Monday, 30th October 2017

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All-night vigils in riot-hit Delhi neighbourhoods

Delhi police not doing its job: Violence victims

By Furquan Ameen in New Delhi
  • Published 27.02.20, 12:17 AM
  • Updated 27.02.20, 12:17 AM
  • 2 mins read
A resident of Maujpur argues with policemen to leave her neighbourhood and go patrol Muslim-dominated areas (Furquan Ameen)

Trust in Delhi Police has taken a hit. Residents across northeast Delhi have taken it upon themselves to protect their neighbourhoods instead of trusting the men in uniform to do their duty.

For the past three days, residents of both Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods of Jafrabad, Maujpur and Mustafabad have kept all-night vigils to protect their homes.

On Sunday, an allegedly inflammatory speech by BJP leader Kapil Mishra at Maujpur Chowk had led to a communal flare-up which has since led to the deaths of 25 people and left more than 150 injured.

In Maujpur’s Gurudwara Mohalla that has Hindu, Muslim and Sikh households, local residents have locked their gates and manned them since Monday afternoon, when violence hit the area.

Several people in various neighbourhoods said “outsiders” were inciting violence and arson.

Balpreet Singh, a bank employee and resident of Gurdwara Mohalla, said outsiders came on Monday night under the guise of protecting the neighbourhood but the local residents pushed them back. The outsiders could not be identified.

Located around 100m from Maujpur Chowk, this neighbourhood abuts a road which witnessed stone pelting. Few houses facing the road were burnt as well.

“I call a neighbour bhabhi (sister-in-law), and another one is like my chacha (uncle). These relationships have to be honoured,” said Singh.

Balpreet’s neighbour, Zulfiqar Uddin, said people had hardly slept since the violence began. Those keeping a watch have slept for two to four hours. And every outsider is allowed in only after proper verification of their identity.

Sabhi jaag rahe hain raaton ko, chowkidari kar rahe hain (Everyone is up all night manning the lanes),” said Zulfiqar.

About 6km away, Mustafabad was hit by violence too. Many Muslim neighbourhoods were targeted while some Hindu areas had seen stone pelting and arson as well.

A lane in Bhagirathi Vihar near Mustafabad is home to Hindus as well as Muslims. According to residents from both communities, men in helmets with sticks, Molotov Cocktails and firearms had entered their neighbourhood on Tuesday evening.

They clashed with another group of people on the other end of the lane. The clashes raged on for more than three hours.

“We kept dialling 100 for hours but not one policeman turned up. I have recordings of these calls. They kept telling us that a vehicle was being sent. The police didn’t come all night,” said Pankaj Kumar.

Nearby, Kumar’s cousin ran a clinic which was burnt down by the masked men. An apartment above the clinic was burned too.

A laundry shop next door and a jewellery shop right across were also burned using Molotov Cocktails.

His neighbour Subodh Jain said that the entire lane was on fire and all calls to the fire department went unanswered. Locals said the blaze was doused by them later at night when the situation had improved.

Ajit Kumar Sinha, an advocate at Tis Hazari courts and a resident of the lane, said the administration could have controlled the violence after BJP leader Mishra’s incitement.

“They wanted to let it happen for a while. They’ll benefit. Those who didn’t vote for the BJP will vote for them now. It (the atmosphere) is polarised,” said Sinha.