On Thursday night, large crowds gathered outside a house that was locked in a small neighbourhood in the district of Gautam Buddh Nagar in Uttar Pradesh.
The house was situated along a narrow lane. The family was not at home but neighbours had heard that a teenage resident had fired at protestors in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar. One student was injured in the firing.
The incident occurred in the afternoon, as students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia began to march towards Rajghat, where Mohandas Gandhi was cremated. Thursday marked the 72nd anniversary of his assassination.
“At around 1.30pm, while the gathering was moving, one person suddenly came out of it brandishing a small firearm like object and within a split second, before anyone could assess or react to what he was doing, the man suddenly fired towards the marching students,” the Delhi Police said in a statement. “The police staff immediately rushed towards the person and overpowered him.”
Neighbours decline to comment
In Gautam Buddh Nagar, most residents who gathered around the teenage shooter’s home declined to speak to reporters and asked them to leave the area. Those who did, said that they did not want to be identified.
Around a shop situated in the corner of the teenager’s house, some residents started to chant slogans like “Jai Shri Ram!” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” They also chanted slogans in support of teenager’s actions. You carry on your struggle, we are with you, they shouted.
Some neighbours who spoke to Scroll.in said that the teenager’s family had left the town on Wednesday to attend a wedding 17 kms away in Kalupura. They claimed the teenager told them that he was going to school at 9.30 am on Thursday and would join his family in Kalupura.
They said that he studied at a local school and claimed that he had been “affected by the atmosphere” in the country.
“It is all because of this atmosphere that has been created,” claimed one neighbour who did not wish to be identified. He was referring to the ongoing protests against the amended citizenship Act and proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens.
Tens of thousands of people have joined rallies and sit-ins against the initiatives, which they say discriminate against Muslims and could even be used to disenfranchise them. The longest continuous sit-in has been underway at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.
“Some see NDTV and they think what is happening,” said the teenager’s neighbour. “While some watch R TV [Republic TV] and think why are they doing this,” the neighbour claimed. “It’s the affect of Shaheen Bagh, JNU [Jawaharlal Nehru University] and AMU [Aligarh Muslim University.” Both institutions have seen violence against students, in the first case by a masked group and in the second by the police.
The neighbour also compared the shooter with JNU student Sharjeel Imam, who was charged with sedition for an alleged speech he made in January 16. Imam arrested by Delhi police on Wednesday. “He [Imam] is very educated and this one [the shooter] is not very educated but the link between the two is Facebook and Whatsapp,” he said.
Neighbours said the teenage shooter was not a part of the Bajrang Dal, a youth outfit linked to the Hindutva organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and that the organisation had little presence in the area.
Another neighbour dismissed the shooter’s actions and claimed that “it was not a big thing”. “He is a good child,” said 43-year-old Rishab Jain, an entrepreneur and resident of the area. Jain compared Gopal’s actions with celebratory firing. “Goliyan hamesha chal rahi hai,” Jain said. Bullets are always being fired.
He added: Anyone can fire shots but this happened in Delhi that’s why it has become so big.
Jain added that he supported the amended Citizenship Act that fast tracks the citizenship of undocumented non Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. “There is nothing wrong with it,” he said.