Communal clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri following a Shobha Yatra organised to mark Hanuman Jayanti Saturday entered a Muslim locality and participants in the yatra threatened to attack a mosque.
At 11 AM Saturday, people took out a procession marking Hanuman Jayanti from Kushal Cinema Road on the north side of which lies a Muslim-dominated area named Block C with a population of more than 15000 residents.
According to Muslims residing at Block C, people again took out the procession at 1 PM from Kali Bari Mandir on Kushal Cinema Road but diverted the procession towards the Hindu-majority area.
A resident requesting anonymity told Maktoob: “They were raising slogans so we asked them to not take the procession from Kushal Cinema Road as there is a masjid also there and this could lead to communal tensions.”
According to locals, several people suffered injuries.
Speaking to Maktoob, a 28-year-old resident of C Block in Jahangirpuri requesting anonymity said: “During the stone-pelting incident, some people were hit on their head, some on their hands and legs and some ran off to safety leaving their vehicles on the road only. At least 10-20 people have been injured.”
“Allah ka shukr hai, no one suffered any life-threatening injuries. This clash lasted 10-15 minutes before the Iftaar [breaking of fast]. Half of the people went to the side of Mahendra Park and others ran off to G and E block,” he said.
A resident Shah Alam and two others have been injured with one of them getting hit by a stone in the stomach. The injured residents and policemen have been taken to the Baby Jagjivan Ram Hospital.
A 38-year-old resident who owns a shop near the place of the incident, speaking to Maktoob on the condition of anonymity, said: “They held three rallies today (Saturday). Two of the rallies were peaceful. For the third rally, they chose the time of Iftaar. They took more than 15 minutes to cross from the masjid to the chowk. It’s a distance of only 50-70 meters. They wanted to provoke people. When this did not happen they entered the masjid and were saying they will plant the saffron flags on the minaret.”
“While entering the gate of the masjid the people in the rally were raising the slogan of ‘Jai Shree Ram’. We attempted to reason with them. But they did not listen. This angered people and soon a scuffle broke out and later stone-pelting occurred. They abused us and said we should be beaten.” he said to Maktoob.
The procession was joined by over 800 people with some people on bikes and slogans and loud music being played by DJs mounted on trucks.
The person said that slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’, ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Hindustan mein rehena hoga, Jai Shree Ram kehena hoga’ were being raised during the procession.
Maktoob visited the site of the incident and saw saffron flags and evidence of stone-pelting at the entrance of Masjid Bangali Basti also known as Jama Masjid of Jahangirpuri. The mosque is located on the main road. According to the locals, the stone-pelting incident started around 6:20 PM at the Kushal Cinema chowk.
During the violence, one motorcycle was set on fire and a grocery shop by the name “Garg Store” was vandalised. Maktoob accessed videos of the incident. In one video, one person could be seen with a rifle in his hand, three people are seen with pistols and several others were seen brandishing swords.
Speaking to Maktoob, Abid, a 40-year-old resident said: “Only three-four policemen were present at the chowk and six-seven policemen with the rally. The two PCR vans that were there with the rally left when the violence started. The police came 30 minutes later in numbers. This incident could have been avoided if police were deployed in sufficient numbers.”
“People from Bajrang Dal were there. We haven’t seen anyone of them before today,” added Abid.
The locals alleged that at around 12:30 at midnight, a group again came near the chowk and raised the slogans of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ in the presence of police personnel.
A Muslim resident who wishes for anonymity told Maktoob that he was attacked by the people in the procession.
“I’ve built this Kali Mandir with my own hands. I’m a raj mistri [master mason]. And today I was attacked by the same people.” said the 60-year-old Muslim man.
Maktoob tried reaching out to the SHO of Jahangirpuri Police Station, Rakesh Kumar over a phone call several times but received no response.
The Delhi Police arrested fourteen people on charges of rioting and attempt to murder among others, officials said Sunday.
Among them are Ansar (47), Mohammed Aslam and Jahid (19).
Maktoob spoke Ansar’s cousin, who requested anonymity fearing arrest. He said: “Ansar is a good man. He was trying to help calm things. During the violence, he was trying to mediate between both sides. He did not take part in the violence.”
Locals told Maktoob that two years ago also during a Hanuman Jayanti procession, tensions built-up between both the communities. It was after mediation from the elders that the matter was resolved.
“They want to instigate riots here. The administration knew something like this happened before. Still, this procession was allowed to take place. We already informed the police but they paid no heed to our concerns,” said Tabreez, a local leader.
Maktoob spoke to Special CP Law & Order Division Zone -I, Dependra Pathak. He said: “There was an altercation with the Hanuman Jayanti Sobha Yatra people. When they were passing through this area, some people from this side and some of the people from that side had an altercation. The genesis as of now appears to be out of sloganeering which is all under investigation.”
“These initial verbal alterations led to physical alteration and then the various groups gathered and started pelting stones and firing also happened. And the police was present with the procession and they immediately sprung into action and they intervened,” he claimed.
Commenting on the arrests, he said: “We have registered an FIR under rioting and attempt to murder. We are working on a few people and ascertaining their liability.”
The police have lodged a First Information Report (FIR) under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 323 (causing hurt), 436 (mischief by fire), 34 (common intention) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 27 of the Arms Act at Jahangirpuri police station.
Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has condemned the stone-pelting and called for action against those involved. “Appeal to everyone to hold each others’ hands and maintain peace,” he tweeted.
Over the past one week, anti-Muslim violence has sparked in several states in India following processions taken out to celebrate Ram Navami. According to several reports, mobs of Hindu right-wing groups intruded into Muslim localities and attacked mosques, burnt shops and played provocative songs including “Topi Waala” and “Jo na bole Jai Shree Ram usko bhej do Kabristan”.
Arbab Ali is an independent journalist based in Delhi.