With protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act raging and back-to-back shooting incidents at Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Millia, the Delhi Assembly election on Saturday will witness an unprecedented security blanket that would include drones and a futuristic facial recognition system which identifies potential trouble-makers.
For the first time, drones mounted with cameras will keep a watch on poll proceedings from the sky. Police said it will also be the first time that Delhi Police will install a high-end Facial Recognition System in and around the ‘vulnerable’ polling booths.
This Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) measures facial features and can work in various light conditions, detect make-up, plastic surgery or ageing, and match these against stored data on potential suspects.
“Drones will be used to keep surveillance around polling booths. Mostly, drones will fly above the sensitive areas to maintain law and order,” Devesh Chandra Srivastava, Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range), told mail Today.
The decisions were taken after receiving inputs about possible violence at the polling booths in sensitive areas of the city. The security paraphernalia deployed for the polls on Saturday, Mail Today has learnt, includes 60,000 security personnel including 38,400 police personnel, 19,000 home guards and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
Special focus will be on the volatile South Delhi neighbourhoods such as Shaheen Bagh (see box), Jamia Nagar and Seemapuri in North East Delhi where the ongoing protests against the citizenship law have triggered violence on multiple occasions in the recent past.
“The details of more than 150 suspects have already been stored in the data box to identify them on polling day. Most of these suspects are involved in recent cases of violence at Jamia, New Friends Colony, Seemapuri along with some other miscreants,” said an official who did not want to be named.
EC WAR ROOM
Officials said as many as 200 polling booths have been categorised as ‘critical’, and 90 ‘vulnerable and prone to violence’ in North Delhi’s Okhla area (including Jamia Nagar and Shaheen Bagh) and North East Delhi’s Seelampur area which also witnessed protests.
A ‘vulnerable’ polling booth will have six police officers deployed, instead of the usual three. Also, an ACP-rank officer will be present.
A booth marked ‘critical’ will have four officers present during the polling process, instead of two, officials said.
In all, there are 3,141 ‘critical’ and 144 ‘vulnerable’ polling booths in Delhi – which has a total of 13,700 polling booths.
Delhi Police will not only rely on drone surveillance, but they have also stationed a dedicated team to monitor CCTV footages throughout polling day, an officer said. This, he said, was not the usual practice.
Over the last 52 days, the Capital has witnessed a series of protests and violence related to the new citizenship law. On December 15, over 50 students, locals and policemen were injured when a protest march of Jamia Millia students took a violent turn. On January 30, a teenager opened fired twice near Holy Family Hospital in Jamia area when the students were taking out a march. A student from the university received a bullet injury on his hand.
On February 1, a man opened fire twice near the anti-CAA protest site at Shaheen Bagh in South-East Delhi. On February 2, two unidentified persons opened fire at Gate No 5 of the Jamia Millia Islamia University.
“Foot patrolling, PCR vans and bike patrolling will start well in advance. On the eve of polling day, the deployment will be done. Even the CAPFs will be deployed in the vulnerable sectors. Other paramilitary forces will also be deployed,” Srivastava said.
SOCIAL MEDIA SURVEILLANCE
Social media posts will also be scrutinised closely on polling day. Parts of the Capital saw an Internet shutdown for several hours on December 19 during the height of the CAA protests.
“To avoid any untoward incident due to rumour-mongers, proper vigilance on social media platforms will be kept. There are times when some anti-social elements circulate fake or unverified news to create nuisance.
Any irresponsible and derogatory comment on the social media can land a person behind bars,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central district) and Delhi Police spokesperson MS Randhawa.
Another senior officer said that apart from installing metal detector gates inside polling booths, walk-ways will be created at sensitive areas.
“The model code of conduct is being strictly enforced. A special watch is being kept on border areas to foil any attempt by antisocial elements to infiltrate,” Randhawa said.