiki Group. Its members organise prabhat pheris, do body building, and are alleged to have had a hand in orchestrating the riots. It is noticeable that the police’s actions on 30th and 31st January gave a free hand to the Valmiki community. PUDR perceives in these incidents a troubling lumpenisation of the Valmiki community, and a disturbing attempt at area domination vis a vis the Muslim population.

In this context, PUDR demands:

  1. An independent investigation into the incident.
  2. Action against the local police.
  3. The Minorities Commission take up the case.
  4. Compensation to all those injured, and whose property has been damaged.

 

Deepika Tandon, Moushumi Basu

(Secretaries)

3 February 2016

[email protected]

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