Several residents of the national capital have accused Delhi police of behaving like “goons” and “terrorising” people in the name of enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown, harassing even those who had stepped out to buy essential items exempt from prohibitory orders in force.
Others alleged that some cops raided a market and beat up vegetable sellers and grocery store owners.
A video doing the rounds on social media purportedly shows policemen beating up food delivery youths and making them crawl on the road.
Food items and medicines are among services exempt from the lockdown following the outbreak of the virus that has infected nearly 500 people in the country and killed at least nine.
But the government has given the police powers to punish those violating the lockdown, announced till March 31.
Police spokesperson M.S. Randhawa did not respond to calls from The Telegraph but a senior officer said the force needed to be “strict to ensure compliance”.
Delhi police report to the Union home ministry.
Navin Kumar, a journalist with a Hindi news channel, took to social media to narrate how the police had harassed him on Monday afternoon while he was on his way to his Noida office from his southwest Delhi home in Vasant Kunj.
Kumar alleged the police stopped his car and beat him up when he confronted them and later snatched his phone and wallet.
North Delhi resident Mohan Rastogi too alleged that the police assaulted him. “Two constables slapped me for no reason when I was out to buy essentials. When I confronted them they verbally abused me and even threatened to drag me to police station,” Rastogi said.
Amresh Kumar said the police were behaving like goons. “In the name of enforcing the lockdown, policemen are behaving like goons and harassing citizens who are going out to buy essential items,” he alleged.
“It’s a double crisis for us — first the battle with virus and now police atrocities.”
In another purported video, police personnel can be seen abusing vegetable and fruit vendors and bullying them into shutting shop in south Delhi’s Lajpatnagar.
Residents alleged the cops beat up vegetable sellers and grocery store owners saying they could sell only from 8am to 10am every day.
“This is completely unlawful. The cops are terrorising people rather than helping them in the crisis and not allowing them to buy essential items,” said Rajiv Gupta, a resident of Mayur Vihar in east Delhi.
The police, he said, can arrest violators but the “law does not give them the right to beat violators on the streets”.
Reports from some areas said vegetable sellers were being booked for unlawful assembly under Section 144, which does not apply to vegetables and fruits that are classified as essential commodities, while grocers were asked to close at several places to “dissipate gatherings”.
Traders said transporting vegetables and fruits had become difficult as transporters were facing harassment at toll plazas and police checkpoints.
“Police are harassing us despite fruits and vegetables being in the exempt category,” said a trader.
Many complained that retail prices had gone up and onions and potatoes had become costlier.
A senior official said over 1,200 cases in different parts of the national capital had been registered against those found to be violating prohibitory orders.
“During the lockdown we have seen people have no regard for the law and are flouting it, endangering the lives of everyone during this pandemic virus. We need to be strict to ensure compliance,” he said.
Asked about the allegation of police harassing common people, he said: “So far we have not got any formal complaint. We will look into it and take strict action if we receive such complaints against our men.”
He said the police have been instructed to help people and not to stop any vehicle carrying vegetables and fruits.
When contacted, a home ministry official said: “People are not following the instructions and respecting the law. At this crisis time they need to cooperate with police and other law enforcement agencies for the well-being of all of us.”
He said the ministry would look into the allegations of harassment and take action accordingly.