Police resort to firing, use tear gas to bring the situation under control; four people suffer bullet injuries

Twenty-seven people, five of them policemen, were injured and over two dozen vehicles and a police post were damaged in clashes between two groups at Tilak Vihar in West Delhi on Thursday.

While different versions on what triggered the violence were doing the rounds, the dramatic sequence of events unfolded early in the afternoon. Following a violent clash between the two groups, the police resorted to firing and use of tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.

Eyewitnesses claimed that at least three persons were injured in police firing but the police denied these claims and said the bullets were fired in the air and not a single shot hit any person.

The clashing groups comprised of residents from two different localities in Tilak Vihar. Both these groups — Sikhs and residents of Harijan Colony — live a few hundred metres apart. The police post which was damaged by the angry mob is located in between the two localities. Some policemen said clashes in the area were frequent but before Thursday they were sporadic in nature and had never snowballed into something so big.

Charan Singh, a resident of A block in Tilak Nagar, said it was around 3 p.m. that two boys from their area had gone to the neighbouring Harijan Colony on a motorcycle where they had an argument with a group of people over rash driving. The argument soon turned ugly and both were assaulted.

“When they returned, they told us about the incident and some of us went to the Harijan Colony where a mob threw stones at us and we responded by pelting stones in the same manner,” said another A block resident.

Tilak Vihar Harijan Colony Residents’ Welfare Association president Satyanarayan Dulgach had a similar take on what triggered the incident. “The problem started when boys from the Sikh community started performing dangerous stunts on their motorcycle on the colony streets. Despite being warned against indulging in this sport on a crowded street, the boys did not pay heed and a heated argument ensued which eventually led to members from both communities getting involved. Later matters went from bad to worse.”

Admitting that members of both communities pelted stones at each other, he said the police had to resort to lathi-charge, use of tear gas and firing to control the crowd.

“The mob has damaged two of my cars, besides setting fire to vehicles of the police and area residents. The police post has also been hit and the members of the Sikh community also pelted stones and beat up on-duty police personnel,” said Mr. Dulgach.

According to the police, when personnel of the Tilak Vihar Police Post tried to bring the situation under control, they were attacked with stones, bricks and glass bottles by members of both sides. From the sign board to documents and furniture, everything lay shattered at the police post, bearing testimony to the scale of violence witnessed there. At least two Police Control Room vans were also damaged and several two-wheelers also bore the brunt of mob fury.

Soon, reinforcements, including additional force and water canons, were called in and the police used tear gas to disperse the agitated crowd. The situation was brought under control around 8 p.m. but an uneasiness remained.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital medical superintendent Dr. Savita Babbar said: “Twenty-seven people were brought to the hospital from the Tilak Vihar area. Of them, four had sustained bullet injuries and are admitted at the hospital. One of them is critical after having sustained bullet injuries in the abdomen. He has been operated upon and is under observation. Most of the others have been discharged after first-aid.”

Paramjit Singh Sarna, former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president, who visited Tilak Vihar, denied that the clash had anything to do with rash driving.

“Four members of the Sikh community have been seriously injured, including one child, in the fight between the two communities. The community people have told me that the fight started after children from both the sides started fighting over kites. The parents got involved when one Sikh boy was badly beaten up. Members from both the communities threw stones at each other and destroyed police vehicles,” he said.

“At the moment, the two communities have been cordoned-off and the police are not allowing the members to cross the streets to avoid the situation from further escalating. Tempers are running high and people are annoyed with what they claim to be over-aggressive police action. This is the fourth such incident in the area,” said Mr. Sarna, who is also the president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi).

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