New Delhi: There were some signs of normalcy returning to riot-hit areas of northeast Delhi on Saturday as people stepped out of their homes to buy groceries and medicines from a few shops that opened amid intensified patrolling by security personnel.
Since early morning, civic workers were seen clearing bricks, glass shards and burnt vehicles that littered the roads in the aftermath of the violence that left 42 dead and over 200 injured. At some places, even bulldozers were used as it became difficult to manually remove debris.
In Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Yamuna Vihar, Chand Bagh, Mustafabad and Bhajanpura, which were among the areas worst hit by the communal violence, there were more vehicles and people on the roads than in the last five days, though schools and most shops remained shut.
Officials said schools will remain closed in northeast Delhi till March 7 and annual exams have also been postponed as the situation is not conducive. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), however, maintained that board exams for classes 10 and 12 will be conducted as per schedule from March 2.
Personnel from the Delhi Police and paramilitary forces encouraged people to open their shops and appealed for peace and communal harmony. They started their march at Jaffrabad and moved through Maujpur and then into the narrow lanes of Noor-e-Ilahi, Yamuna Vihar and Bhajanpura, areas where mobs ran riot vandalising shops, houses and torching vehicles early this week.
Shakib, a resident of Noor-e-Ilahi, said vegetable sellers made rounds of colonies with their carts. "Not many, only a couple of them could be seen. The rates are still a little high than the usual, but at least they have resumed sale," he said.
"It is only the smaller shops that have opened today. The bigger shops and showrooms have still not opened and their owners are being cautious," a showroom owner, whose property was attacked during the riots, told PTI.
Yamuna Vihar resident Amit Tanwar said the situation has improved and grocery stores and other shops opened during the day. However, some establishments like restaurants are still not open as their workers have not come to work.
Acting Delhi Police chief SN Shrivastava said his priority is to restore peace in the national capital and ensure communal harmony.
Soon after taking additional charge as the Delhi Police Commissioner following retirement of Amulya Patnaik, the officer said that they have started a massive outreach programme and senior officers have been meeting and speaking with people from every community in order to build confidence among them.
He said all those involved in the violence will be brought to justice. The Delhi Police has registered 167 FIRs and arrested or detained 885 people, a senior officer said, adding 36 of the cases were under the Arms Act.
The police have lodged 13 cases for provocative social media posts on various sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Several social media accounts and web links involved in circulation of unlawful, offensive content have been suspended through the platforms concerned, the senior police officer said.
Sources said the Delhi government is considering to issue a WhatsApp number for people to report circulation of provocative messages and take complaints on those spreading rumours.
Meanwhile, the ordeal continues for the riot affected. Hopelessness and desperation are gradually taking over the people who are yet to get any news of their loved ones missing in the communal clashes, with some like Alam Afroz now visiting hospital mortuaries "for closure".
A distraught Afroz (52), who has been looking for his son for days, says he is unable to answer the anxious queries of his family members about his whereabouts
"Even if his body is found in a drain, I will know at least that he is gone. Every time I go back home, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter ask if there has been any news of him and I have nothing to answer," he said.
IB staffer Ankit Sharma's body, with multiple stab wounds, was found in a drain in Chand Bagh a day after he went missing during the riots.
Among the several houses torched by rioters was that of Border Security Force (BSF) Constable Mohammad Anees, who is currently posted at a camp of the force the in West Bengal's Radhabari. The BSF has decided to rebuild his house and hand it over to him as a 'wedding gift'.
At the Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, people are still frantically searching for their loved ones, either in the casualty ward or at the mortuary. Forty-eight-year-old Madeena, whose son has been missing since Tuesday following the violence, has been running to police stations to find if he is still alive.
"I have been going to police stations. There is no trace of him. I don't know if he is alive or not. Even if he is found here (at the mortuary) among the dead, I will get a closure at least. Otherwise I will live in hopes forever that he will come home some day," she said.
Mohammad Qadir from Bijnor, who has been visiting the GTB Hospital since Wednesday, is looking for his 18-year-old brother Aftab.
"He had gone to meet his friends that day. His friends told me that they were attacked by a mob, while they managed to escape, he was beaten up badly," he said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with his deputy Manish Sisodia reviewed relief operations at the North East District Collector's Office. "I am also taking detailed information from the concerned authorities every day. Along with this, we are also working round the clock on the ground. If needed, we will definitely seek help from the central government," he told reporters.
BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who is facing flak for allegedly making provocative statements before communal riots broke out in northeast Delhi, and families of some of the victims of the violence participated in a "march against jihadi terrorism" taken out in Connaught Place on Saturday during which some people raised slogans of 'shoot the traitors'.