People feel riot is wrong here


The riot police was deployed past week to confront groups of stone-pelters on the streets of Trilokpuri in East Delhi. The drunken brawl by youngsters that allegedly triggered the violence had taken a sinister turn leading to a communal riot, leveraging upon strenuous relationship between Valmiki Hindus and Muslims living in the area.  

The first stone pelting incident revolves around ‘Mata Ki Chowki’ set up near a mosque in Block 20. Police say they have identified at least five persons who triggered the communal clash, while claiming that they are ‘anti-social elements’ belong to both Hindu and Muslim communities. The suspects had allegedly consumed alcohol near the chowki on the October 23, the day of Diwali, and were also eating non-vegetarian food.

When some devotees tried to stop them from doing so, police say, they threw a piece of meat near the Mata Ki Chowki which led to a communal flare-up. Several Hindu families in the locality echo the police version and add that several attempts to desecrate the chowki had been made in the past.

Their immediate Muslim neighbours, however, offer different perspective to the communal flare-up. It ranges from local Hindu activists pressing them not to sacrifice goats to latter insisting Hindus not to play loudspeakers full-blast at Mata ki Chowki which disturbed their “isha ki namaaz” (or night prayer).

A couple of blocks away many also say the riots were a “planned act”, while others see a political design behind the attack. There are also those who put the blame squarely on the inaction of Delhi Police alleging that it allowed a minor incident to take such ugly proportions – engulfing adjoining blocks like a wildfire. Whatsoever the reason may be, the clashes seem to have set into motion currents of religious resentment.

Pitched street fights took place in the several localities between groups from Muslims and predominantly Valmiki Hindus communities. For nearly two days, both threw stones, bottles and bricks at each other and dispersed. Police claimed that timely intervention restricted the orgy of violence in Trilokpuri to a few gutted shops and no more than six dozen injuries – including some serious injuries.

Over 70 people from both sides have been arrested since the violence broke out. The worst affected were Blocks 15, 20, 21 and 27. 

Locals say that prohibitory orders came two days late because it was on October 26 evening that the police announced, “If you are caught outside, you will be arrested”. But by the time Section 144 came into force, the damage had been done, leaving behind mutual suspicion and distrust.

Soon dusk-to-dawn curfew-like situation became a norm in this hardscrabble east-Delhi neighbourhood of narrow lanes and cheek-by-jowl houses.

The tensed situation has given opportunity to residents to point fingers at each other. The extent of mistrust can be gauged from what people in the Muslim neighbourhood had to say about the camera-mounted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – popularly known as drones – that scanned rooftops for potentially dangerous things such as stash of bricks, bottles and other missiles.

A resident of Block 15 who does not want to be named in the paper says, “Why more Muslims are being caught? Why do drones mostly hover over Muslim households? You should see how many sacks of bricks are stashed on roofs of Valmiki houses. They are draped with bed sheets. So when cameras send pictures, they see only bed sheets. I have even told the police, but they are not willing to act.”

Somewhat on the similar lines, many residents of Valmiki-dominated Block 28 say their Muslim neighbours in the adjacent block took advantage of their tall buildings to launch a full-throttle attack on them. Police, on the other hand, claims that many arrests were made after photographic leads from the drone. 

Fragile peace

The jagran at Mata Ki Chowki, for which permission had been granted till Friday, concluded with kirtans and bhajans amid heavy police security. Many Muslims from the neighbourhood participated in the four-hour long proceeding. Members of the Aman committee, comprising residents tasked to maintain peace and good will in the neighbourhood, were also present.

But another major test during Muharram processions is at the door. Police has changed the routes for procession in order to ward off likely trouble.

Even though life is limping back to normalcy, many are not willing to take the risk of staying back. Just days after police brought street fights to end, Suresh in Block 28 decided to leave for a ‘safer place’ with his family of five.

“We are getting both our cattle and ourselves out of here. The situation isn’t good here. I am getting daily headaches. So we are going someplace else,” he says, while adding that he will return when tension eases.

Others in the locality are hysterical over safety of women. The residents of Hindus-dominated block say they are determined to put a strong fight if instigated, alleging that men from Block 27, a Muslim neighbourhood, eve-tease women of their colony.

“It had become tough for our daughters to go out. These vile men had made life difficult for us,” Rameshwari, an elderly woman, says, while another woman quickly adds that “those vile men can’t be allowed to have a free run”.

The Muslim women in the Block 27 are feeling equally unsafe for themselves. They say that the clashes have escalated into threatening situation for them. “Many families out of fear have sent their daughters to their relatives’ places in different parts of the city. When the riot broke out, the Hindu men pulled down their pyjamas and threatened to rape Muslim women,” Nasreen Qureshi, resident of Block 27, says.
She even alleged that a gang of policemen had beaten up Muslim women.

Some elderly Muslims men fear that have fallen prey to a political conspiracy. They say that most Hindu blocks have been turned into gated communities, barring theirs.
To pacify the raging sentiments, religious leaders were directed to Trilokpuri. “In Islam there is punishment of criminals, but there no provision for committing crimes for those who have been wronged,” Maulana Gayyur Kashmi of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind tells residents during his visit to Trilokpuri on Wednesday.

He adds that a judicial probe into the case should be ordered.

Trilokpuri’s 36 blocks are product of large-scale resettlement colonies which came up during Emergency period. Most of the pockets are Dalit dominated, while a few have more Muslims. There is merely a sprinkling of Sikhs. Thirty years ago, the 1984 riots  cleared the Sikhs out.
Gambling and drinking is common here and so are petty crimes. Police says the locality is also home to bootleggers and contract killers. However, nobody had ever thought that a drunken brawl could turn into a full-blown riot between Hindus and Muslims.
Besides Mata Ki Chowki, there are number of unsubstantiated rumours.

One, the ‘property’ angle: Shops owned by Muslims were gutted during riot because their community holds sway in the market. Valmikis on the other hand are said to be getting rich and assertive because their government job savings.

People have a whiff that Trilokpuri is on a verge of transformation because the Delhi Metro will soon be at its door. This has resulted in a scramble for property. Many say that it is for the same reason that one Muslim neighbourhood didn’t allow the Metro line to pass through their colony.

There is a political angle too. AAP and Congress have made not-so-subtle allegations that BJP is trying to polarise the situation. There are murmurs that the former BJP legislator of the region, Sunil Vaidya, is trying to cash on the situation.

Locals say that the current AAP legislator Raju Dhingan is missing from the action, despite his party’s claim that it’s keeping a tab on the Trilokpuri problem.

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