Residents of Majnu Ka Tila are a petrified lot these days. Intermittent stone-pelting by unruly juvenile inmates of the special observation home on Magazine Road here has forced some to shut down their shops, while the others dread venturing out as a projectile may land on them anytime.
The spate of violence, which erupted at the juvenile home on Wednesday night when a group of inmates went on the rampage clashing with the private security staff and setting beddings ablaze alleging ill-treatment, continues unabated. Once used as an arsenal under the British rule, the special home has now been virtually taken over by the legally minor inmates. The private security guards who kept a watch on their activities have now been driven out.
Stationed outside the periphery wall are some policemen from the IIIrd Battalion of the Delhi Armed Police, who have also thrown their hands up stating that they are bound by the law since they cannot enter the home premises and “discipline” the juveniles without permission from the authorities concerned.
On Saturday, similar scenes were witnessed with bricks, stones and pieces of glass strewn all over a road adjoining the juvenile home. Glass windows of multi-storey houses and shops in the neighbourhood were smashed. Through the barbed-wire fencing along the periphery, the inmates would accost shopkeepers, threatening them with dire consequences if they did not provide cigarettes, bidis and match-boxes.
Cleaning up the mess outside his house, an irate resident said: “I have been living here for the past seven years, but never witnessed such violence by the inmates. They do not appear to be juveniles. For the past three days we are living under constant fear. In the stone-pelting today, a contractor suffered serious injuries in the eye and a young woman was also hurt. They have broken the barbed wire at several places in a bid to escape. We sought assistance from the police, at which we were advised to pay back to the inmates in the same coin. How can we do that?”
Karma Dolma, whose house was also targeted, complained that the juveniles passed lewd remarks at women passers-by. “They bare themselves making indecent gestures at girls crossing the road. It is an everyday occurrence, but nothing is being done. The residents had also called up the Police Control Room, but the policemen attending to the distress call simply took a round of the area and went back without taking any action,” she complained.
Earlier on Saturday, a Delhi High Court Judge had visited the home along with two magistrates to take stock of the situation. The Department of Women & Child Development director Rajiv Kale was also part of the delegation. “The authorities planned to shift six of the juveniles, who were on the building roof along with the others, to Sewa Kutir at Mukherjee Nagar. A Delhi Armed Police vehicle had also been brought for the purpose. However, the inmates refused to cooperate with the home staff,” said an official.
Hoping for a reprieve, area residents met the magistrates to apprise them of the volatile situation and the nuisance created by the home inmates. “We have also urged the area MLA to do something about it. Several persons have sustained injuries in the stone-pelting by the inmates,” said Colony Residents’ Welfare Association president Karten Tsering.
Expressing helplessness, a policeman alleged: “We are not even authorised to enter the premises. Guarding the home periphery is also a thankless job. A few months ago when some children escaped from the juvenile home, punishment was meted out to seven policemen, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector. While three-and-a-half year service of five constables was forfeited, one lost 24 years of his service. The ASI’s seven-year service was forfeited. In another case, a departmental enquiry was initiated against three policemen. Why would one want such a posting?”