‘Police picking up boys after asking their name’

(Clockwise from top left) Security personnel keeping vigil in north-east Delhi on Monday; Asiya with her new bag which she got during distribution of relief material; Dilshad Ali, whose son is under arrest after a fortnight in detention.   | Photo Credit: DEL10 Mustafabad

An eerie calm pervaded the narrow bylanes of Mustafabad on the eve of Holi as those affected by the riots ambled down their paths to rehabilitation with gloom in their eyes and files containing details of their dead, missing or detained kin tucked beneath their arms.

Mirza Muzaffar Ali, who owns and operates locally popular Baba Juice Corner in the area, claimed he hadn’t seen such an atmosphere, laden with apprehensions about “what it could bring” prior to the festival, in six decades.

Whisked boys

“In my 66 years, I have never seen an atmosphere like this. There is a lot of police deployment in the area, generally because of what happened and also because of Holi...People, especially young boys, are being picked up... residents like us are used to things like that around festivals but now it is happening on a much larger all my life I haven’t seen or felt such fear and apprehension prior to Holi – not even when, and after, the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992,” Ali said.

Meanwhile, women, children and senior citizens queued up on the main Mustafabad Road leading towards Karawal Nagar for hours to get their hands on relief material ranging from rations and clothes to stationery and footwear.

As small pyres for traditional Holika Dahan materialised at Bhagirathi Vihar across the road, residents alleged that four to five boys from each bylane on both sides of the street – but “mostly from just one community” – had been picked up by the police for their alleged involvement in the riots which claimed 53 lives across communities.

Bas naam poochte hain aur utha lete hain...Har gali se 4 se 5 ladke utha rakhe hain [They just ask your name and pick you up. Four to five boys have been picked up from each bylane],” alleged Sultan Mirza, a resident of Mustafabad.

“The time of day doesn’t matter; the police just come and whisk the boys away whenever they want. A significant number of those detained for the riots are from here,” claimed Ali Mehdi, another resident.

Photo:Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu

Photo:Sushil Kumar Verma / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Families clueless

While the families of those placed under detention since February 24, according to residents, made rounds of police stations and the Karkardooma Courts complex here on Monday, some of them, such as Shahdab Alam’s father Dilshad Ali, are waiting for the next court hearing to catch a glimpse of their kin.

The 27-year-old was detained from the Samrat Medical Store, the biggest and most popular among around two dozen such establishments in the area where he has been employed for eight years, on February 24 and is now under arrest after a fortnight in detention “despite proof of non-involvement provided by his Hindu employer,” Ali alleged.

“He and his colleague, Arshad, had gone to take part in a religious congregation near Karol Bagh on Monday morning and returned in the afternoon. When the violence was unfolding, my son and Arshad were in the shop. Their employer even showed the police CCTV footage to establish their innocence – but both of them were picked up,” Ali claimed, adding that the police had “shown his arrest” from a different location.

“His phone got switched off and we were left fearing for his safety at home. The police didn’t allow us to step out of our homes because of the situation till 11 p.m. We were finally able to track him to Dayalpur police station...we went there to meet him and were told that he would be let off after routine questioning. I could hear his cries as they beat him and Arshad up inside the lock up but didn’t let us meet him. It has been 14 days since they got him and have now put him in jail...I can only see him on the March 13,” Ali lamented.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 3:52:04 AM |

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