NEWS
25/02/2020 1:32 PM IST | Updated 25/02/2020 5:42 PM IST

Threats, Tear Gas, Fire: Journalists Recount What It Was Like To Cover Violence In Northeast Delhi

Journalists recounted being cornered and threatened by mobs reportedly made up of the so-called "pro-CAA protesters", during the violence on Monday

As details emerge of the violence that took place in Northeast Delhi, several journalists have written and tweeted personal accounts of what they witnessed while covering the events on Monday.

Journalists have recounted being cornered and threatened by mobs reportedly made up of so-called “pro-CAA protesters”, being asked whether they are Hindu or Muslim and to stop recording what was going on in the area as stones were pelted, people were beaten up and shops and vehicles were set on fire. 

Multiple accounts say rioters in Maujpur were raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Desh Ke Gaddaro Ko’.

Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Protesters during the violence between anti and pro CAA demonstrations, at Jaffarabad, near Maujpur on February 24, 2020 in New Delhi.

Here are the various accounts:

I watched a mob set a shop on fire in Delhi, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, writes Scroll’s Vijayta Lalwani

Lalwani writes that she saw saffron flags near Maujpur Chowk as a loudspeaker blared BJP’s 2019 election campaign song: “Main Bhi Chowkidaar Hoon”. 

“As a shop was set ablaze in Delhi’s Maujpur area on Monday afternoon, a middle-aged man with a saffron tikka on his forehead repeatedly asked reporters to stop filming the arson. “Bade dinon ke baad Hindu jaaga hai,” he said. “Hindus have woken up after long.” He did not want to identify himself, other than as a supporter of the Citizenship Amendment Act,” Lalwani wrote.

“Walking further down the road towards Jaffrabad, around 3.55 pm, I stumbled on scenes of panic: several protestors were running as the police fired tear gas shells. In the lanes, people were vomiting as a reaction to the tear gas,” she wrote.

When she walked back to Maujpur Chowk at 4.30, Lalwani said the CAA supporters were chanting slogans like “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.

“Several men in the crowd were armed with metal rods and sticks made of wood and bamboo. One man brandished a sword. The police stood 200 metres away, choosing not to act against them.”

They threatened to take off my pants to confirm my religion, writes Anindya Chattopadhyay for Times of India

ToI photojournalist Anindya Chattopadhyay said that when he reached Maujpur Metro Station on Monday noon, a Hindu Sena member insisted on putting tilak on his forehead saying, “You are also a Hindu, bhaiya. What is the harm?”

“As soon as I started taking photos, a few men wielding bamboo sticks and rods surrounded me. They tried to snatch my camera, but my reporter colleague, Sakshi Chand, stepped in front of me and dared them to touch me. The men decided to slink away.

A short while later I realised they were following me. A youth accosted me and asked, “Bhai, tu zyada uchhal raha hai. Tu Hindu hai ya Musalman? (Brother, you are acting very smart. Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?)” They threatened to take off my pants to confirm my religion. I then folded my hands and said I was just a lowly photographer. They then gave me a few threats, but let me go.” Read the full story

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Saw mob breaking locks of shops with lathis, throwing something on fire inside, writes Sakshi Chand for Times of India

“Even as police tried to defuse the situation, news of protesters setting a house on fire spread. I ran towards the chowk and saw a tower of smoke coming out from near a garbage dump. I saw a mob breaking the locks of shops with lathis and throwing something on fire inside.

When I tried to capture it on my cellphone, a youth shouted: “Snatch her phone. The media is recording us and not them.” I quietly put away my phone. A mob soon came charging towards us and I managed to hang on to a railing with the help of TOI photojournalist Anindya Chattopdhyay. This happened twice,” Chand wrote. Read full story

Muslim man, burqa-clad woman beaten by dozens of rioters with sticks and iron rods, says Devjyot Ghoshal of Reuters

Ghoshal said he saw a pattern established within minutes of arriving at the scene of violence. “Pro-CAA folks, most seemingly Hindu, on one side. Anti CAA folks, most seemingly Muslim, on the other,” he tweeted.

You can read his full tweet thread here and the Reuters report here.

Policemen were eating upma with Hindutva group, writes The Wire’s Naomi Barton

“When we came into the area commandeered by the Hindutva group, the most notable thing was the aura of festivity. A large group of people was shouting slogans, including the now notorious ‘goli maaro saalon ko’, while groups of people distributed biscuits. A man was carrying around a large tray filled with plates of upma, which he was giving the policemen standing by, a significant number of whom were happily partaking of the food.”

Barton writes, “We were being carefully watched, given that we were clearly not locals from the area. I peeled off a sticker from my phone which revealed what organisation I worked for, and on trying to take a video of a woman shouting the goli-maaro slogan, was immediately stopped by a man with a stick. 

“Did you just peel a sticker off your phone,” he said, as I hurriedly pushed my phone back into my bag. “Yes,” I said. “I put it on this morning.” When I turned back, the woman who was sloganeering, looked at me directly and loudly began the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ cry. 

I joined in. The man watching me backed off.”

Read the full report here

HT photojournalist Sanchit Khanna’s motorcycle burnt

“I was on the terrace of a building to cover the area and saw a group of men setting vegetable carts and a car on fire. They headed towards the police post and started pouring petrol over the parked vehicles there. Before I could react, I saw the vehicles, including my motorcycle, up in flames,” said Khanna.

Khanna continued to document the violence  but was later cornered with other photographers by a group of unarmed masked men.

“These people kept insisting that I show them the pictures that I had taken. One person was yelling to others to confiscate my camera’s memory card,” he said.

He was let go after one of the people took photos of his official ID and documents.

Read full story here

Locals guided us, Hindu family took us home, write Aishwarya S Iyer and Vakasha Sachdev for The Quint

Quint reporters Aishwarya S Iyer and Vakasha Sachdev recounted walking from Jaffrabad to Maujpur, where the mob supporting CAA had gathered.

“At one point, we had to stop moving further as a tear-gas shell blew towards Jaffrabad. Protesters promptly came forward with salt to help alleviate the gas’ effect on the throat and eyes,” they write.

At Maujpur, they said there were several policemen in gear in contrast to Jaffrabad “where they were not stepping up”.

“After we got past the police barricade, we entered Maujpur. Here we saw Jai Shri Ram flags, herds of protesters multiplying into crowds and anger hovering. We were guided by local residents to a side lane where a Hindu family very kindly took us to their home,” they write.

The reporters said their conversations with the family were “interrupted by the bang of the teargas and stones being hurled into their courtyard. Several times when the crowd ran inside the bylane, the doors had to be closed and everyone came rushing into the safety of the room.”

Read their full account here.