The Delhi police have now said that while there were sit-in protests in Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) till the 22nd, a communal riot as the one witnessed by Delhi did not seem imminent and that, the riots could have been triggered by an ‘external force’. According to a report in the Times of India, the Delhi police believes that Pinjra Tod, an ‘activist group’, could have been that ‘external factor’ that ultimately led to the Delhi riots.
Pinjra Tod claims to be an “autonomous collective of women students fighting for a just, accessible, non-discriminatory University and affordable accommodation” and has been involved in numerous protests and campaigns of a far-left nature.
The Delhi police believe that on the intervening night of 22nd and 23rd February, this ‘external force’ essentially convinced the women protesting against CAA, to choke the arterial Jafrabad Metro station road and escalate their protest to full-fledged road blockage.
According to the TOI report, an officer has claimed that Pinjra Tod activists were present in the Seelampur-Jafrabad area on February 22 evening and urged the anti-CAA protesters at the dharna site and other nearby areas to make their anti-CAA protest more impactful by creating a roadblock at the Jafrabad Metro station road. According to the report, it was this event that finally led to a show of strength from the other side and eventually, led to the Delhi riots.
“The assessment is that there may have been two reasons behind getting the anti-CAA women protesters to shift from the small Jafrabad dharna to an arterial road. One, an attempt to create an alternative protest site in the apprehension of the Supreme Court moving to end the dharna at Shaheen Bagh, and second, to create a negative image of India coinciding with the US President’s visit”, said a Delhi police source to TOI.
The police also seem to believe that the Pinjra Tod activists were not only involved in their capacity of expressing solidarity with the protesting women but were instrumental in the escalation of the protests. Police sources have said that even if these activists are given the benefit of doubt, their involvement in an already tense situation is being seen as instigation and is being probed further.
“It’s unbelievable how we, with the little resources we have, can engineer something like this (riots). Yes, we support the anti-CAA protests and our members, who are politically active, were visiting the protests sites to express solidarity with the Muslim women”, claimed a Pinjra Tod activist. They have also denied their involvement in escalating the riots.
While the Delhi police are now probing Pinjra Tod and the activists are refuting allegations of their involvement, on the 23rd of February itself, “Concerned citizens of Seelampur, Jafrabad and Trans-Yamuna” had accused Pinjra Tod of inciting riots in Delhi.
The post published on the social media platform at midnight on the 23rd of February. It said that it was ‘very very irresponsible behaviour’ and the appeal was made on late Saturday night, the day the anti-CAA protesters blocked road No. 66, which connects Seelampur to Maujpur and Yamuna Vihar.
The appeal said, “Because of fantasies of elite civil society and group such as Pinjra Tod, we the locals of Seelampur and trans-Yamuna are in great trouble. All localities are worried. There is panic everywhere. They repeatedly incited violence and today they blocked Jafrabad main road.”
The news editor at the Congress mouthpiece National Herald, Ashlin Mathew, had also said that she has been hearing that Pinjra Tod activists ‘goaded’ the women at Jaffrabad to block the road. She also said that the women themselves say it was a collective decision. Furthermore, she said that Pinjra Tod activists were present when violence broke out at Daryaganj in December.