Delhi's Jaffrabad in fear as anti-CAA protests proceed

Delhi's Jaffrabad lives in fear and anxiety as it goes on with anti-CAA protests

Vehicles set ablaze as protestors throw brick-bats during clashes between a group of anti-CAA protestors and supporters of the new citizenship act, at Jafrabad in north-east Delhi, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (PTI Photo)

A right turn from north-east Delhi's New Seelampur takes one to Jaffrabad, where women are seated in a Shaheen Bagh-like anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protest.

The protesting women are combative and say that they won't budge till the controversial CAA is rescinded but two days of violence that spread across nearby areas like Maujpur, Chandbagh, Gokulpuri and Bhajanpura has filled the air with fear, anxiety and feeble demands for a retaliation asking, "How long should one suffer?" They insist that their protest is not against any community but against the government over the CAA.

Shops with shutters that are down have "No CAA, No NRC" graffiti along the one kilometre towards Jaffrabad metro station, where the women sit. One side of the road is closed to traffic due to the protests and any non-local is viewed with suspicion.

Cars are stopped to check the identity of those inside, journalists have to flash ID cards and only then are allowed by supporters of the Jaffrabad protest to move ahead. They are given a friendly warning that trouble awaits them less than two kilometres away near Maujpur where a large number of right-wing supporters have gathered.

The news reached Jaffrabad where a number of locals have gathered that a mosque near Maujpur was set on fire around noon while shops and houses were torched, damaged or looted. A majority of the gathering advocated peace while a few were angry. In the morning hours, a TV crew was attacked near Maujpur while reporting live from the scene. Other journalists told DH that they were asked to show identity cards.

“We are sitting here on protest for several days. The trouble started on Sunday when a BJP leader incited people. We are not against any community. Our fight is against the new law, against the government and not against any community. Why are they targeting us?” said Abdul Azis of Jaffrabad.

Many who spoke to DH asked for anonymity while expressing fear that there will be more trouble in the coming days. “They may be waiting for US President Donald Trump to leave,” an anxious protester said.

Another protester said, “The effort is to create a divide among people. They call us who live in Jaffrabad as Pakistanis. Aren't we the sons of this soil? How can they call this area Pakistan? We all live in amity. People are being brought from outside to create trouble.”

Videos of violence in nearby areas reached the youth in Jaffrabad via WhatsApp. They showed the videos to journalists and asked them what have done to deserve this. A youth insisted that they do not want to turn to violence but another said angrily, “How long the sea remains calm? When there is a storm, there will be trouble.”

As a group of journalists ventured to move towards Maujpur, which is less than a kilometre away from Jaffrabad, the locals warned them about violence. One pointed to the sky and said, “See the plumes of smoke. That is Gokulpuri market on fire. We cannot assure you safety there.”

By then, another group who had managed to return from Maujpur said the situation there was tense and violent and police had escorted them out. Another journalist said that he chanted a religious slogan to come out of the place.

Protesters are not enthusiastic about the media. One of them said, “You are welcome here. We won't trouble you. But show the truth. You have disappointed us.” Another warned a photographer against clicking photos while a woman from the protest site walked over to register her protest.

In-between Maujpur and Jaffrabad is a residential colony where people from both communities ran to find safety when violence erupted. On Tuesday, the colony authorities said that people from both communities lived there peacefully and they did not want outsiders roaming around.

As one goes back to New Seelampur, a small crowd is there keenly watching TV journalists doing live reports. One of the locals said, “It is all politics and we remain here to suffer.”

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