As South Delhi's upscale New Friends Colony area turned into a battleground between violent protesters opposing the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the police on Sunday evening, one of the videos widely shared on social media showed law enforcement personnel emptying jars into a vandalised bus. Several buses and two-wheelers were set on fire in the clashes and many on Twitter - including Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia - floated a theory that the some members of the police may have been involved in the vandalism and arson themselves. The police, however, issued a strong denial.
"See this photo... see who is setting buses and cars on fire... This photo is the biggest proof of the BJP's pathetic politics... Can BJP leaders respond to this?" Mr Sisodia tweeted in Hindi. Delhi Police is controlled by the Union Home Ministry and reports to Minister Amit Shah, chief of the BJP which is in the opposition in Delhi and a fierce opponent of Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.
ये फ़ोटो देखिए.. देखिए कौन लगा रहा है बसों और कारों में आग.. यह फ़ोटो सबसे बड़ा सबूत है बीजेपी की घटिया राजनीति का... इसका कुछ जवाब देंगे बीजेपी के नेता .. pic.twitter.com/8HvHC8epwn— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) December 15, 2019
The police, however, denied the allegation.
"You must see the whole video. There was fire outside the bus... police was using the water to douse the fire," Public Relations Officer of the Delhi Police Public Relations Officer MS Randhawa told NDTV.
"When we were dispersing the protesters, there was stone-pelting from the university campus... and there the police used tear-gas to disperse the protesters... It was an extraordinary situation. Stones were thrown from inside the university," he added.
Chinmoy Biswal, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South-East Delhi, who led the operation against protesters, rubbished Mr Sisodia's allegation as well. "Nothing can be farther from the truth," he told NDTV.
Mr Biswal, whose force was accused of entering the Jamia Millia Islamia university without the required clearances and launching a brutal crackdown against students, defended the police action.
"We can't say if it was a mob of students or locals... it was a mob of more than 1,500 to 2,000. When they were stopped from going towards the ring and do traffic jam, then they were stopped at the barricade in the New Friends Colony area. Then they went towards the Ring Road and burnt DTC buses," he said.
"We had to push them back (and) they started pelting stones and bottles filled with oil. They were not dispersing peacefully at all. They were being very, very aggressive and violent and they have been pushed to the Jamia Nagar area from where they originated," he added.
"When we were pushing back the violent mob, they were going inside the university. The university is on both side of the road. It is a public road," the police officer said.
In addition to more than two dozen students, several policemen including senior officers were injured in the protests, with one of them in ICU with severe head injuries. Two firemen were injured as well and a fire engine was damaged in the protests.
While the Delhi Police issued a firm denial of any involvement in Sunday's carnage, in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the police in Aligarh were caught on camera smashing two-wheelers after protests at the Aligarh Muslim University. The allegations have sparked calls for an independent inquiry against law enforcement officials in two the states.
Sunday's protests were triggered by the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act which promises citizenship to persecuted refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh but not if they are Muslim. Critics say the law weakens India's secular foundations.