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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Delhi Jahangirpuri violence: “If we are Bangladeshis, then we have been given voter IDs only for our votes,” local people speak of their pain

Read The Mooknayak’s ground report to learn about the residents and their harrowing stories of getting caught in the violence that erupted during a Hanuman Jayanti procession in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area.

Delhi — “If people don’t like us here, then we should be given poison,” says Abida, who lives in C-block in Jahangirpuri, in the slum in the alley opposite the narrow lanes of C-block, Jahangirpuri, a name that is frequently in the news headlines today.

There’s a lot of anger among all the people in the mohalla [C-block] where Abida lives. And most people’s anger is turning to outrage on seeing the media reports being aired on TV. Abida says that both the police and the media are doing them an injustice.

“The police are picking up people from their homes. And the media is intent on establishing us as Bangladeshi infiltrators.” This is the situation following the violence that broke out on Hanuman Jayanti on Saturday. In which, common people are having to deal with all kinds of challenges. And the net result is that there’s so much fear among the people that they aren’t even able to hold a discussion around the incident.


Let us be killed!

Abida is one of the people who on seeing us, were at first filled with anger. Later on, brimming with the same anger, she says that today we are being called Bangladeshi again and again. But when the time comes to vote, we become Hindustani. Has Modi ji given us voter cards just to cast a vote? Don’t we also have a right to live?

Manuara, who is standing next to Abida, states that, “If they don’t like us, let them fire bullets at us. Our children are being taken away from us. Our children are being separated from their mothers. It would be better to kill us than to separate us like this. So then neither will we remain and nor will all this happen. Because when we go out, people call us Bangladeshi. It is a fasting time and we are having to face so many problems. We are not able to venture beyond our lane, we are not able to get drinking water, and the shops are closed.”

The incident has made the people anxious. The police have been picking up people from their homes for questioning. Among all this, a mother of a physically disabled child, who is a garbage picker, is repeatedly making rounds of the police station. She shows her son’s medical certificate and X-rays and starts to cry. She says my son is disabled and the police have taken him away. We are poor people, somehow we were surviving. What would getting into this Hindu-Muslim [controversy] do for us?

“My father was a worker in MCD, so how could he be a Bangladeshi”

Standing with all these people in that narrow lane is Sheikh Rafiq, whose forebears lived in Krishnanagar in the Nadia district of West Bengal. He says, “I was born right here in Jahangirpuri where my father is an MCD worker. So now you tell me, how have we become Bangladeshis? Our family comes from West Bengal, [but] we’re repeatedly being targeted as Rohingya Muslims. Hatred is being spread against us. This is all the work of the RSS. Is our community only a vote-bank? It’s been so many days since the incident, yet no political leader has ventured here to meet us. Our street is connected to the main road and has been blocked.”

Criminals being given full protection by the police!

Both Muslims and Hindus live in this block. On seeing the anger among the locals, The Mooknayak also met people from the other community. The condition of the streets here was slightly better compared with the other lanes in C-block. [But] the situation was the same. Nobody was ready to talk. The children were also fearful lest their photographs appeared in the media. When The Mooknayak  approached an elderly man sitting on the cot to ask about Saturday’s incident, he said that a crowd had come there that evening.

They had weapons in their hands and people started rushing into their homes. But when we asked him to speak on camera, he flatly refused. His wife, who was sitting next to him, also refused to say anything about the incident.

This lane of G block is adjacent to the road on which the crowd had come running. Flags that had been put up during the procession were still evident in many places in the block. All the people we tried to talk to here said that they had not been in the vicinity [at the time of the incident]. Even the electric rickshaw drivers refused to talk about it. In the meantime, however, in one of the other lanes, a woman named Chandrakant agreed to talk to us.

Flags put up during the procession in many places of G-block / Photo: Poonam Masih, The Mooknayak
Flags put up during the procession in many places of G-block / Photo: Poonam Masih, The Mooknayak

According to Chandrakant, the police are to be blamed for the incident. She says that whatever has happened today, it is because of the failure of the police. If the police had cracked down on the criminals earlier, then this day would not have come about today. She says, “Crime is so rampant here that women are unable to step out of their homes after dusk. No-one can say whose gold chain will disappear from around their neck. No-one can say when your phone will be snatched. All these people have the protection of the police.” She clarifies categorically that she is not saying that the criminals belong to any particular religion or caste. Rather, a criminal is only a criminal, and the police are also in the hands of criminals. If this wasn’t the case, then so much wouldn’t have happened here.

At the time of the incident on Saturday, Pandit Kripashankar was standing near Kushal Cinema, located at the corner. He tells us that the first stones were pelted from the direction of C-block, after which people taking part in the procession picked up the same stones to throw back towards them. Then just like that the matter escalated, and sticks, swords, petrol bombs, etc. appeared. He says that a person’s bicycle was set on fire right in front of his eyes, and at the same time, the person’s hand was attacked with a sword. Most of the boys in this crowd, he says, seemed to have been around 15 to 20 years old.

What was the whole matter about?

On Saturday, violence broke out during a procession marking Hanuman Jayanti in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area; in which, clashes happened between the two communities and along with eight policemen, two more persons were injured. Following these events, tension spread in the area, and so far 23 people have also been arrested in relation to the matter, including two minors. Taking cognizance of the matter, the Supreme Court has ordered a fair investigation. Now, the incident is being given political color, with the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party coming into dispute with each other.

Poonam Masih
Poonam Masih
Poonam Masih, Journalist The Mooknayak

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