An India Express journalist today wrote about his account of visiting Northeast Delhi's West Karawal Nagar – the locality where the deadly riot took place.
Shivnarayan Rajpurohit, the journalist, was observing the neighbourhood when a man in his 40s walked up to him and asked, "Who are you? What are you doing here?". Upon introducing himself as a journalist, the man said, "Give me your notebook."
After flipping through the notebook, the man said, "You can't report from here." Then, he consigned the notebook into a burning heap of bakery items, despite not finding anything suspicious.
A few minutes into the incident, a group of around 50 people surrounded Rajpurohit and checked his phone because they were convinced he took photos of the violence. The mob thumbed through the phone's gallery and found no photo or video of the unrest. The phone was returned to Rajpurohit, but the gallery had been wiped clean.
"Why have you come here?" "Are you from JNU?". These questions were asked before the group asked the journalist to decamp from the spot if he wanted to live.
This string of incidents was a precursor to what he was about to encounter.
He headed towards his bike parked around 200 metres from the spot.
As Rajpurohit entered the lane where his bike was parked, another group armed with sticks, rods and stanchions ambushed him. Some men again accused him of taking pictures. A youth, with his face covered, told him to hand over his phone. Reluctant to part with it, Rajpurohit told the masked youth that all photos had been deleted.
But the masked man shouted back, "Give me your phone."
The masked youth landed a rod on Rajpurohit's thigh, twice.
Obscenities from the mob poured in. "What's more precious to you? Your phone or life?" Rajpurohit gave the phone to the youth. The mob cheered and the youth disappeared into the crowd.
The journalist was spared momentarily - until another mob followed.
A man, seemingly in his 50s, removed Rajpurohit's spectacles, stepped on them and slapped him twice for "reporting from a Hindu-dominated area". They checked his press ID. "Shivnarayan Rajpurohit, hmm. Hindu ho? Bach gaye". (You are a Hindu? You're spared.)
However, Rajpurohit's name was not satisfactory evidence of religion for them. "Say Jai Shri Ram" – Rajpurohit fell silent.
They ordered him to run for his life. "Another crowd is coming for you," one of them said. Shaking, he scampered to his bike.
"Move quick. Those men won't spare you," said one of the men from the crowd.
Rummaging through his bag for a few minutes, he finally found the keys. Revving up the bike's engine, Rajpurohit blindly set off to escape the terrors lurking in the unknown lanes of Karawal Nagar.