Night raids rattle Okhla

I showed them my Delhi voter card and Aadhar card, but they kept saying I was an illegal migrant from Bangladesh who was here to explode a bomb  

ohammed Afsar and his family were fast asleep on Friday night, when at 2 a.m. three people raided their shanty in Okhla’s Joga Bai Extension and asked for identification.

Two women and a man, armed with lathis, had landed at 40-year-old Afsar’s place looking for ‘illegal Bangladeshis’.

“I kept telling them I hadn’t done anything while they ransacked my home,” said the rickshaw-puller.

“I showed them my voter card and my Aadhar card, but they kept saying that I was an illegal migrant from Bangladesh who was here to explode a bomb,” he said. Mohammed Afsar and his wife had come to Delhi in search of jobs in 2008. A native of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Afsar’s wife, Mallika, works as a housemaid in the kothis nearby.

“We aren’t even from West Bengal, which is closest to Bangladesh,” he added.

Several neighbours came out after the family called for help and rounded up the three people. Later, the trio told the residents that they were police personnel who had come to arrest illegal migrants. Of the 42 jhuggis in Joga Bai extension’s R-block, only two families are from Bengal.

All the others are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Local police from Jamia Nagar, who were called in, seemed to be unaware of any raid. “We didn’t know that a raid was planned, or that those officials were from West Zone’s Bangladesh Cell,” said Mandeep Randhawa, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South-East). However, when the residents caught the trio, they said the man was reeking of alcohol.

“He may face suspension for being inebriated on duty,” said a police official with the West Zone. However, this isn’t the first time that the residents came out in the middle of the night and rounded up police officials dressed in plainclothes.

“Even if they were there to arrest people from Bangladesh, nobody does so at 2 a.m. The manner in which it was done raises questions, also because it was hours before Yakub Memon was to be hanged,” said the area AAP MLA, Amanatullah Khan.

Some people in the locality, meanwhile, are convinced that the Thursday night raid was an attempt to provoke the people. “It was an attempt to instigate riots and later say that it was the people venting their anger against Yakub Memon’s death penalty,” said Zafrul Islam of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat.

“Why would anyone come looking for illegal migrants at 2 a.m.?” he asked.

Ever since the Batla House encounter in 2008, surprise night raids have become common. “Boys go missing from the area. Police come dressed as civilians late in the night and take them away. Earlier, people were scared, but now they protest,” said Musharraf, a driver and Afsar’s neighbour.

The Batla House encounter is still fresh in the minds of the locals, who said they were persecuted every day with the ‘terror’ tag refusing to go away, with these raids only cementing it further. “People who are detained from this area even for petty crimes are termed ‘terrorists’,” said a resident on condition of anonymity. The mistrust is such that there have been occasions when the police came to arrest criminals involved in trafficking, robbery and murders, but had to return after people protested, mistaking it for another ‘terror raid’.

“Every time, before any big event, these raids take place and some residents are detained on suspicion. After that, they can forget a good future as a Muslim detained from Okhla area means ‘terrorist’,” said Amanatullah.

I showed them my Delhi voter card and Aadhar card, but they kept saying I was an illegal migrant from Bangladesh who was here to explode a bomb

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 10:30:27 PM |

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