The people killed in the Delhi riots over February 24 and 25, and the injured being wheeled in to hospitals in the city, have wounds caused by bullets, sharp blades, stones, drill bit, blunt objects and burns, doctors at the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital and Jag Parvesh Chandra hospital said. Of the 27 killed, at least 14 died of gunshot wounds.
The kinds of wounds people have, and eye-witnesses accounts from various riot-hit spots in north-east Delhi, point to how the mobs that led the communal riot were heavily armed -- with countrymade pistols, swords, hammers, sickles, baseball bats, sticks and large stones.
Police suspect that the countrymade pistols used in the clashes may have been brought to Delhi from parts of western Uttar Pradesh. HT interviewed several masked rioters Monday and Tuesday who claimed to have come from Uttar Pradesh -- largely areas such as Shamli and Muzaffarnagar.
"Parts of the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border should have been sealed on Sunday. The border was finally closed on Tuesday evening, after more than 40 hours of heavy rioting. Had the borders been sealed on Day 1, the violence would not have escalated. In Delhi, there are no gun factories. Every illegal pistol used in Delhi is smuggled in from outside," said a mid-level police officer stationed in Jafrabad who asked not to be named.
Police records also show that criminal gangs in north-east Delhi have easy access to weapons. According to cases busted by the police as recently as December 2019, a countrymade pistol is available for ₹3,000-5,000 in parts of western Uttar Pradesh, such as Meerut, Shamli, and Muzaffarnagar. Automatic pistols in these same areas are available for ₹15,000-20,000 per piece.
On Monday, the image of a man — identified as Shahrukh — pointing a pistol at a police officer, went viral. The man, who is absconding, was caught on video firing several rounds.
Apart from guns, eye witnesses said the one of the most common weapons were stones. A head constable, Ratan Lal, 42, had died of injuries sustained in stone pelting. Deputy commissioner of police Amit Sharma, too, sustained grievous head injuries in stone pelting.
Some locals whose houses were damaged in stone pelting said they saw rioters driving into the area with truckloads of stones. A resident of Maujpur said on Sunday night, a truckload of stones was brought into the area. "They were all outsiders. We recorded their videos. It was a planned attack on us," he said.
On New Jafrabad Road, the epicentre of the violence, the rioters smashed the concrete divider fences and pulled out stones and rods to use as weapons.
One of the most common weapons were swords and petrol bombs too. In Chand Bagh, the rioters mostly used petrol bombs. Police believe the rioters may have got large stock of empty bottles from locals scrap dealer. Police are conducting raids across many places to check for misuse of empty soft drink and beer bottles from godowns of scrap dealers. At least three persons died of burn injuries.
Former Delhi police deputy commissioner of police (special cell) LN Rao, who served in Delhi for over three decades said that one of the major reasons behind the use of such wide range of weapons by the residents of this area is that a major chunk of young population here is unemployed and fall in the below middle income group.
"Trends and data have shown that some section of young people in parts of north east indulge in petty crimes and do not hesitate in using sharp weapons like blade and knife to rob people. We have also seen that following repeated clashes between groups, people here keep stones, bricks and empty glass bottles stashed in their houses and on the terraces throughout the year," Rao said.
Delhi Police have registered 18 FIRs related to rioting, in which they will also probe the source of all types of weapons. Police have arrested 106 persons so far.