Ground Report: Rioters In Delhi Kill A 51-Year-Old Man For Sporting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ Sticker On Bike
Vinod Kumar, 51, died in a mob attack on the night of 24 February. His son, Nitin, survived the assault.
A 51-year-old man, Vinod Kumar, was killed by a mob in communal violence on the night of 24 February in Brahampuri area of north-east Delhi.
His 25-year-old son Nitin Kumar survived the attack but has sustained heavy injuries.
The duo was going to a medical store on a motorcycle around 10:30 pm when a mob assaulted them with stones and lathis. They also set the motorcycle on fire.
Nitin says he sees no other reason for the unprovoked attack other than the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ sticker on the front side of his motorcycle.
Two mobile-shot videos of the incident have been widely circulated on messaging platforms and social media.
In one video, three men are seen dragging the limp body of Vinod away from the spot where the bike is burning.
A cheery crowd a few metres away is chanting slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Naara-e-Takbeer’.
Watch the video here:
In the second video, a limp Vinod is lying on the road while Nitin, who is heavily bleeding on the head, is walking around asking for help.
The person shooting the video, who is not visible, is saying, “Dekhiye, Muslimo ka ye haal, Hinduon ka kar diya jeena behaal. Ek laash bheji gayi hai Musalmano ki taraf se hamare Hindu bhai ki. Bhahampuri gali number ek mein. Le jao laash, aisi laashein uthengi poori raat, aisa sandesh diya hai…[See what Muslims have done, they have made it difficult for Hindus to live. A dead body of our Hindu brother has been sent by the Muslims. In Bhahampuri street number 1. It’s accompanied by a message – take away the body, such bodies will be delivered all night…]
An eerie silence in the riot-hit area
Residents of Brahampuri say, and debris on the roads show, that the area witnessed major arson and violence on 24 February night.
An eerie calm prevailed in the area when we visited it around 11 am on 25 February.
A pungent smell of melted metal and plastic swirled through the air. All shops had their shutters down. Hardly any resident could be seen on the roads; all that one saw were men in uniform marching in the streets.
By afternoon, however, the area began to look a bit more ‘normal’. Residents huddled at the entrance of their lanes in groups, whispering among themselves. A few e-rickshaws began plying on the road, but only till ‘Gali number 6’. (The Brahampuri area has around 25 such streets).
A charred motorcycle is lying at the entrance of ‘Gali number 1’.
“Aap aaye hain, badi baat hai. Yahan to koi nahi aaya. Aadmi maar diya hamara [You have come, it’s a big thing. Nobody else has come. They have killed our man],” a resident, Sonu, says.
He helps us with directions to Vinod’s house located in ‘Khajoor gali’.
Two women at the gate ask us to leave, saying we are not needed there. Nitin, who has bandages all around the head, however directs us to enter his house.
He narrates what happened. “It was around 10:30 pm. My father left home for Kalyan medical store. I told him wait, I will come with you, and took my motorcycle. Kalyan store is just across the street. As soon we returned to our lane – Gali number one – a big stone hit me in my head. I lost balance and fell down with the bike. I think I fainted for some time and regained consciousness after a minute or so,” he says.
Nitin says when he was lying on the ground, he saw a mob of “30-40” people at the spot. “Total Momdon [Mohammadan] crowd. All of them,” he says.
“Some of them started beating us with lathis. We were also being attacked with stones. I closed my eyes but continued to feel the pain.”
Nitin says he managed to get up after a while. He saw his bike had been set on fire. He tried to lift his father but couldn’t. A few men, familiar to Nitin, helped drag his father’s limp body inside the lane.
Nitin says he then knocked at several doors but none answered. “I think they were all too scared to open the door. Stones were flying all over the area.”
He called up a few neighbours who rushed to the spot and took the duo to Jag Parvesh Chandra Hospital in Shastri Park on a scooter.
“My father was breathing when we reached the hospital. They took me to a room for stitches. When I came out, the doctors told me my father was dead. It was around midnight,” he says.
Vinod Kumar is survived by his wife Madhu, Nitin and a daughter. The daughter is married to a neighbour, Mohammad Haneef, who says he is just about the only relative the family has in the area.
The family was yet to receive the body after post-mortem when we visited.
“I am left all alone. I don’t have a guardian anymore,” says Nitin, who is married and has a son.
Nitin runs a DJ business.
Nitin says he does not know the man who shot their videos. “I saw the videos only in the afternoon. I don’t know who he was. It seems like he was standing nearby. He could have very well helped us instead.”
Nitin’s house is around 500 metres from the Gali number one’s entrance. He says he did not know that the area was tensed. “Had I known, I would not have ventured outside. Am I a mad man to go out in a riot-like situation?”
He says he sees no other reason for the unprovoked attack on them other than the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ sticker on his motorcycle and the fact that they were entering Gali number 1, which is an almost all-Hindu colony.
He says he recognises none from the mob. “I only remember skull caps,” he says. Asked if they looked ‘outsiders’ or locals, Nitin says he has “nothing to do with Akhade wali gali or Kalyan gali” and thus can‘t make out the difference.
The lanes, ‘Akhade wali gali’ and ’Kalyan gali’, are right opposite Nitin’s lane and are Muslim-populated.
The distribution of the area is such that when one enters Brahampuri stretch from Gokulpuri side, the area on the left, called Brahampuri, is Hindu-populated while the area on the right, called Chauhan Bangar, is Muslim-populated. Residents say the “ratio is fifty-fifty”.
Nitin says that just after the attack, his friends called up Jafrabad police station “30-40 times”, but no one picked up the calls.
He says they called up the ambulance too, but none answered. No first information report (FIR) in the case has been filed till the time of writing.
A house burnt, residents displaced
Right at the entrance of Gali number one, is the house of 67-year-old Sushil Kumar Sharma and his 60-year-old wife Uma Sharma. The family, with their children and grandchildren, live on the first floor and use the ground floor for parking their and their visitors’ vehicles.
The ground floor was set on fire after midnight on 24 February. Two cars and two bikes are completed gutted. The electric meter is burnt and the loose wires are dangling in the air.
“Around midnight, huge stones and brick pieces began to land in our house. We rushed out, only to see that our vehicles on the ground floor had been set on fire,” says Sushil Sharma.
“The blaze was touching the first floor. There was cracking noise from the stones all around. All of us ran to our safety to the other side of the terrace. Using a ladder, we jumped our wall and entered the neighbours’ house,” he says.
“The wall is twice my height. We were forced to jump it, at this age,” says Uma.
Big stones and bricks are lying everywhere on the terrace. Wash basins have cracked, walls are damaged.
The family however says they are lucky to have escaped with their lives. They know that Vinod Kumar died in the street right at their gate.
“We learnt about the death late in the night. We are extremely shocked,” says Sushil.
His house has no electricity. “I made several calls to the electricity office but no one picked the calls. The wires are hanging loose dangerously,” he says.
“I sent off my grandchildren to relatives’ houses. Some of them have their exams coming up. It’s difficult to survive here, let alone study.”
Sushil says a jewellery shop in the market, belonging to a Hindu trader, was also looted and burnt on the same night.
“No policeman was seen all night. The Muslims had a free run,” he says.
On the morning of 25 February a store belonging to a Muslim trader, right across his house, was set ablaze. “This is when the police arrived. All the force you now see on roads, were nowhere to be seen when we were being attacked,” he says.
Across Sharma’s house, and right across the spot where Vinod was attacked, is Kalyan gali.
Aged men are sitting on chairs with younger ones huddled around them. “Our senior people are guarding the lane,” says Mohammad Shafiq, a resident.
None in the group knows about Vinod. “Hamein nahi pata. Hamare knowledge mein ye baat nahi aayi hai [We don’t know about it. It has not come to our knowledge] a man says.
They say they have heard about the stone-pelting and arson, but no death. “See there, one of our showrooms was burnt today morning,” one of them says.
Afzal Siddiqui, who says he (unsuccessfully) contested for the post of municipal councillor in last polls backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), says all violence has been carried out by “outsiders” and “anti-social elements”. “No resident is involved in anything,” he says.
Siddiqui blames Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member and former MLA from Karawal Nagar Kapil Mishra for all the violence that has broken out in several pockets of New Delhi in the last two days.
“Our women were sitting peacefully in Shaheen Bagh and Jafrabad. Why did he have to issue a call for violence? He alone is responsible for what’s happening,” he says.
Siddique says the police are siding with men “who are rioting while chanting Jai Shri Ram”. He says the Muslim community does not have full faith in the security forces. Others nod in agreement.
As we move out of Kalyan lane, back onto Brahampuri Road, a cop approaches us and politely says we should now wrap up our reporting. “Shaam shuru ho gayi hai. Mahaul tensed hone wala hai [It’s almost evening now. It’ll get tensed from now on],” he says. It’s 5 pm.
There are no more e-rickshaws plying on the road. We begin to walk back till Gokulpuri and pass the office of KK Agrawal, municipal councillor of ward number 43 in east Gokulpuri.
Agrawal is affiliated to the BJP. Asked about residents blaming Kapil Mishra’s speech for the violence in Brahampuri, he rubbishes the charge.
He says, “This is a completely false accusation. All that Mishraji said was that the people blocking routes in Shaheen Bagh and Jafrabad must be removed in three days else people of Delhi should not be stopped from getting it done. He said nothing to provoke violence. The riots are being triggered and fanned by those who are entering the homes of poor Muslims and misleading them about CAA.”
As we reach the main road, the cops on guard smilingly tell us they had been waiting for us to come out.
“You go back now. Only we stay here,” says one.
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