At about 8 pm on 6 May 2017, a group of over 50 protestors gathered outside the Mehrauli police station in Delhi. Among the protestors were several members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; the local councillor Arti Yadav, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party; and her husband Gajendra Yadav, the state secretary for the BJP in Delhi. The protestors gathered again the next day. That morning, a person present at the protest later told me, Manoj Tiwari, the head of the BJP in Delhi, also visited the station.
The protestors had gathered in support of Vijaypal Chaurasia, a 44-year-old resident of Vashno apartments in Mehrauli who is a member of the RSS. Chaurasia wished to file a complaint regarding a scuffle that had broken out between several young men in a park in Mehrauli’s Aamwale Bagh area on the evening of 6 May. He alleged in his complaint—which was filed after Tiwari’s visit—that he and his sons had been attacked by a mob of nearly 40 residents of the nearby Islam Colony. He further alleged that police officials, including beat officers who arrived at the park and those at the station, had refused to register his complaint. Chaurasia told the Indian Express that the police officials at the station refused to file his complaint, and that he “finally approached the local councillor Arti Yadav and her husband, Gajendra Yadav, for help.”
But the accounts of various others suggest that the reason for the protest was unusual, if not downright surprising: a minor altercation between young men playing cricket in a park. “The fight was not at all what it was made out to be. Some boys fought about some cricket or something and a big issue was made out of it,” a police official familiar with the details of the case told me, requesting anonymity. “It is terrible and will set a very bad precedent.” As a result of Chaurasia’s allegation, four police officials—Vikramjit Singh Virk, a station house officer, and three inspectors—from the Mehrauli police station were transferred, allegedly for inaction and misbehaviour. They were sent to District Lines, a police posting to which officers are often assigned when there is an inquiry pending against them.
In his complaint, Chaurasia wrote that at close to 6.30 pm on 6 May, he and his sons Mrityunjay Kumar and Kumar Kartikay —who are 17 and 18 years old respectively—were at the park. He wrote that his sons were playing when a young man named Nitish arrived at the spot. Chaurasia alleged that Nitish was in an inebriated state, and “began to physically harass” his sons. He added that he asked Nitish to stop, but that the young man did not relent. Chaurasia alleged that Nasir, a friend of Nitish’s who was standing nearby, came over and together, the two friends began beating up his sons.
Chaurasia’s complaint goes on to state that after the scuffle broke out, his cousin Arun Kumar, who was also present at the park, came over to help his sons. By this time, Chaurasia alleged, “Nasir had called the Muslims of Aulia Masjid and Islam Colony”—two nearby areas. He claimed that close to 40 young men had gathered, and that this mob began beating him, his two sons and his cousin. He further claimed that Nasir harassed him, and that Nitish threatened to kill him. “He withdrew a knife from his person and held it to my throat,” Chaurasia wrote. He added that Nasir hit his son Mrityunjay over the head with a steel rod, injuring him gravely.
On 9 May 2017, I met Nitish, Nasir Mohammed, and Mohammed Kasim, Nasir’s 27-year-old cousin who was also involved in the altercation. Nitish and Nasir are 17 and 19 years old respectively. We met in Islam Colony, at the residence of Irfan Ali, a 50-year-old man who is Nasir’s neighbour. Both Nasir and Kasim said that allegations in Chaurasia’s FIR were incorrect. “Sab jhoot hai” –it’s all a lie, Nasir said.
Nitish’s account differed greatly from the one in Chaurasia’s complaint. He told me that, on 6 May, he had gone to the park with Nasir, to play cricket. He said that they were playing cricket in one area, and Chaurasia’s sons in another. “It often happens that when different people are playing in a park, the play area overlaps,” he told me. During the course of the game, Nitish said, Mritunjay and Kartikay came over and asked him and Nasir to not play there. Nitish said he refused. “I asked whether it was their father’s park,” he said. “Then their father actually got involved in the argument.”
Nasir told me that he decided to intervene when the argument between Nitish and the two brothers began to escalate, which angered Chaurasia. “You know how these people are, one Muslim person says something to them and it’s over,” he said. Kasim told me that he heard of Nasir’s involvement in the scuffle after the latter called other residents in the colony. A few people went to the park, he said. Chaurasia’s “complaint says that there were 40 of us at the park—that is a complete lie,” he said. According to Jasar Khan, Nasir’s father, whom I met on my way to Ali’s house, four people went with Kasim, but the crowd that gathered at the park made it appear like there were more people.
Nasir added that, Chaurasia had made it appear as if he and his sons did not act in a violent manner. “In fact, Vijaypal [Chaurasia] also hit Nasir and Nitish,” Kasim said. “They seemed to have been fighting just for the sake of it and they alleged that Nitish was drunk in their complaint. Who gets drunk and goes to play cricket?” he added. Both Nitish and Nasir denied the allegation that the latter had a knife with him. According to them, after the altercation subsided, Chaurasia began to tell residents of the area that Nasir and Kasim had prevented him from carrying out a daily meeting of his shakha—a local branch of the RSS.
Ali, at whose residence we met, told me that he accompanied Nasir and Kasim to the police station later that evening. “We went to the station to register our complaint as well, but he”—Chaurasia—“brought RSS members from other areas such as Ayanagar, Ghitorni and Chhattarpur to the station as well to support them,” Ali said. “The RSS members were shouting at the police, ‘Kya aapko Momdun logon ke liye yahan rakha gaya hai’”—Have you been stationed here for the Muslims? “Finally only their FIR was registered.” Ali added: “The RSS members were misled into believing that Nasir disrupted Chaurasia’s shakha, this is why all this happened.”
Khan, Nasir’s father, told me that on 9 May, he met Ishwar Singh, the district commissioner of police for the south zone. Khan said he requested that Nasir and Kasim’s complaint be registered as well. He said that the DCP assured him that their complaint would be taken into consideration. “We live in harmony here and all this has happened only because they are trying to flex their muscles and show that they are in power here,” Khan added. At the time of publishing this story, the Mehrauli police station had not yet registered Nasir’s complaint.
At close to 5.30 pm on 9 May, I went to the park in Aamwale Bagh to meet Chaurasia. There was a police vehicle stationed outside, with two officers seated in it. Two others were walking around in the park. Chaurasia was overseeing a shakha, for which nearly 20 young boys had gathered. He told me that he had been holding RSS shakhas at the park regularly for nearly two years.
Chaurasia said that all reporters were attempting to characterise the incident as motivated by communal sentiments. This was incorrect, he said, adding that he was merely trying to seek justice for his sons. “That day a shakha had gathered here and my sons were playing cricket in another area of the park when these hooligans came and disrupted our activities and started a fight,” he told me. He added that the police personnel who arrived did not take his complaint seriously, which angered him further. At the station, he said, the police misbehaved with him and that they harassed Arti Yadav, the councillor. “I have filed a complaint against them and the vigilance department is looking into the complaint against the police officers, the truth will come out,” he said. “They never took the complaint seriously and then they disrespected Arti ji later, of course we will demand their removal.”
When I asked him if he could continue telling me about the altercation, he responded instead by speaking of his educational qualifications. “I am an educated man and one of my sons is a BSc Math honours student, do you think they would have started this fight?” he said. Chaurasia told me that he is an assistant librarian at Bhagat Singh College in Delhi, and that nobody with such accolades could have started a fight. “You are all keen to make me look like a villain.” he said. “It is those people who are professionals at this.”
I asked Chaurasia why he was referring to his educational qualifications and those of his sons. He looked at me angrily and said, “I have understood your mentality.” He then suggested I leave. When I asked him why, he reached out and attempted to take my notebook from me, tearing a page from it in the process. Shortly after, he apologised for being “aggressive.” “You will understand my anger when you have children of your own,” he said. He then repeated his apology, and asked me to accompany him to his residence for tea.
I met Mrityunjay and Kartikay, Chaurasia’s sons, at their home. Both brothers said that Nitish and Nasir had started the fight. “In fact, I had a bat, but I sent it home with someone so nobody would get hurt,” Kartikay told me. Chaurasia added that if the police had taken the complaint seriously, the situation could have been curtailed and justice could have been served.
Chaurasia wrote in his complaint that Nasir had hit Mrityunjay over the head with a rod, and that the latter suffered a grave injury. He repeated this allegation to me as well. However, when I met him, Mrityunjay did not appear to have any head injuries.
I spoke to Chinmoy Biswal, the additional DCP of the south zone, regarding the complaint against the police officers at Mehrauli station. “Technically, sending police to District Lines is not a punishment, but in public perception it seems that way,” Biswal said. “They have not been suspended, they have been sent to the District Lines and a vigilance inquiry is underway about whether or not the police personnel misbehaved.”
The police official familiar with the case told me that the complaint against the Mehrauli police officials was registered under Arti Yadav’s name. “It was forwarded to the Vigilance Department under duress,” the official added.
According to Ali, although Mehrauli had a significant Muslim population, the area had never witnessed any serious communal tension. He said that in 2016, during Diwali and Eid al-Adha, minor skirmishes had broken out, but that Vikramjit Singh Virk—the station house officer who was sent to District Lines—had prevented them from escalating. “Vikramjit ji was a good man,” Shakti Singh, a resident of Mehrauli who runs a building-materials shop, told me. “Earlier, tensions would escalate during every election, but this year, the SHO did not let anything happen.” “Ever since he came to Mehrauli, badmashi band ho gayi”—all wrongdoing has stopped, Manohar Lal Aganpal, the president of the Mehrauli Market Association said. “The RSS people did a terrible thing by framing him.”
Kedar Nagarajan is a web reporter at The Caravan.