Locals Panicked As They Thought It Was A Terror AttackSomreet.Bhattacharya@timesgroup.com
The otherwise somnolent neighbourhood of Chhatarpur-Fatehpur Beri was suddenly woken up by a series of loud retorts around 1.15pm on Saturday. The area, which has a large number of farmhouses, is generally devoid of humanity in the afternoon. When idle curiosity led some people to step out to investigate, they were met with a scene straight out of a potboiler — a car chase accompanied by a barrage of gunshots.
Eyewitnesses later said that many of them thought children were bursting crackers and wondered what the occasion was. But when they saw the racing vehicles and the numerous cracks of guns being fired, they realised something was terribly wrong. Indeed. For by the end, four criminals were dead and nine, including eight policemen, injured by gunshots.
Sonu, who guards a building on Church Road where a series of farmhouses stand, was having lunch with friends when some men came running from the direction of the gunshots. “They pleaded to us and at every door asking for the gate to be opened because the police were after them.” But the gates on the security-conscious street remained shut.
“We thought it was a terror attack,” said Sonu later. “The firing continued for some time. After a while, a large number of men in uniform arrived on the scene.” Another security guard, Ashish, added, “We were unsure about who the policemen were or who the criminals since everyone was in civil clothes. Things became clearer after some minutes.”
Neth Ram, a guard at the farmhouse near which the action began, remembered seeing the cops taking up positions long before the guns began firing. “Suddenly, when a white SUV passed our gate, I heard police shouting at it to stop. Then I heard a burst of gunfire before things fell silent again,” said Ram.
Some residents saw policemen kneeling with guns in their arms or crawling like commandos as they fired several rounds at the White Endeavour and two other cars. Bunty, an autorickshaw driver, noted that the driver of the SUV appeared to have decided to ram through the farmhouse gates to escape their pursuers. Others recalled that the three cars zigzagged across the road, with two police vehicles hot on their chase. Soon after, the area teemed with policemen, the plainclothes cops replaced by men in uniform.
Church Road was blocked for vehicle movement till late evening. Similarly, people going to Chandanhola village after work were asked to take other routes or wait till the police’s mopping-up work was done. The barricading created some heartburn. A panicked woman who had left her two children at home near the encounter spot, was at her wit’s end. “I requested the policemen to allow me to cross the barricaded area to reach my children,” the woman fretted. She was eventually permitted to go after the cops verified she was a local resident.
Similarly, autorickshaw driver Alam, who had come home for lunch, was stuck between the two barricades till late evening. “I lost my whole day’s earnings due to the shootout. But I did something good by ferrying mediapersons to the place without charging them anything,” revealed Alam.
Police officers said the area was cordoned off to prevent a crowd from reaching the encounter site. “Once the news began to circulate, more than 200 people had gathered at the site to take selfies with the policemen. We had to set up a double-layered cordon to stop them,” said an officer.
After the encounter, Delhi Police spokesperson Dependra Pathak said the force believed in tough and effective action against gangsters. “Our team led by DCP Sanjeev Yadav has exhibited courage, professionalism and perseverance in containing criminals,” Pathak said. “The injured policemen are being provided the best healthcare and they will be suitably rewarded to motivate them.”
Residents saw policemen kneeling with guns in their arms or crawling like commandos as they fired several rounds at the White Endeavour and two other cars