Around 1 p.m. on Monday, families and relatives of three residents of Nehru Vihar were waiting outside the Dayalpur police station to meet them and know why they had been held. “ Ye to goonda raj hai (This is rule of lawlessness),” said a relative, exasperated after an over 12-hour ordeal.
Around 12.30 a.m., Habib, Usman and Mohammed Yameen, all in their late thirties and early forties, were picked up by Delhi Police from Nehru Vihar’s E2 Block. Their relatives claim they were guarding the area, especially a temple in the vicinity. In almost every locality since riots broke out in the city, locals guard the area themselves to ensure no untoward incident takes place.
“Like every other night, they were guarding the area. There are only five Hindu families in our block. We don’t want any outsider to come and target the temple and blame our community for it, so a few of us keep vigil,” said Alanoor, Usman’s brother, who also lives in the area.
Recounting Sunday night’s events, Habib’s nephew Azeem said that while they (Habib and others) were sitting, a police van came and suddenly picked him up. “Habib called Usman for help and when the latter intervened, they picked him up as well. Locals gathered and tried to argue but a policeman pulled out a pistol. They all then fled,” said Azeem.
Families of the three then reached the police station but were asked to come at 8 a.m. on Monday, they said. “We reached here at 6 a.m. but the police didn’t let us speak to them. We aren’t even being told why they have been held,” said Shoaib, Usman’s nephew.
Another person identified as Nafees, a resident of Sanjay Chowk, was also held by police on Saturday evening. His family claims the police are actually looking for Nafees’s brother Gulfam. “Police came around 5.15 p.m. on Saturday and took Nafees. They asked us to hand over Gulfam... only then would they release Nafees. We are looking for Gulfam but what’s Nafees’s fault?” said Shakeel, another brother.
Noor Mohammed (86), another relative of Habib, said what the police are doing is one-sided and it’s wrong. “It’s never one-sided in a riot,” he said.
Shoaib said that the three held by police have families and kids to take care of. While Usman runs a clothing business, Habib is a tailor and Yameen runs a retail clothing outlet. “They have nothing to do with these riots. Our area was not even affected by violence. If they remain in jail and all of us spend time in police and court proceedings, who’ll earn money for the families?” said Shoaib, adding that the families wouldn’t have backed the three had they been actually involved in rioting. Around 2.30 p.m., policemen emerged from the station holding the trio. When asked, they said the three have been arrested and are being taken to be produced before the court.
Efforts made to contact senior officers in North East district and Crime Branch proved futile.