NAGARIK EKTA MANCH
A REPORT ON COMMUNAL MOBILISATION IN DELHI
Report Released by Syeda Hameed, Ashok Vajpeyi, Harsh Mander and Urvashi Butalia
on 10 December, 2014
On November 14, 2014 some of us responding to communal conflagrations in parts of Delhi — notably Bawana, Trilokpuri, Ghonda, and Madanpur Khadar — called a meeting of concerned citizens, groups and organisations while tensions still prevailed. The narratives that came forth at this meeting made it clear that communal violence was set deliberately to simmer in the city as Delhi’s assembly elections were announced. This is in tune with the recent trends during general and assembly elections which were turned into offensive exercises in communal polarisation.
Concerted efforts to stoke hatred were reported from various localities across the city and communal violence threatened to rage. Assorted community based activists, teachers and students, and other concerned citizens rushed to respond in whatever way was feasible for them — holding dialogues with community members where tension prevailed, informing and pressurising the city administration, the minorities commission and the police into action, standing guard with the community members for stopping violence from further spiralling, providing legal and medical aid to those affected by it. The fire-fighting was not futile. While these mitigation efforts were uncoordinated they did have some positive impact.
While fire-fighting is the need of the hour, we realise that a longer range view of the situation is needed. Nagarik Ekta Manch is one such broad-based and coordinated effort towards countering the serious challenges. This report is an attempt at bringing forth our collective understanding of the prevailing and still developing situation in Delhi.
It is clear that communal violence and polarisation have proved to be a beneficial electoral strategy for the BJP, one that it is using with increasing impunity. The BJP has also run hate campaigns relentlessly after the orchestrated violence in many rural and urban areas of Western Uttar Pradesh. This is operating at two levels simultaneously — one, is a door-to-door, face-to-face drive spreading vicious lies about Muslims, the second is an aggressive and offensive majoritarianism in the everyday lives of communities. This is aided by separation of Muslims in ‘Muslims only’ neighbourhoods, muhallas or streets. It is aimed at further segregation and marginalisation of Muslims in the city. A pitting of the Dalits against Muslims is aimed at turning them into a votebank for the BJP. This polarisation continues unabated is not being effectively addressed or opposed by other political parties for the fear of turning the majority community against them.
In Bawana caste Panchayats enacted a communal posture and were utilised to deliver the threats. Overt violence was avoided by the threatened minority by giving in to the bullying tactics of the communal elements within the area. A campaign of manufacturing hatred around alleged cow-slaughtering had been fomenting since the early October this year around Eid-uz-Zuha. It is interesting to note that the campaign was founded on already existing faultlines of the original rural residents of Bawana and neighbouring villages, and those urban poor resettled here after being evicted years ago from Yamuna Pushta and various other slums in Delhi.
In a different kind of process a Vasant Kunj settlement of mostly Muslim inhabitants has been demolished by the authorities without following the stipulated norms of such action. The houses that the residents of the working-class settlement had built and been residing in over years were demolished within minutes at the beginning of winter. No provision for resettlement has been made.
The case of arson in Dilshad Garden’s St Sebastian Church adds another dimension to this narration of minorities under attack in the city. The fire at the church reduced everything in the building to ash. While the use of kerosene was evident to anyone at the site the police personnel gave statements to media that attributed the fire to electric ‘short-circuit’ without a forensic examination of the evidence at site.
From the narratives in the report it is evident that we are faced with communalism in power. We deduce that these processes are being utilised to produce a Hindutvisation of public spaces and the public sphere. Communalism in India has entered a new phase and we feel an urgent need to understand the uniqueness of this ruling Hindutva communal project.
Thus, the approach adopted in defending the secular character of our public sphere and polity must be well-considered, multi-pronged and strong. Many of us as individuals or as part of civil society organisations are already responding to these challenges. Nagarik Ekta Manch is a coming together of all these efforts by groups, organisations and individuals in Delhi. The chosen name of the forum symbolically gesture at the spirit of civil society response to the 1984 Sikh Massacres in Delhi which had coalesced under the same name.
NEM resolves to act as a platform for organisations and individuals working in Delhi and surrounding regions against communalism, for justice and peace. For practical reason while the Manch is limited to groups and individuals active in Delhi, we recognise that Delhi’s position as the capital city of the country has historically been leveraged to make all kinds of strategic and symbolic moves. This position puts Nagarik Ekta Manch too at a symbolically important position.
We will attempt to intervene in various capacities and put effort towards preventing incidents of communal polarization and violence. NEM will also continue to undertake efforts for peace in the affected area and for building a campaign to bring to book those guilty of attacks on minorities in various forms. We strongly feel that however difficult it might become we have to continue to access and use legal procedures to hold the state to its responsibility to protect all the citizens. This is especially true for the cases where state’s involvement is implicated in communally motivated demolitions, police atrocities or subversion flouting legal/procedural norms.
NEM is keenly aware of the need to keep in mind the legal, social, political and economic dynamics involved in these communal conflagrations. We recognize that the struggle against communalism is linked with the question of attack on life and livelihood of working people, corporate plunder, caste atrocities, gender injustice, state-oppression and various issues affecting the students and youth of the country. We also recognise that although the immediate mitigating efforts are going to mindful of the impending assembly elections the social and subtle manufacturing of hatred will not stop with elections getting over. We will strive to campaign proactively among various sections of the society to politicise people against religious fundamentalism and the politics of hate mongering.
Har Ghar Kuch Kahta hai: A Black October, Disgraceful November and Chilling December
“We were gheraoed from all sides. When the rioters came in, we asked for police help but they said that they did not have any instructions to intervene. For four hours, the stone pelting continued. Some of the children got hurt, yet the police was a silent spectator”, recalls Madina, a middle aged woman who lives in Block 27 of Trilokpuri. She is an eye witness and victim of the unfortunate clash that erupted on the evening of 24th October, the very next day after Diwali.
Madina owns a two-floor house built up on a 22 yard plot. In this tiny home she lives with her two grown up sons’ families and three tenants who fled the same night fearing their lives. And Madina is not alone. In Blocks 15, 20 and 27, most of the households have similar stories to tell – a few less pathetic, many far more tragic. Madina recalls, “And next day when the police came, they had all the instructions. They barged into our homes, broke the doors, beat us and picked Salman, a youth and put him behind bars. When Salman’s mother went to the Police station with her younger son, Jameel, with food for Salman, Jameel was also thrown into police custody, badly beaten up and now languishing in Tihar jail under IPC sections like 307 and 353, with charges of attempt to murder. ”
It was 2014’s Diwali night. According to one version, a small altercation between two groups of people started apparently over the volume of a loudspeaker at a temporarily erected Mata ki Chouki (makeshift worship venue on holy occasions to offer tribute to the goddess Durga during Navratras (Dussera), which it was alleged was disturbing prayers in the nearby mosque. The temporary ‘Mata ki Chowki’ was in the vicinity of the mosque and was erected at a vacant public space meant for pedestrians’ walk for the first time this year. The altercation soon took an ugly turn, and stone-pelting started from both sides.
Another version of the truth reveals a more complex story. It is said – and was found to be true in during later inspection- that illegal shops of illicit liquor and even drugs are a common sight in the lanes of Trilokpuri after darkness falls. Drunk men, irrespective of their social identities, mainly youngsters, behave in unruly ways on the streets. A couple of days before Diwali, 4 men, completely intoxicated, were arguing among themselves near the ‘CHOWKI’, and the rear panel of the makeshift temple was allegedly touched by one of the miscreants. He happened to be from the Muslim community, and his action was therefore portrayed as an act if disrespect, which resulted in a tense situation. This however subsided sooner rather than later. Then the Diwali incident occurred, and some local divisive forces played the game of giving the small incident of altercation an ugly communal colour, resulting in a communal clash between the neighbours.
Locals, when interrogated, also revealed that local politicians instigation escalated the tension. It is said that the former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya was called to intervened, but he only further fuelled the religious sentiments of people. Reportedly on Diwali night Vaidya stated at the Chowki that a permanent temple would be constructed at the spot where the Mata ki Chowki was located. Vaidya has however denied the allegation in an interview to a English newspaper. He says, “People came to me to complain against a group of Muslim criminals who were disrupting a Mata ki Chowki function. So I called the SHO and ACP to my office to listen to their complaints. I did not hold any meeting on Diwali night”. Even with all this tension, Trilokpuri was relatively quiet, on the eve of Diwali.
The next day, on 24th of October, the morning was quiet though a sense of discomfort was in the air. People got busy with their normal routine. But in the late evening, all of sudden an unruly crowd of hundreds of people (of majority community) barged into Block 20 and started stoning and random firing. Locals say that these people were outsiders who had been brought to Trilokpuri by a particular group belonging to the ruling political party. Soon the situation got out of control and the Police as well as the Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed. Police too allegedly fired (without a valid permission and in disguise) a few youth got wounded. Several youngsters got hurt during brick and stone pelting. Soon tension spread from Block 20 to other blocks of Trilokpuri. The same night, more than 20 youths were picked up by the police without following any legal permission. The wounded persons in police firing, were admitted to a hospital in Noida. They belonged to majority community.
On the morning of 25 October, one of us got to know of the tensions in Trilokpuri and subsequently alerted others regarding the same. This day, the riots spread to different blocks of this assembly constituency. Blocks 15-20-27 were the most affected. The riot and looting started with more than two dozen people entering a departmental store called A-Z Shop at 4 AM in Block 27 from the roof by breaking the door and set fire to the entire shop. On the same day the situation turned worse with stone throwing on the streets and inside the lanes spread to the larger area and an atmosphere of apprehension and fear gripped the citizens. The tension spread from Block 20 to 27-28, 15-9, 6-8, Kalyanpuri Block 13; and Indira and Sanjay camps. Police came to Block 27 on the night of 24th and according to the residents, they broke several vehicles which might have been specifically marked as belonging to Muslims. Then the police entered the Sanjay Camp, and here they broke open all locked doors claiming that men were hidden inside.
In the afternoon of 25th, many policemen, came to block 15, and arrested 14 youngsters without giving them a reason. The boys were taken into the police station, were beaten badly, not given food till they were sent to jail and framed under severe charges along with others.
After relentless efforts to reach out to all concerned authorities the section 144 was imposed only in the late evening of 25th October, though that was the first step ought to have been taken, right on the very first day, 23rd night.
This was the time when various local and external people became active on the ground ensuring peace and preventing further clash in the area. Teams visiting the Sanjay camp in the succeeding days (on 26/27thOctober) have noted the broken doors of the houses in the locality. They have also met several women with injury marks on their bodies and with visible lathi marks. During the team’s visits to Sanjay camp on 27th October, no shops were open in this Block and Camp; residents of the Camp had either fled away or were desperate for food and even requested the visiting teams to ask the police to allow them to collectively cook food. The injured were not going to government hospitals for the fear of cases being framed against them. Moreover, the local MLA from AAP has not also been seen in the area either by us or by the locals during the difficult hours as we were told, except on the morning of 24th of October when he took a round with police for a couple of hours. We spoke to him several times on phone and hardly got the positive vibes or a concrete assuring tone of action from him. Congress played a not to be mentioned role – neither heard, nor seen.
On the other hand, former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and local RSS leader Ram Charan Gujarati were excessively engaged; they continued to roam around freely in and out of the police stations and in the area. In the de-facto BJP office at Sunil Vaidya’s residence in Block 21, groups of around 25-30 young men were huddled inside in the afternoon. They came out on the streets to video-graph themselves saying “BJP is our only savior. We shall vote them to power this time”. This was happening after a couple of days since the violence took place and more than 50 youths (mostly from minority community) were in jail and at a time when Section 144 was imposed. It was clearly not a spontaneous scene, but an orchestrated display of power and the intention of the power that be.
According to various teams’ findings, nearly 50 percent of the Muslim families in the area had either left the area all together, or have sent women and children to their relatives in other parts of Delhi. During the clashes, young men as well as women and children are kept locked in their homes by the elderly members of the for fear of their safety, and also in the apprehension that the police will pick them up and frame them in false cases.
Role of the Police
The role of Police was extremely insensitive. Initially they took the whole matter very lightly and when things started becoming serious on the night of 24th October even then the Police didn’t pay it any serious attention, even though there are three Police Stations near Trilokpuri namely, Ashok Nagar, Kalyanpuri and Matyur Vihar. On 25th October the police force unleashed brutality on the residents by lathi charging, in which women and children were badly injured. Tear gas was also used by the Police, in many instances tear gas shells were also lobbed inside the house of residents. In 15 Block a 6 month year baby had to be admitted in the hospital as tear gas had been thrown into his house. The police also dragged people into the Police Station and beat them up inside the Station in which many people’s hands were fractured and were grievously injured. In the initial stage Police in many ways played a worse role than the rioters. More people were injured due to police action rather than rioting. Emboldened by the laxity show by the Police the rioters burnt down the A-Z shop in 27 Block. This was followed by stone pelting in the area.
Locals say that the police remained a mute witness for four whole hours on 24th October, even as the tensions escalated. This lack of prompt action only emboldened and encouraged the rioters. The Police acted only on the 25th October, after the riots had spread to several parts of Trilokpuri. Even when the police finally acted, an obvious bias could be seen in several instances. They arbitrarily picked up construction workers (mostly poor, and from the minority community) from Block 27. They entered the local mosque with shoes, and there are also reports that they desecrated books in the mosque (according to Mehar Ali, a resident of Block 27). The police used sexually abusive language against members of both communities. According to several narratives emerging from our meetings in Trilokpuri, the police beat up women and the elderly. As already has been mentioned, two youngsters were seriously injured in the police firing on 25th October.
Some serious concerns have arisen with regard to the arrests and FIRs filed by the police. It appears that the arrests are entirely arbitrary and selective. For instance, Jameel was arrested and thrown into police custody when he went to meet this brother in jail. Existing legal provisions to be followed during arrests were violated with impunity, and neither have the mandatory rights of under-trials been ensured. Some Hindu men also have been arrested, but Muslims constitute an overwhelming majority of those arrested (A list can be seen on request). In some of the FIRs, there is no specific mention of the accused – thus leaving the doors open for subsequent false arrests and putting any scapegoat’s name in the FIR and the charge sheet. As the FIRs show, most of the accused have been charged under several provisions of the IPC, including under section 307 (attempt to murder) which is a non-bailable offence. Moreover, when the accused were produced in the Karkardooma court on 26th October, our team members who were present noted that they had several injuries and signs of assault. They were limping and had open wounds. We were told by the accused that they had not been fed by the police for over 36 hours. It was only after our intervention and procurement of food, they were allowed to eat. No medical help had been provided to them. Moreover, their relatives have not been allowed to meet them.
In Tihar Jail
A team of lawyers and judicial activists from civil society tried to meet the accused (by then) youths but denied the permission, saying that only if the prisoner’s recommended one name would be permissible. Even lawyers were not allowed to meet them who wanted to help fight their case in the court, for bail and in future. After many efforts the human rights lawyers have been able to get bail for 13 people on the basis of their severe injuries and rest are still in jail.
After 49 day one can see an apparently calm face of TrilokPuri and yet a shadow of fear and gloom looms large on the faces of the local citizens and inside the lanes filled with tiny houses hosting mainly working class people. They are street vendors, domestic workers, factory labors, carpenters, masons, Chai walas, shoe makers and petty shop keepers and their employees. Most of them almost starved during the 15 days almost collapsed social- economic life, now trying hard to recycle their life again. Many youth have lost their jobs as there is not security for the private sector employees in such situations.
On the other hand, we are getting disturbing news and witnessing violent acts in the schools in the area. Children sadly are being dragged into the divisive agenda.
We are at the threshold of the assembly elections. One can hear the beating sounds of claims and promises all around, but TrilokPuri is more concerned about a peaceful, dignified and economically viable citizenship entitlement for it’s residents. They hear the election RAGA and waiting for their own voice to be heard of.
In the backdrop of these facts the Nagarik Ekta Manch demands the following :
- A SIT inquiry supervised by the High Court of Delhi should be constituted on the TrilokPuri incidents;
- The victims should be given appropriate compensation according to their loss after a proper loss mapping exercise;
- People who have lost their employment should be compensated through livelihood options too;
- Schools should adhere the guidelines of the Education Department, Delhi in the case of discrimination against any student on the basis of religion, cast, class and gender;
- Police should withdraw false cases against the arrested youths where there was no proof of wrongdoing on their part and they were picked up from their homes or factories.
- Political parties should be strongly prevented from stirring the communal pot for political gains.
(Reports originally published on kafila.org)
November 2, 2014
Organized Hindutva forces are again trying to instigate communal polarization and spread terror in Bawana area of North-West Delhi in the last few days. They have called for a ‘Mahapanchayat’ at 4 pm on Sunday, 2nd November 2014 to oppose the Taziya procession taken out for Moharram in the area, calling it supposedly a ‘terror procession’.
Only three-four policemen loiter in the area tonight on 1st November, while the administration, including the Lt. Governor and Police Commissioner, has been alerted in the afternoon itself by various pro-people forces and local people on the rabidly communal ‘parcha’ that has been circulated in the area. This parcha explicitly gives a ‘call for Bawana’ to stop the supposed terror procession and ‘show of arms’, ‘display of strength’, disruption of peace and other baseless allegations on the Muslim community.
The situation of communal tension in Bawana is not spontaneous, but is being instigated by organized Hindutva forces, much like Trilokpuri in the past week. Earlier, on 2nd-6th October, just before Eid celebrations, the ‘Hindu Krantikari Sena’ outfit of the RSS tried to make a case out of imaginary ‘cow slaughter’ and instigate terror and communal tension among residents of Bawana JJ Colony and nearby Bawana village. They had also put up communal posters then calling for a gathering in Bawana Gaushala on 5th October.
But united local resistance of the people of Bawana, and solidarity efforts from anti-communal activists in Delhi, had pressurized the administration to deploy adequate force, and also halted the fundamentalists’ designs and there was no occurrence of violence. Fact-finding teams from Delhi visiting Bawana JJ colony on 5th and 6th October had also among others, demanded before the Bawana P.S. and the Governer to at least keep the police presence against communal instigation for a month, as residents had already expressed fears of a continuation and an escalation of tension during Moharram.
After the tension in first week of October, there was preparation for a united ‘aman shanti sabha’ on 1st November by residents of Bawana JJ Colony in a spirit of communal harmony. However, this had to be stopped as the administration ‘dissuaded’ the residents (denied permission) citing reasons of possible incitement of violence! The administration also told the Muslim residents of Bawana JJ Colony that they should, as demanded by the fundamentalist forces, also re-route their Taziya procession from its usual route across the villages which has been so for many years now, in a spirit of mutual participation by all communities in each others’ festivities. But now, the administration goes ahead and gives green signal for a rabidly communal Mahapanchayat to happen, whose only expressed agenda is instigating communal violence! These instances show a clearly biased police administration, which must immediately be investigated into and transferred as necessary.
The present so-called Mahapanchayat reminds one of the similar pattern of organized violence being orchestrated through explicitly communal gatherings being inflamed into riots, Muzaffarnagar in UP being the most recent example.
- The administration must immediately stop this illegal communal Mahapanchayat gathering which has an expressed rabid communal agenda
- Deploy continuous presence of increased police force till situation is stable.
- Strongly act against and arrest the fundamentalist communal forces of ‘Hindu Krantikari Sena’ now who have been planfully trying to instigate communal polarization and violence since before October.
- Facilitate the Aman Shanti Sabha being sought to be organized by the local Bawana JJ colony people as an effort in peace-building.
- Investigate into the biased role of the local Bawana police and punish the guilty and lax officials.
November 3, 2014
Long standing communal tension in Bawana (at the outskirts of Delhi) took a vicious inflammatory turn, when a Mahapanchayat was called on 2nd November to provoke hatred against the Taziya (Moharram procession) in Bawana. Since Bakrid, the blatant lie of ‘cow slaughter’ in the JJ Colony (nearby Bawana) was used as a pretext to mobilize the whole Hindu community against Muslims. India’s ruling party BJP, as well as an entire battery of RSS backed Hindutva outfits were involved in the campaign to divide Hindus and Muslims of the poorest classes.
Our observations about the Mahapanchayat are as follows:
People were mobilized from Bawana and many places close to Bawana, from both Haryana and Delhi.
The agenda of Mahapanchayat was to prevent the Taziya procession in Bawana. But residents of the JJ Colony told us that the Muslims of the colony had already agreed, in a meeting on 28th October where leaders from both communities and the ACP were present, to limit their procession to the JJ Colony itself. If the issue of the route of the Taziya procession had already been settled, why did the police even allow the mahapanchayat to be held?
During the Mahapanchayat again and again leaders and speakers addressed to ACP and DCP (present at the occasion) and warned them of dire consequences if the Taziya procession took place. Why did the police remain meek and mute spectators to these threats?
At the Mahapanchayat, many leaders made provocative speeches full of communal hatred against Muslims. Many speeches declared that the Muslims’ homeland is Pakistan, that Hindus are the ‘Mulnivasi’ (original inhabitants) of this land therefore Hindus would dictate terms to those who want to live here. Speeches were made openly threatening violence:
ham taziya nahi nikalane denge, khuli chunauti dete hain. Hamne 3000 signature karake acp ko diye hain aur ab abhi agar Taziya niklta hai to jo bhi maar kaat hogi uske jimeedaar ham nahi honge. Ham kamjor nahi hain, hamare sath jo bhi chal raha hai wo galat hai. Ham is soch ko mita denge. Ham dekh lenge (We won’t allow the Taziya procession to be held, we openly challenge anyone to hold it. We have collected 3000 signatures and submitted to the ACP, that if the Taziya is held, there will be bloodshed, and we won’t be responsible for this. We are not weak, what is being done to us is wrong. We will wipe out this thought. We’ll see…)
Many media persons as well as senior police officers were present and they all witnessed these speeches. We too have video and audio recordings of these speeches. Why has the police not yet filed cases against all those who made these openly provocative speeches?
A large number of young men from Bawana and nearby places were present there. Not surprisingly, many leaders of ABVP were present at this Mahapanchayat.
The Mahapanchayat was glaringly free of the presence of women. Among the thousands present, there was not a single woman!
Gugan Singh Ranga, MLA of the Bawana constituency from BJP, who also made speeches instigating and threatening violence, repeatedly declared, ‘ab Modi sarkaar aa gayi hai’ (Now the Modi government is in power). Clearly, the fact of the Modi government was seen as a victory for the Hindu majoritarian fundamentalists, not only over the minority community but over all citizens wishing for peace and mutual respect among communities.
Some of the leaders present there were Ganesh ji, and Dharmendra from Kathawala, leader of the Rohini Dharmik aur Sanskritik Sabha, Kuldeep Dalkaar, Jitender Rana and Kishen ji.
The Mahapanchayat leaders felt no hesitation to openly issue threats of violence – from the dais as well as in face-to-face interaction – to the media. There were repeated appeals to the youth and the people present there to be ready for violent actions through whatever means. A diary was circulated among attendees, taking their contact numbers, and it was stated from the dais that the leaders would “secretly inform everyone about the action that needs to be taken on 4th November.” When plans for ‘secret’ mobilizations of communal violence are openly announced on a public dais in presence of senior police officers, why is no action being taken to punish the organizers and prevent the violence?
The deployment of police at the Mahapanchayat was very weak. Knowing that Mahapanchayats were followed by communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, why was the police presence so weak?
We visited the JJ Colony (the site of tension during Bakrid). There was palpable fear there. People of the JJ Colony are mostly workers who work in the industrial belt of Narela. Police patrolling was visible there. People were busy in their routine work.
The JJ Colony residents told us that they had agreed to curtail the Taziya route in the interests of ‘aman chain’ (peace and harmony). But the question came to our mind: why is it that the police used the Muslims’ fear of violence to ‘advice’ them to curtail the route of their procession that they have held peacefully for years? Why, in a democracy, can the police in India’s national capital not ensure that the minority can safely hold their Taziya procession? Why were those threatening violence against the Taziya procession not arrested?
JJ Colony residents asked, “We agreed to curtail the route of the Taziya. But we don’t know why the administration has allowed the Mahapanchayat where seeds of hatred have been sowed. At the time of Bakrid, and now again near Moharram, we are living in fear of violence.” Many local youths told us stories of fraternity between both the communities in the JJ Colony, lamenting that political forces were sowing seeds of hatred to destroy this fraternity.
Noore Elahi is located in the Eastern part of Delhi, bordering with areas such as Durgapuri, Ghonda and Maujpur. It has a mixed population of Muslims and Hindus.
Creating a context for the violence is the first task undertaken by the forces that bank upon it to acquire power. While in the Trilokpuri area, the old symbols of places of worship served the purpose, In Noore Elahi it was cow carcass that was chosen as symbol to unsettle the existing peaceful social fabric. On the evening of 9th November around 9 pm, a sack with cow carcass was found lying on the road outside a famous local eating joint called Noore Elahi chicken corner. In the next moment, visibly scripted, a dozen of men, all outsiders, were seen mobilizing people against the owner of the local chicken shop, who was accused of selling cow meat in his shop secretly. But fortunately their nefarious design to create a communal tussle between residents of the two communities was foiled by locals who displayed an exemplary show of solidarity.
Local eyewitnesses narrated the incident as they saw it. One of them told the fact finding team that he saw two young men getting of an Electronic Rickshaw and dropping the packets that contained cow carcass on the road outside the chicken shop and disappearing from the scene very fast. Following them came a dozen of men who gathered at the spot raising slogans with an intention to incite violence. However, when locals did not react according to their wishes, these men visibly outsiders, vanished from the scene. But their attempts to polarize communities with markers of identity didn’t end here, on 11th November a Panchayat in the nearby Ghonda area was called upon by an ambiguous youth organization (Yuva Hindu Sangh) that distributed pamphlets with highly inflammatory contents, blaming the Muslim community of engaging into practices that hurt the Hindu sentiments. An alert civil society thwarted these attempts by the mischievous forces again. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate to completely turn down these mischievous attempts as failed. It would be too much to assume that these incidents wouldn’t have a long time impact on the peaceful social equilibrium that existed here.
The locals in the area have handed over the CCTV footage to the DCP of the police as evidence to support their claims. Reportedly police has arrested three people in the case so far based on its own investigation and the footage. When asked to reveal the names of these, the authorities citing investigation procedures, turned down the request.
On the afternoon of December 1, 2014 some of the Nagarik Ekta Manch received information about fire at St Sebastian Church at Dilshad Garden. We were told that the it is an act of arson and the police is trying to cover up the deliberate nature of the incident. The local SHO, we were told, had already given statements to the media indicating that the fire was caused by ‘electrical short-circuit’, while it was clear to those present there that the electrical circuits at the church were intact.
The first team of Nagarik Ekta Manch members reached the site by 4:30 pm. We spoke to the Fr Mathew Koyickal, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Delhi who was speaking to the news reporters on the events of the morning.
He told us that the day chaukidar took over his duty at 6:00 am in the morning. He was the first to report the raging fire in the church building. He alerted the pastor by phone and by 6:30 am police and fire-brigade arrived and started to extinguish the fire. Fr Koyickal told us that the fire at the church reduced everything in the building to ash. He said that while the use of kerosene was evident to anyone at the site, the police personnel gave statements to media that attributed the fire to electric ‘short-circuit’ without a forensic examination of the evidence at site. The forensic experts team of the Delhi police had arrived at 4:00 pm.
We were unable to confirm the report given to us by some bystanders that the night chowkidar gave a statement that he did not see anything untoward during his duty and had no idea that a fire was raging inside the church. Fr Koyickal said that estimating from the damages inside the church the fire must have started at least around 2:00 am, if not earlier. He said that the sanctuary of the church had been destroyed as has been the pulpit, the sacred vessels, the books and all the benches. Fr Koyickal said that the damages to the tune of 1.5 crore rupees had taken place in the fire. He added that the damage to the community’s faith and trust cannot even be adequately estimated and that the Christian Community has been badly hurt by this mindless attack.
Ms Meenakshi Singh, General Secretary of the Rahtriya Isaai Mahasangh said that this kind of attack on a church on 1 December when the Christmas festivities and services begin at the church is deeply wounding. She further said that this kind of attacks always take place whenever BJP and its affiliates come to power. She informed us that Mr Arvind Kejrival had visited the site. He had condemned the incident and its inept handling by the police. The constituency MP Mr Manoj Tiwari also visited the site and according to Ms Singh he told people gathered there that Prime Minister Modi had sent him. Mr Haroon Yusuf and Mr Arvinder S Lovely also visited the church.
The case of arson in Dilshad Garden’s St Sebastian Church adds another dimension to this narration of minorities under attack in the city.
On the 25th of November, around 400 houses were demolished in the Israil camp in Rangapuri area near Vasant Kunj. This is an old settlement which was partly legalised following the intervention by the Supreme Court and NHRC in 2000. Around 2000 people have been rendered homeless in this demolition. The demolition was done at a notice of ten minutes resulting in loss of property which could have been saved otherwise. Some injuries were also reported during the demolition.
The Israil camp is dominated by poor people, mostly Mulsim, who have migrated from Bihar, UP and other parts. The police and forest officials exhorted money from the poor and allowed them to build small houses in the area. The residents have clearly stated that communal tension was being promoted in the area by the RSS. The recently started RSS shakha in that area has been tightening its grip and raising polarizing demands like renaming the area as Hanuman camp.
This demolition is apparently intended to teach the Muslim residents a lesson for not giving in to provocations of communal tension. A member of the RSS shakha in that area has written to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi claiming that a large number of Muslim and Bangladeshi population is settling in the area and they are a potential threat to the security given the proximity of the basti to the airport. The local MLA, who did not receive much electoral support from this area, had also written a letter to the LG demanding action against the people settled there and identified them as a potential threat. The situation in the camp has remained dismal since them. It has received little support in terms of compensation or immediate relief.
NAGARIK EKTA MANCH
Apoorva Anand apoorvanand[at]kafila.org
Ghazala Jamil ghazalajamil[at]gmail.com
Ishaan Anand ishan.jsr[at]gmail.com
Jamal Kidwai jamalkidwai[at]gmail.com
Kiran Shaheen kiranshaheen[at]gmail.com
Muhammad Aamir Khan aamir.anhad[at]gmail.com
Om Prasad omprasad14[at]gmail.com
Ovais Sultan Khan india.ovais[at]gmail.com
Purnima Gupta guptapurnima[at]gmail.com
Than Singh Josh joshantyoday[at]gmail.com