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Uneasy lull in Delhi

PTI

New Delhi

After two days of communal clashes that claimed 27 lives, a brittle quiet settled over parts of riot-hit north-east Delhi on Wednesday but there was violence in some other places with shops set ablaze and the body of an IB staffer found in a drain.

As police conducted flag marches and security personnel spread out across the northeastern edge of the national capital in a bid to quell the violence raging since Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first reaction appealed for peace and brotherhood.

Asserting that it was important for calm to be restored at the earliest, Modi said on Twitter, “Had an extensive review on the situation prevailing in various parts of Delhi. Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy.”

National security advisor Ajit Doval visited some riot-hit areas.

“What has happened has happened. Inshallah, there will be complete peace here,” he said as he walked through the mostly mixed neighbourhoods and congested lanes of north-east Delhi and met locals.

On Tuesday, he undertook a late night tour with Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and newly-appointed special

commissioner S N Shrivastava.

Shrivastava’s appointment came in the wake of Patnaik facing flak for failing to curb the spiralling violence in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s visit, sources said.

The Delhi police said it has arrested 106 people for their alleged involvement in the violence and have registered 18 FIRs.

“No untoward incident was reported on Wednesday and PCR calls from north-east Delhi have reduced,” additional commissioner of police (crime) Mandeep Singh Randhawa told reporters.

On day three of the trouble, the death toll rose from 13 on Tuesday to 27 on Wednesday.

“The death toll has risen to 27,” GTB Hospital medical superintendent Sunil Kumar said. Unusually, the estimate of more than 200 injured and the dead has come not from the police but hospital authorities.

Hospital authorities said of the 22 deceased at the GTB, at least nine received gunshots. One of the deceased is also a woman, authorities said.

Calling the situation in northeast Delhi “alarming”, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Army should be called in as police is “unable” to establish control.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury described the Delhi violence a “chilling reminder” of the 2002 Gujarat riots and demanded that Army should be called to control the situation.

At the Delhi legislative assembly, Kejriwal said the common man of Delhi did not indulge in violence and alleged that outsiders, some politicians and anti-social elements were behind it.

He also announced Rs 1 crore compensation for the family of Rattan Lal, the Delhi police head constable who lost his life in the violence.

Away from ‘leader-speak’, fear hung like a heavy cloud over the area, littered with the detritus of a riot – mangled and charred vehicles, bricks, stones and jagged glass.

The Intelligence Bureau staffer, identified as Ankit Sharma, was found dead in a drain in Chand Bagh where he stayed. Sharma may have been killed in stone pelting, officials said.

Shops and schools were closed and many streets deserted with police making announcements that no one should come out of their homes.

Officials said the CBSE Class 12 English exam on Thursday has been postponed in the north-east and parts of east Delhi in view of the turbulent situation due to violence.

There was heavy deployment of force in Chand Bagh with security personnel not allowing anyone to come out.

The blackened walls of a ‘mazaar’ in the locality spoke volumes of the violence the day before.

In Ashok Nagar, a mosque was vandalised and set on fire by miscreants, a day before. The shops outside the mosque, belonging to Hindus and Muslims, were also set on fire.

After two days of mobs roaming unchecked through the streets, looting shops and setting property on fire, the uneasy quiet was a respite.

But not everywhere.

In Gokulpuri, for instance, smoke darkened the skies with rioters setting on fire shops.

Their livelihoods lost with their shops looted and their children in a state of panic after witnessing the bloodshed, many people were seen leaving their homes. Among them was a family that promised to be back, but said they did not know when.

At the GTB Hospital, many grieving family members were waiting to collect the bodies of their dear ones.

Asked if the victims have been identified, the GTB Hospital medical superintendent  said, “Many people have been identified, some are yet to be.” He, however, declined to divulge the identity of the deceased.

Patients have several kinds of injuries, including from gunshots, stones and other weapons and many were hurt while jumping from rooftops to escape the rioters, hospital authorities said.

The “gush” of injured patients had reduced to a trickle.

The injured recounted horrific accounts of violence that they witnessed and how they managed to escape the deadly violence.

Districts magistrates of north-east and Shahadra districts accompanied by senior officials of the revenue department and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority also visited the hospital to take stock of the situation.

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