Stones strewn on the road, police at the crossroads, drones monitoring the goings-on from the air and a lull inside residences of the area. Such was the situation after the violent protests in Seelampur today. The demonstration was supposedly against the amended citizenship law, which suddenly turned violent. Policemen were attacked, stones were hurled and slogans turned from shrill to shriller. In the meantime, different videos with claims and counter-claims circulated on social media.
On how the violence started, both protestors and police have the same opinion that everything happened suddenly. A peaceful protest had begun in the afternoon in the Seelampur area. A similar demonstration had taken place on Monday, but there was nothing like the violence of 17 December.
The mob had strength in thousands during the incidents of arson and stone-throwing. Videos have surfaced, showing the rioters attacking the police. Additional DCP of North-East District Rajendra Prasad Meena admitted that he did not anticipate such a large-scale and violent demonstration, much as the situation was brought under control by the men in khaki eventually.
Police had to resort to lathi-charge, tear gas shelling as well as aerial firing to control the crowd.
The protesters are now but a house divided, as they try to figure how the crowd turned violent. Some say that the violence was not of protesters’ doing. Rather, some anti-social elements came from outside and joined the crowd. At the same time, according to some people watching with fear the goings-on from their houses, some young people in the crowd started stoning the police when they saw the law enforcers block the road for their procession.
The situation in Seelampur started deteriorating around 2.30 PM. It was brought under control by 5 PM with the help of AAP MLA Haji Ishraq Khan and the corporation councillors of Seelampur and Jaffrabad. The imam of the local mosque appealed for peace from the madrassah located near the Jaffrabad Metro station at 5 PM.
However, other eyewitnesses say it was this very madrassah that had given the call for demonstrations, albeit “peacefully”. But others say, as the planned demonstrations drew close, provocative messages were posted via WhatsApp by several of those who were supposed to be part of the procession.
Some of the stone-throwers later tried to justify their deeds by saying they had been “tolerating” anti-Islamic acts of the state like the abolition of triple talaq, Supreme Court verdict in favour of Ram Lalla Virajman in Ayodhya, the NRC, etc. The Citizenship Act Amendment, they allege, is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This stretch of the road through Seelampur sees different markets (of coolers, jackets, kites, etc) in different seasons. All these shops were closed when violence broke out.
On being asked whether they were not concerned about the modest traders in the area, a person named Anas said that the market never did great business in the first place.
Confusion prevails in Seelampur and other excitable areas about the changed citizenship law. People in this Muslim-dominated area have been told this law is against them. There were many people who were protesting without the foggiest clue about the whole issue.
The violent form of protest was limited to only a part of the Seelampur-Jaffrabad road. This road leads further to Gokalpuri. Demonstrations on this road began in the vicinity of the madrassah located near the Jaffrabad Metro station. Protesters and police forces were present on the way from there to Seelampur. The situation was normal on the road leading from Jaffrabad to Maujpur, Gokalpur, Keshav Chowk. However, some in the group sabotaged the demonstrations with stone-pelting on the road that connects Jaffrabad and Brahmapuri. It is a densely populated area.