A group of four Supreme Court lawyers recently filed an "eyewitness report” before the Supreme Court on the riots that hit the national capital of Delhi recently.
A team of Advocates Dr Saif Mahmood, M.R. Shamshad, Shwetasree Majumdar, and Vishal Vig visited the violence-affected areas of North East Delhi and then compiled a report on what they witnessed.
The lawyers first met representatives of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, including Maulana Mohammad Dawood and Mulana Qasimi at Madarasa Bab-ul-Uloom, Jafrabad. They then went to Mustafabad where they met Maulana Akhlaq at Madina Masjid who took them to the houses in the area where displaced persons had been put up.
They also visited the Al Hind Hospital at Mustafabad and visited Maujpur where they say, the people were largely unaffected and life and business went on as usual.
The lawyers, in their report, say that when they visited Jafrabad, “the tension in the air was so palpable that we felt a sense of foreboding from the time we crossed the Jafrabad metro station.
There was a deathly silence and several groups of police and paramilitary forces lined the main road at a distance of barely 200 meters away from each other”
“The role of the police seemed to have a chilling effect on the residents and survivors”, the report says.
The lawyers also allege that despite security personnel present on the ground, the police did nothing to assuage the survivors of the carnage of February 23, 2020.
“From a non-responsive control room to a senior personnel claiming there were no orders to go to the area, to an emergency number where panicked calls were received and simply not actioned… all tell a tale of why the carnage reached the magnitude that it did”.
The report also details what was witnessed by the group on their visit to the riot-affected areas. Burnt down buildings, shops that had been vandalised, some ironically displaying the national flag, are some of the things the report talks about.
“Even on the main road, nearly all establishments were shut, and people were patrolling the neighbourhood in groups and asking questions of visitors to ascertain their antecedents.
Any stranger seen to be talking to anybody was quickly surrounded by groups of people who wanted to know whether the person was from an NGO or the media”.
The report also tells the story of Nafis Ahmed Saifi and his son Nooman Saifi in Indira Vihar. The father-son duo had opened their doors for more than 300 people who were displaced from Shiv Vihar and were being hosted by them. Shiv Vihar was a primarily Hindu area with around 8000 Muslim families.
The survivors of the riots in the Saifi household narrated the tales of how the rioters had come, broken into their houses, threw gas cylinders into the flames to cause explosions and how the inhabitants of the house had to run through the flames to escape.
A young girl narrated the story of how her face had been hit by a brick. These rioters, the survivors said, we're all outsiders who had been brought in to create chaos. They arrived in the dead of the night with murder on their minds. Several Hindus in the neighbourhood attempted to save the lives of their Muslim neighbours. Some survivors also said that their Hindu neighbours, on the other hand, were involved in the riots themselves.
The lawyers also talk about their meeting with the “local hero” Dr A Anwar of the Al Hind Hospital who was the doctor who had made the midnight call to Justice Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court to do something about the state of the capital. Immediately after the midnight hearing, at least 20 critical riot victims were shifted to the GTB Hospital from Al-Hind Hospital which helped save their lives. Dr Anwar, however, also said that the death toll was several times higher than the official figures.
Another account was that of a woman from Karawal Nagar who had given birth to a baby boy amidst the mayhem. Her family told the lawyers about how their Hindu neighbour had hidden them in his house so that they could escape the carnage.
“We owe our lives to him,” the lady said.