Before the demolitions began, tension prevailed in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area, with barricades and police cordons becoming a common sight at every corner of the locality. Several flag marches were taken out from time to time, enough to make the sound of stomping feet become routine for the residents.
Amid this fraught atmosphere, Anil Singh, a resident of C-block Jahangirpuri, could be seen sitting on a trolley rickshaw. He was not alone; he was accompanied by his friends and neighbours belonging to the Muslim community.
C-Block is a Muslim majority area and the epicentre of the Saturday evening clash. Anil Singh, who deals in cardboard scrap, has been living here for the last 43 years to earn a living.
“Incidents like this never happened here before”, says Anil Singh. He narrated how things unfolded resulting in a violent clash. “I was standing outside my home when this all started. Suddenly, people came from the Chowk side and after some minutes, stone pelting started. Seeing the danger, I ran inside”, he said.
“I have been living here for the last four decades and no incident like this ever happened. People from all faiths live here peacefully and happily. I don’t know who jinxed our area”, he added.
When we asked how the ambience is now, he said that “the situation is peaceful now and we people are feeling safe”.
C-Block of the area is known for its scrap business. Most people living in the lane are scrap dealers. Buying and selling cardboard, empty glass bottles and waste paper is the main source of income.
Sheikh Farid, Singh’s friend and neighbour, recalled the dark hour when peace was shattered. “People were going to break their Roza when violence erupted. When I saw that the situation is becoming tense, I ran home and closed my doors and windows”, he said.
“My heart is crying after watching this. This place has never witnessed a clash like this. The only thing which we have accumulated living here together is brotherhood,” says Farid.
The clash between the two communities broke out around 6 pm. This all started when a procession of Hanuman Jayanti was crossing C-Block’s Jama Masjid. Stones were pelted and vehicles were torched in this clash. Police personnel trying to control the situation were also injured.
“It was like a normal day”, says Sheikh Atiyar, who owns a meat shop in the vegetable market of C-Block. Because of the clash, he has closed his shop and is facing a huge loss. “I have three kids to feed and this is the holy month of Ramadan. At this time, our expenditure increases. Because of this impaired environment, customers are also not coming”, says Atiyar.
“Kiya kisi aur ne ha aur bharna hume padh raha ha” (This is done by someone else and we are paying the price), says Atiyar in a dejected tone.
According to Atiyar, this is all a political ploy to defame Hindus and Muslims for the political betterment of leaders. He is also disgruntled with the media. “I don’t know how these people will shape my interview and distort it according to their agenda,” says Atiyar.
On the other side of Chowk is G-Block. This neighbourhood still shows the vestiges of the 16 April rampage. Broken glass of vehicles, the remains of burned scooters and ravaged carts stand as stark witnesses of the horrific evening.
Yuvraj Chadha, a businessman and resident of G-Block, was not at home when violence broke out in the locality. His wife was out at work and his kids were alone at home. “My kids called my wife and informed her about the situation. Then, my wife asked me to reach home. I called my kids and asked them to not open the door at any cost,” says Chadha.
Their fears were not unfounded. His car’s rear and side windows were broken by rioters. Chadha too reiterated that this is a peaceful area. People from all faiths celebrate each other’s festivals.
“Some steps away from the masjid is Kali Mata Temple. Every year, Durga Pooja is celebrated for 10 days in the temple and opposite the masjid, there is a ground where Ram Lila is staged but, an incident like last evening never took place in the area earlier”, says Chadha.
Sanjay, who lives a few steps from Chadha’s house, is a vegetable vendor in Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi. His Santro car was vandalised by the rioters and according to him, repair of the car will cost more than one lakh rupees. “I was tired after a long night shift and was sleeping when this violence took place. My son took out the car from the parking space to take his mother to the doctor. But when he reached home to pick up his mother, rioters reached our street and they targeted my car. They broke all the windows and then they lifted my car to turn it upside down,” explains Sanjay.
According to him, hooligans have looted the music system from his car. He is demanding compensation from the government. “Bhagwan ka shukar hai maal ka nuksan hua jaan ka nahi” (Thank God that there was no damage to life, only to property), he added.
Golu, who helps his brother in running a ‘Chole Bhature’ food cart, was standing near his gutted cart. “My cart was at the Chowk when violence broke out. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, I ran to my home leaving everything open behind,” says Golu. He also sells ice; his ice shop was also damaged by the rioters.
According to Golu, now he has to spend around Rs 8,000 rupees on a new cart, whereas Rs 2,500 was robbed from his cashbox when violence broke out. Golu, like many other residents in the area, is pleading for peace and harmony “I want the matter to be closed. It was not down by our own people, nor are we anybody’s enemy”, he stated. Golu will be seeking compensation from the government for the damage he has suffered.
Rajan, who is also a resident of G-Block, never imagined that an incident like this would happen. “Now people from both sides of the Chowk should think for the betterment of the area”, says Rajan
The police have arrested 20 people so far and Sections 147, 148, 149,186, 353, 332, 323, 427, 436,307,120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 27 of the Arms Act have been slapped on the arrested men.
The police first arrested Zahid, Anshar, Shahjad, Mukhtyar, Ali, Amir, Akshar, Noor Alam, Aslam, Zakir, Akram, Imtiyaz, Ali and Ahir. Afterwards, six other individuals were identified and detained by the police: Suraj, Neeraj, Suken, Suresh, Suresh and Sujeet.
Residents of the neighbourhood are now picking up the pieces of their lives, with some focusing on community efforts to bring back peace and harmony in the area.
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Anmol Nath Bali
Anmol covers education, civic and general news for Patriot.