Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) led a four-member team of law students, research scholars and teachers on a fact-finding in Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar in North-East Delhi on March 11th 2020. This fact-finding hoped to document and bring to light the condition of the people in the area weeks after the violence that broke out on February 23rd 2020. The team spoke with the families of those who were killed, those who were injured, those who were detained, many who had been at the protest site since it began in January as well as residents who had provided medical care and helped ensure the release of the arrested and detained in the days after the violence.
The report deals with the ways in which the residents, particularly women, children and health-care professionals, faced three days of terror, the ways in which their lives have changed and how they see the struggle against CAA, NRC and NPR in the days ahead.

Team: Anurag, Jyoti, Rahul and Vishal

Brief Overview of the Situation in Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar in North East Delhi

Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar are two adjacent colonies along the Shahdara Canal in North East Delhi. They are located south of Gokulpuri, east of Yamuna Vihar, north of Baburpur and west of the Shahdara area. The nearest police station is Jyoti Nagar Thana. Since January 17th 2020, Kardampuri has witnessed peaceful protests against the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). The protest site located at the Kardampuri Puliya, a bridge across the Shahdara Canal, was occupied primarily by women of the locality. Witnessing participation from a large number of people from both Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar, the protest site had become a place for the residents to congregate and discuss the CAA, NRC and NPR among other issues. Residents, largely workers and small proprietors, are engaged in stitching, packing and selling textiles like denims and jackets, running small electronics stores and plying taxis, autos and pushcarts. Nearly ninety percent of residents are Muslims, the rest being Dalit with a handful of Sikhs as well. The Maujpur-Baburpur Road is the primary route by which residents enter and exit the colony.

On Sunday 23rd 2020, responding to the call given by the Bhim Army for a Bharat Bandh, the residents of the Kardampuri shut shops and gathered at the protest site on the Kardampuri Puliya. Just a few hundred meters away, at the Maujpur Chowk, BJP leader Kapil Mishra and other BJP leaders standing alongside the North East Delhi DCP Ved Prakash Surya, made incendiary speeches. Kapil Mishra had said, “DCP is with us. I’m making one thing clear on all our behalf—we will hold our peace until Trump leaves.  After that, if the roads are not cleared, we won’t even listen to you”. Mishra threatened to take law into his own hands if the protests were not stopped and protestors removed from protest sites. Moments after this speech, stone pelting on the Maujpur-Baburpur Chowk began as the police looked on. There are several videos made by those pelting stones as well as by Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar residents looking out on to the main road from their homes. The area remained tense and incidents of youth being accosted, robbed and beaten started to emerge. In response to the tense situation, more residents from Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar reached the protest site and the Bharat Bandh was successfully observed.

On Monday February 24th at around 3:30 pm, a mob emerged from under the Maujpur flyover and proceeded down the Maujpur road with what appeared to be uniformed and combat ready police leading the charge. Chanting Jai Shree Ram, carrying saffron flags and bearing weapons like stones, bricks, lathis, rods, etc., the mob proceeded to hurl stones at the protest site while the protestors at the site, approximately 300-400 women, attempted to protect themselves. Police then fired tear gas into the protest site which caused a large number of women to run into the adjacent colonies in hopes of escaping the stinging smoke. Those remaining at the protest site were then lathi-charged by the police. A handful tried to hide under the blankets and rajais but were beaten brutally. After dispersing everyone from the protest site, police continued to fire tear gas shells into the colonies. This was followed by the firing of explosive shells and live bullets at residents. Several of the residents of Kardampuri have severe injuries ranging from bullet wounds to injuries caused by shrapnel from explosive shells. Many women were also brutally beaten with lathis. Even two weeks this attack, there were some who still suffer from breathing problems caused by exposure to tear gas. Three young men from Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar have also died in the violence that swept across North East Delhi. Among these is Faizan, the young man in blue seen in the infamous video revealing Delhi police personnel beating five young men, forcing them to sing the national anthem. He later died from injuries received that day. Several hundred young men have been picked up from Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar and kept in illegal custody at unknown locations before being sent to Mandoli Jail. The arrests and detentions of young men has increased forcing residents, particularly those living on rent, to abandon their homes and move elsewhere. Police and paramilitary presence in the area is conspicuous. Alongside them are plain clothed police and intelligence personnel who are arbitrarily picking up young men in the name of interrogation. The sense of terror is palpable causing residents to avoid main roads and keep day and night vigil to protect themselves from known and unknown threats and outsiders.

Purpose of the Fact-Finding

As news of the situation in North East Delhi dries up with day by day fewer reports emerging of the condition of people following the three days of carnage, killings, destruction and arson, it was felt that there was a need to visit these areas to understand the condition of the people who bore witness to these atrocities many of which were committed in broad daylight. The sense of terror, while palpable, also reveals a sense of resilience as the residents of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar are struggling to make sense of what has happened while finding ways to avoid being detained or arrested by the police. The crackdown in the form of arrests and detentions have increased over the last week, adding to the sense of terror as family members are forced to visit jails and bribe officials to the tune of tens of thousands of rupees to release their loved ones. This fear of right-wing goons entering the colony at night and wreaking havoc coupled with the fear of police has created a tense climate in the area. Lawyers Against Atrocities put together a team of law students, university students and teachers in order to speak to the residents of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar in North East Delhi, to document their experience and make sense of the events following February 23rd 2020.

Dr. Rashid (Name Changed), the local doctor who provided first aid to residents

Since February 23rd, Dr. Rashid has worked around the clock to provide primary medical aid to all those injured during the violence. In the evening following Kapil Mishra’s speech, people from across the locality came to him with a wide range of injuries. Many recounted how they were stopped, asked for their names, had their belongings stolen from them and then were badly beaten by the mob on the main road. Rashid dressed their wounds, including several head injuries, and dissuaded people from going to the main road. Thinking at first that the injuries were the result of minor scuffles, he even reprimanded several young boys that came to him. The next day, on February 24th between 4 and 5 pm, while at Yamuna Vihar to procure food and rations for those who had been sitting at the protest site, he received frantic calls from his family urging him to return immediately. Avoiding the main road and making his way through the by-lanes and gullies, he realised the situation had drastically worsened. After returning home by 5:30 pm, several people arrived at his clinic complaining of injuries and breathing difficulties. Many stated that “police k saath log hai jo pathraav kar rahe hai” (there are people with the police who are pelting stones). They also said these people were not locals but outsiders. For the next three hours, Dr. Rashid dressed wounds, including some bullet injuries, and referred some people to nearby hospitals. At one point, a young man named Rajesh, who appeared to have been badly beaten, was carried into his clinic by another named Salman. Rajesh, a resident of Yamuna Vihar was returning home from work when the mob caught and beat him. Salman managed to rescue him from the crowd brought him to Dr. Rashid. As the police were unwilling to help Rajesh return home, Dr. Rashid, after assuring Rajesh’s family of his safety, housed him at his clinic until they arranged for this safe travel.

The following day, i.e. on Tuesday February 25th, more people were brought to him, several of whom had serious injuries. Among them was Faizan, a 14-year-old boy, who appeared to have a spinal injury. As neither police nor ambulances were responding to calls, a local journalist took Faizan to the GTB hospital where he was subsequently operated on. Surgery revealed a bullet wound in Faizan’s spine which left one of his legs partially paralysed. On Thursday February 26th, another Faizan (the 22-year-old visible in the infamous video where the police are seen torturing five young boys on the street) was brought to Dr. Rashid by his mother. As his condition was severe, Dr. Rashid urged that he be taken to a hospital. Fearing arrest, Faizan had to be convinced that there was no other option. His condition severely deteriorating, Faizan was finally taken to LNJP Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

By February 26th, several women, young and old, came to Dr. Rashid complaining of pain and fearing death. Physical symptoms included breathlessness, while their behavior revealed severe trauma, anxiety and mental strain. Unable to treat mental illnesses, Dr. Rashid referred them to the IHBAS Hospital in Shahdara.

During the interview, Dr. Rashid remarked that it was fortuitous that he had stocked his medical supplies just days before the violence broke out. He found that the people were afraid of the police with several refusing to get medical care in fear that they would be targeted if they go to hospitals and clinics. Several were also in trauma on account of what happened to them over the three days of February 24th, 25th and 26th. The violence inflicted on protests that had been peaceful for over 35 days, has left people terrorised. Now, with several more afraid of being picked up, the fear is increasing. Even as he was treating an old lady who had come to him complaining of breathlessness weeks after inhaling tear gas, Dr. Rashid recounted providing medical care to those who had been sitting day and night at the protest site. He said, “I was giving medicines in the medical camp set up at the protest site. They can pick me up too.”

Malka Aunty, a resident who witnessed the violence break out first hand

Malka Aunty, a fifty-year-old lady who had been at the protest site since the protests began in January, spoke about the current climate of fear She said people are awake day and night standing watch along the gates of the colonies and in the streets. On February 23rd, due to the presence of mobs on the Maujpur-Baburpur road and incidents of stone pelting, the situation was palpably tense. Nonetheless, protests continued with large numbers observing the Bharat Bandh. However, on the following day, the situation worsened. Malka Aunty, standing atop the foot over bridge in front of the Kardampuri Puliya, saw firsthand the mob pelting stones at the protest site. From the elevated position, she saw how the coordination between uniformed police and the mob. She saw how the police lathi-charged those at the protest site and used tear gas to disperse the crowd below. Fearing for herself, she managed to hide in a washroom near the mohalla clinic and escaped the armed crowd by claiming that she was merely there to use the facilities. While in the toilet complex, she saw the mob throw copies of the Yasin Sharif (verses of the Quran) into the fire. A young man, Furqan, ran past her in an attempt to save the Yasin Sharif but never returned. His body was found later ridden with bullets at GTB Hospital with the bullet wounds on the front of the body. When Malka Aunty returned to the colony, she saw how the residents of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar tried to fight the effects of the tear gas by dousing those affected with water. She too joined in this using a pressure hose. Malka Aunty recounted how one resident, Aslam, picked up what appeared to be a tear gas canister hoping to throw it away. However, it exploded severing his thumb. It was, in fact, one of the explosive shells launched at the protestors by the police. This carnage continued for three and a half hours. That night the residents of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar kept vigil in the streets of the colony and attempted to review the events of the day, gathering information on friends and loved ones and assessing the damage done to the shops and warehouses on the front lanes of the colony.

The next morning, on February 25th, the attack started again. Many people started going missing and Malka Aunty suspects many others fled as well. Still, a sizable number of residents were determined to return to the protest site but when a couple of young men came rushing towards them shouting “they’ve come, they’ve come”, the residents rushed back into the colony in fear. The mob then set fire to the protest site, the tent and blankets included. She said, “jab police unki hai, prashasan unki hai, toh hum kya karein?” (when the police are theirs, when the administration is theirs, what can we do”).

Malka Aunty stated that those who attacked the protest site were largely outsiders but also included some who she identified as residents of Gokulpuri. However, the targeted attacks on Muslim homes and shops and on masjids and shrines reveals the help of several residents of the area. Malka Aunty said that even today, weeks after the violence ended, residents stand guard all night keeping vigil with fires lit. The fear of outsiders entering is immense and efforts are on to collect money from residents to install gates in the colonies. She noted how the increasing arrests of youth from the colony since March 8th have aggravated the sense of fear. Every evening residents find out that 10-11 more youth have been picked up. Alongside this, on a few occasions 4-5 unknown men on bikes have attempted to enter the colony at night. When asked why they are lurking in the area, they respond, “hum paratha khaane aaye hai” (we’ve come to eat parathas). She asked, “why would these youth, visibly RSS men, come to the area to eat parathas at 3 am?” She said that the residents usually hand over these men to the police stationed on the main road and remarked that this happens despite the police sitting on the main road. She said the police has conducted 2-3 flag marches in the area since the violence began, with the first one held on February 25th. She spoke of the “parking” area where pushcarts belonging to the residents were kept was burnt down by the mob. She noted how even teenagers were not spared. The police picked up a 17-year-old boy but subsequently let him go after taking his phone and other belongings. Those who were badly injured during the three days of violence are still refusing to get medical attention from hospitals fearing that they’ll be arrested and charged. She was upset that while the mainstream media is reporting on the deaths of police officers and IB personnel like Ankit Sharma, the tens of others killed remain anonymous. She wanted people to know the condition of the people in the area today. Remarking on how the sleepless nights and endless vigils reveal a sense of terror, she said “Ab toh Chaiwala ne sabko chowkidaar bana diya” (the Chaiwala has turned everyone into watchmen), she said.

Baby Aunty, a domestic worker who has been at the protest site since the day it began

A forty-year-old woman, with four children, Baby Aunty has lived in Kardampuri for the last twenty-three years. When the protests began, she gave up her work and spent most of her time at the protest site trying to understand how the CAA, NRC and NPR would affect her family. She said, “we didn’t know much about CAA, NRC and the NPR. When we came to the protest site and heard others speak about it, when several more people came to address the gathering at the site, we understood how this affects us.” She remarked that many among the Muslim community felt that they would be deported. She asked, “where will we go? Our ancestors are from here.” At the protest site, she heard about the protests in other areas which helped build unity among protestors. Calling the protest site her second home, she recounted how she would sit together with her friends, eating, drinking tea, discussing the unravelling political situation and hearing the various people, students, lawyers, professors and other activists, who came to speak at Kardampuri. Despite the cold, she and the other women kept the protests running day and night equipping the site with bedding brought from their homes. When word came of a call for a Bharat Bandh on February 23rd, she and other protestors collectively decided to observe it.

On February 23rd, the regular protestors were joined by several hundreds more, all caught up in the spirit of the Bharat Bandh. On the next day, Baby Aunty said the situation suddenly turned deadly. Stones flew into the protest site in which many children were present, followed by the police swinging lathis and launching tear gas shells. The protestors having never witnessed anything similar, were completely unprepared.

Fear has gripped the residents of Kardampuri ever since. They have begun pooling money to install iron gates at the entrances of the colony. Baby Aunty feels reassured by these measures saying they provide a sense of security at a time when unknown persons are seen roaming the streets at night. Nonetheless, many residents have left Kardampuri immediately following the violence, especially those living in rented accommodations. Some have moved to other localities or have returned to their villages. Some families that have stayed have instead sent children, especially young girls, to live with relatives in other areas. Many workers employed in the various workshops in the colony returned to their homes in UP and are only now returning in small numbers. As March is the month of exams, including Board Exams, many children’s education has suffered. Parents fearing for children either escort them to and from school or keep them at home. Babu Aunty remarked that the 130 children in the nearby Madrassa at Brijpuri Puliya have been particularly affected by the violence as their Maulvi was killed by the mob.

Faizan’s family, the young man killed after being brutally tortured in police custody

The infamous video of five young Muslim men writhing in pain on the road captured from the perspective of their tormentors, the Delhi Police, has circulated widely since February 24th 2020. The police personnel can be heard verbally abusing the youth, repeatedly beating them with batons and forcing them to sing the national anthem and “Vande Mataram” while mockingly asking them if this is the freedom they want. It is later learnt that the youth were then taken to the Jyoti Nagar police station, kept in detention illegally for two days and brutally beaten by the police. The family members of the detained youth were not informed and all efforts of the family members to meet them were rebuffed by the police personnel at the station. On the second day of illegal detention, i.e. on the night of February 25th, Kismattoon, the mother of Faizan, the youth in the video wearing a blue shirt, was urgently called to the police station at 1 am. On arriving there, the police handed over her son, barely alive and unrecognisable due to the severity of his injuries. She struggled to get him back home and get him medical care. He was barely able to speak or breathe properly. The next day early morning, she took him to Dr. Rashid in the colony. Dr. Rashid found that he was barely able to read the blood pressure or gauge his pulse as his injuries were severe and included internal injuries. He urged that Faizan be taken to a hospital immediately. Faizan opposed the idea of going to GTB hospital fearing being taken under custody and beaten again. His mother then took him to LNJP Hospital. Here, he was declared dead on arrival.

Faizan worked in the mandi from 5 am till late evening every day. He was 22-years-old and living with his mother; he used to be a tailor and when he didn’t find work, he started going to the mandi. He didn’t go for the protests. Besides his mother who is over 60 years old, he is survived by his elder brother and sister. On the 24th of February, he was one among the several young men who were picked up and beaten indiscriminately by the police between 5-6 pm on the Maujpur main road. Several videos of the beatings are circulating amongst the people of North-East Delhi. They were beaten a mere hundred meters away from the Kardampuri Puliya right opposite the Mohalla Clinic. In the video it is clear that he was not conscious and had been beaten for some time. Instead of providing him medical care, he was beaten again in police custody. When it appeared that his condition had worsened, his family was called to take him away. No treatment was provided to him. After his death, his body was given to the family after three days. So far, the Delhi government has provided the family with 1 lakh rupees out of the total 10 lakh rupees promised as compensation. They are yet to be provided with his post-mortem report.

Faizan’s mother spoke about the tear gas and how she struggled to escape it. Once the videos of her son being beaten were circulated, she visited the police station thrice but was not allowed to meet her son. She spoke of the injuries on his body, how it was black and blue and there were several visible marks of him having been struck by lathis (batons). When the police handed him over to her, his body had swollen all over, he had a deep gash above his ear and he was barely able to speak. His clothes had to be cut open as the swelling was so severe. She had no faith in the police and said that the pain, fear, helplessness and the many sleepless nights had dried her tears. She spoke of how she had been living in the area for over 32 years. She had lost her husband twenty years ago and raised her kids as a single mother struggling to make ends meet. She said, “police se lad nahi sakte, hum gareeb log hai” (we can’t fight the police, we are poor). Faizan’s mother is unsure how she will survive as she was dependent on her younger son.

Shaheen, Raja’s sister, whose brother was picked up, detained and then released

Shaheen spoke to us about her brother, Shahzad alias Raja, who was picked up one morning in the week following the violence when he was waiting at the Kardampuri Puliya for the vehicle of his employer. He delivers gas cylinders in the area. 8-10 plain-clothed police personnel picked him up from the bridge and threw him into the back of an auto. He was then taken to an unknown location and detained throughout the day. When his family members found out, they scrambled to locate him. After the intervention of several people in the locality including a local lawyer, Raja was brought to the Jyoti Nagar police station and then released that night.

Raja is a twenty-four-year-old man with two children. His wife is pregnant with the third child. At ten am when he was waiting for the truck that delivers gas cylinders, he was picked up from the side of the road. His family was not notified. He was not told why he was picked up. When he was taken to the unknown location, he found that there were three others besides him who had been similarly picked up. In fact, over the last several days, 10-11 people are being similarly picked up every day, their family members are not informed and when they go searching for them to the police station, the family is asked to provide different sums of money ranging from 50,000 to lakhs of rupees to ensure their release. If they are unable to provide the money at short notice, charges are filed against these men including cases of rioting, rioting armed with deadly weapons, unlawful assembly and arson among other things. The men are being picked up at any time of the day or night, arbitrarily and without explanation. This has created fresh panic among the people of Kardampuri and men are refusing to leave homes. In fact, the women of the household have taken to accompanying the men, taking them through the lanes and streets inside the colony while avoiding the main road. While Raja has returned home and is once again going to work, he refuses to use the main road.

Shaheen repeatedly asked, “kis wajah se unhe uthaya ja raha hai?” (why are these men being picked up?) We are asking the government, why are they doing this to us, she said. She wonders what would happen to the women in the colony if the men are picked up and those who had attacked them on February 24th, 25th and 26th return. The people of the colony now keep vigil day and night taking turns to guard the colony and ensure that outsiders do not lurk in the lanes and streets. She asked three things, firstly, why are people being picked up in this manner? Secondly, why are people like Kapil Mishra who instigated this violence not being picked up? And finally, why was the protest dispersed in such a brutal manner by the police? She said CAA, NRC and NPR are policies targeted against the poor. If we don’t have proof of citizenship as per the requirements set by the government, we will be declared non-citizens. Then, we would be expected to run from pillar to post, go to court and prove our identity. How can the poor afford to do this? She said, “agar hum apne haq ke liye nahi ladenge, toh kaun ladega?” (if we do not fight for our rights, who will?)

Sukhbir (name changed), a Sikh woman who had been at the protest site since it began

Along with her young son, Sukhbir was at the protest site since it began on January 17th. She spoke of how the peaceful protest had been going on for over a month and how people in the colony, despite the cold, would go to the protest site daily of their own volition, sharing house work to ensure participation. Every day, more and more women joined the protest. The women would send their children to school, prepare food, finish housework and then make their way to the Kardampuri Puliya. The sense of solidarity kept them going and built a strong sense of unity. Over the course of a month, Sukhbir had spent several nights at the protest site along with her five-year-old son. But things changed on February 24th, she said. After the violence broke out on the Maujpur-Baburpur main road, the peaceful protest turned into a nightmare. On February 25th, the women tried to return to the protest site but they were dispersed. After this, the protest site, including the tent, the hundreds of blankets, the sound system and people’s belongings were torched by the mob. She said nothing like this had happened in this area before now. She compared it with 1984 riots and said, “ye aisa tha jaise 1984 pe jab Sardaaron pe aayiti” (this was like what happened with the Sikhs in 1984). She said that this has filled the hearts of the people of Kardampuri with fear.

Sukhbir said the schools in the area have shut down and the children have nowhere to go. Responding to the increasing arrests of youth from the locality, Sukhbir asked, why are they being picked up? Who amongst us has birth certificates to prove our ancestry? And, why is Kapil Mishra not being arrested for instigating the violence that engulfed the area for three days? She felt that if the climate of fear ended, the women of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar would definitely want to return to the protest site. She felt sure that the spirit of struggle built at the protest tent would survive this climate of fear.

Furqan Qureshi, a local Congress member who ensured the release of several youth following their arbitrary detention

Furqan Qureshi is a middle-aged man working for the Indian National Congress. After the worst of the violence in the area, when local youth were getting picked up arbitrarily by the police, and when their family members were not being allowed inside the police station, he used his influence to enter the police station to ensure the release of tens of youth. He spoke of the manner in which BJP leader Kapil Mishra along with Ragini Tiwari and Jitendra Singh instigated the violence and orchestrated the looting and burning of homes, workshops, gas stations, masjids, mazhars and dargahs. He said they brought people from outside, provided weapons and gave free rein to terrorise the people of North East Delhi. He blamed them for the deaths of tens of youth.

Speaking of the arrests of youth in the area, he said if people don’t pay up the money to release their loved ones, they are being charged with cases. The police are making dossiers on the youth of the locality and raising the threat of arrest to ensure that the people remain terrorised. During the worst of the violence, when he tried to call the police for help, they refused to come. Now the place is swarming with personnel from the Crime Branch and Special Cell of the Delhi Police. “Apne hi log ghayal hue, apne hi log mare, aur phir apne hi logon k upar cases darj kiye ja rahe hain” (our own were injured, our own were killed and now our own are being charged with cases), he said. The people of the locality are attempting to make sense of how to fight for the release of the youth being picked up in this manner. When asked why the police is arresting the youth in this manner he said, “woh apni marzi se kar rahe hain” (they are doing whatever they want). When the DCP Ved Prakash Surya stood next to Kapil Mishra as he made that incendiary speech, it gave the mob the audacity to commit violence and a sense of impunity regarding consequences. He blames the local beat officer Yogesh Bhati for the targeting of youth in the area. He spoke of the treatment being meted out to them when they go to the police station. The police are calling family members to the station under the pretext of providing food for their loved ones, using communal abusive language against them and threatening further action against the Muslim community. He felt, “the force is not for us”. He said the need of the hour is to instill confidence in the people. He felt that a FIR should be filed against Kapil Mishra, Ragini Tiwari, Jitendra Singh and others for instigating the violence. Alongside this, the detained youth should be released and there should be an end to all such arbitrary arrests.

Faizan’s family, the family of the 14-year-old boy who suffered a bullet injury to the spine and is now partially paralysed

Faizan is a 14-year-old boy who lives alone with his grandmother. His mother had passed away and his father abandoned him. He discontinued his education in Class VII, and, thereafter, has been engaged in odd jobs such as helping his grandmother stitch jeans. He had never been a part of the protests. On the morning of February 25th at around 11 am, against the wishes of his grandmother, he went out to get food. On the streets outside, he got caught in a crowd that ran in his direction and was knocked to the ground. When he stood up, he was shot in the spine. Even though multiple calls were made to the police and for an ambulance, the ambulance did not turn up. Dr. Rashid, the local doctor, dressed his wound and a local journalist took Faizan to GTB Hospital where he was successfully operated on. His grandmother had no idea about his whereabouts till she was informed of his injury in the evening and taken to the hospital to meet him. He has since been discharged and is recovering at home, looked after by his grandmother and aunt. Faizan lies in bed all day and can engage in only some basic exercises for the recovery of his partially paralysed right leg. He is bed-ridden and needs constant attention and assistance. The doctors have not given any estimates as to how long his leg will take to recover. They are hopeful of a full recovery but insist it will take a considerable amount of time. Faizan is still traumatised about the events of the day. His family is worried about the mental and physical trauma that will affect him for years to come and will only get worse given the climate of fear that continues to pervade the area. Though there are many perpetrators that can clearly be identified in videos and by victims themselves, they wondered why they have not been named and made to face the consequences for their actions.

Farhana (name changed), a woman who had been part of the protests who suffered severe head injuries following the stone pelting by the mob and the brutal lathi-charge

Farhana (name changed) is a middle-aged Muslim woman, has suffered a severe head injury and received 9 stitches for the same, from the stone pelting done by the mob that attacked the protest site on Kadampuri Puliya. Accompanied by her youngest daughter, Farhana had joined and regularly frequented the protest on the bridge soon after it began on January 17th. Through the protests, her family had been able to understand what the NRC-CAA was intended to do and realised the importance of fighting against it. Her family spoke about observing the Bharat Bandh and how, despite the presence of the mob on the Maujpur-Baburpur main road, February 23rd was the best day of the protest so far as it had attracted the largest crowd seen till then also saw the introduction of a new and better sound system. Luckily, her daughter had left sometime earlier that day. Farhana says that a peaceful vigil was conducted on the evening of February 24th where many women were reading their duas. This was interrupted by the news of an approaching mob accompanied by the police. First, stones started raining down on the tents, and before she knew it, she was struck by one on her head. She was carried to safety by a young man, and later transported to the hospital where she received 9 stitches on her head. Her family blamed the BJP-RSS and specifically Kapil Mishra’s incendiary speeches for deliberately polarising and spreading hatred between communities. They were also critical of the AAP Government that did not step in immediately to provide relief to the affected areas.  They raised concern regarding the future of the young boys arbitrarily picked up and charged by the police. They said that many children have been sent to their relatives’ places elsewhere in case of further violence. They spoke of the temporary stoppage of work in the area and how immigrant labourers from neighbouring states had returned home in the wake of the violence. They mentioned that some of these labourers were being stopped at the border as their ID cards marked them as ‘outsiders’ and how they were arrested by the police on the charge that they were ‘rioters’. Farhana’s family were terrified of the repercussions from the state, the police and the violent mob that could continue to target them. They were even scared about the misuse of the MLC that had already been prepared at the hospital in their name.

Observations

The events following BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s incendiary speech saw a rapid deterioration of the situation in North East Delhi. The targeted attack on the Muslim community in the area is felt by all residents. This was a planned anti-Muslim pogrom carried out by right-wing mobs and designed to quell the peaceful protests on-going for over a month by those opposing CAA, NRC and NPR. Those interviewed were of the opinion that “Sarkar se thi ladai, ye kar diya aur protest khatm kar diya” (our struggle was against the policies of the State, they have done this and put an end to the protest). This is being seen as a concerted effort of the central government to put an end to the protest, portray the events as a clash between communities and divert attention away from the struggle against CAA, NRC and NPR.

The mob that attacked the protest site was accompanied by police forces. The protesting women resisted the initial stone pelting by the mob. However, the subsequent tear gas-shelling forced them to disperse. The testimonies of the people interviewed clearly reveal the police’s role in abetting and orchestrating the violence on the Kadampuri protest site through the RSS-Bajrang Dal-led mob. “Ye sirf Hinduon ka nahi, ye desh ka hamla hai hum par” (This isn’t only an attack of Hindus, but an attack by the country on us). While Muslim homes, workshops and religious sites were systematically attacked, looted and torched, those belonging to other communities including Hindus and Sikhs are unscathed. The locals insist on knowing how, in such a situation with clear evidence, could they be accused and charged for the violence. There were accusations of misbehaviour on the part of medical staff in the hospitals as well as suggestions of negligence on the part of the police that perhaps led to more deaths. The refusal of the AAP state government to immediately provide relief or attempt to stop the violence betray the inherent Islamophobia of the recently elected party. The arbitrary arrests of young Muslim men from the streets has created a tense atmosphere and the presence of the state forces in the form of armed personnel is continuing to spread fear in the areas of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar.

There is a complete breakdown of trust and faith in the state machinery to safeguard the community’s interests. The resilience of the women who have led the protests so far and the young men who have faced the brutalities needs to be highlighted. The women are even ready to peacefully protest again as is their democratic right, provided there is an assurance of safety and security. The goal of the mob and police were to enter the locality and cause havoc by engaging in looting, arson and violence. However, in Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar the locals blocked the lanes and entryways ensuring their protection from the immense destruction seen in other areas. While the residents have remained united even in the face of this immense crackdown on the peaceful protest including killings of youth, grave injuries to the women and children protesting and the sustained arrests and detentions, the dominant narrative in the media has been one of “violence from both sides” and “clashes between communities”. Despite this, the people of Kardampuri and Kabir Nagar remained resolute. Even as each of them is coming to terms with the trauma of the three days of violence, they are building stronger networks of care and collectively deciding how to proceed in the days ahead in their struggle against the CAA, NRC and NPR.

Demands

  1. Immediate end to the arrests and detention of Muslim youth.
  2. Immediate removal of police force and personnel who have been responsible for creating a climate of fear in the area.
  3. Immediate arrest of BJP leader Kapil Mishra and others for instigating the violence and orchestrating the attack on the residents of the area.
  4. Adequate compensation to the families of those who have been killed and medical attention and compensation to those who have been injured.
  5. Efforts to establish peace and a sense of security among the people.

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