New Delhi: It allegedly started with an altercation between Hindus and Muslims as a Hanuman Jayanti procession in Northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, reached a mosque in the locality’s C Block Saturday. Police managed to bring about a semblance of calm by forming a human chain between the two groups. However, tempers allegedly flared up over sloganeering, leading to violence.
“It took place at around 6 pm over sloganeering. Even though it was initially controlled, at around 6.15 pm, both sides started pelting stones,” Special Commissioner of Police (law and order of northern zone) Dependra Pathak told ThePrint.
Around 300-350 people are said to have been part of the ‘Shobha Yatra’ organised in the area to mark Hanuman Jayanti. “During the initial altercation, around 25 police personnel who were present there formed a human chain and separated the two groups. However, the verbal spat intensified and they started attacking each other. Shots were fired and the sub-inspector who was at the tail-end of the rally got injured. He suffered a bullet injury on his hand. Extra reserve force was called to the spot, and tear gas shells were fired,” Pathak said.
DCP North-West Usha Rangnani said nine people were injured, out of which eight are police personnel and one is a civilian. “They are recovering in Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial (BJRM) Hospital,” she added.
The Delhi Police Crime Branch joined the investigation into the clash Sunday. So far, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the violence, and two minors had been apprehended as well. The accused were booked under various charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions.
A pistol has been recovered from the possession of one of the arrested accused, DCP Rangani said. The family of this accused is alleging that he is a minor.
Three firearms and five swords have also been recovered from the possession of the accused persons, the DCP added. Several vehicles were damaged in the clash, including a two-wheeler that was completely burnt down.
Special CP Pathak said that among those arrested is a 35-year-old history sheeter identified as Anshar, who is the “main accused” in the case, according to initial investigation.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Jahangirpuri’s C Block remained eerily silent in the midst of heavy barricading and deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel. This is the first communal flare-up in the capital city after the February 2020 riots that left 53 people dead and several injured.
Many residents ThePrint spoke to said they had never witnessed such violence before, as theirs was a peaceful locality where both Hindus and Muslims have lived in harmony.
Kin of accused who ‘opened fire’ say he is a minor
While police have said that the accused who allegedly opened fire during the procession is an adult aged 21 years, his family has reportedly claimed that he is 16.
Moreover, police have said he had a criminal record. “One of the accused who opened fire has been arrested. Pistol used in the commission of the crime has been recovered from his possession…He was found to be previously involved in two cases of assault. He was also arrested repeatedly under preventive sections and booked five times under Gambling and Arms Acts,” DCP Rangwani said.
In 2020, this accused was also booked under IPC sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 506 (criminal intimidation), police said.
Asked how he was identified, Special CP Pathak said it was done “on the basis of CCTV footage and human intelligence”.
“He himself told the investigation officer upon arrest that he is 21. In his June 2020 case, the Crime Bureau record also mentions his age as 21. We are verifying,” Pathak further said.
The others arrested in the case are: Zahid, Anshar, Shahjad, Mukhtyaar Ali, Mohammed Ali, Amir, Aksar, Noor Alam, Zakir, Akram, Imtyaz, Mohd. Ali, Ahir, Sheikh Saurabh, Suraj, Neeraj, Suken, Suresh, and Sujeet Sarkar. Another accused, identified as Salim, was arrested Sunday.
What the FIR says
The FIR, which ThePrint has seen, was registered on the complaint filed by Inspector Rajiv Ranjan Singh at Jahangirpuri police station at 11.40 pm.
“It was a peaceful Shobha Yatra procession to mark Hanuman Jayanti, but at around 6 pm, when they reached outside Jama Masjid in C-block, Anshar along with 4-5 associates came and started arguing with the people involved in Shobha Yatra. The argument escalated and stone pelting started from both the sides, and led to stampedes,” the FIR read.
It further said that the police tried to reason with the groups and they dispersed after a couple of minutes, but matters escalated with both sides raising slogans and pelting stones.
The FIR was lodged under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from duty), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc), 34 (common intention) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), as well as Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959.
‘Mandir & masjid next to each other’
Munna, a local resident who runs a meat shop in the area, told ThePrint: “We have lived here harmoniously for over 30 years. Mandir and masjid are barely 50 metres away from one another…the masjid is right in front of my house. What happened yesterday and the scale at which it happened is something we have never seen before.”
Another local resident, Sahimudeen, who is pursuing law, vouched for the brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims of the area, saying, “We celebrate Durga Puja, they celebrate Eid, they come to our gatherings, sometimes we go to theirs…Muslim residents have also played characters in Ramlila plays in the past.”
Mufti Abdur Raziq Mazahiri, Delhi general secretary of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, an organisation of Islamic scholars, told ThePrint: “The people who are spreading hate, the people who are trying to create distances between each other, those who are targeting each other’s religions are only trying to spoil the atmosphere of the country and can never be faithful to it.”
“The clashes erupted when the procession crossed the locality for the third time,” Mazahiri claimed.
Several media reports quoted local residents alleging that a few men tried to enter the mosque, referred to as the ‘Jama Masjid at Jahangirpuri’s C Block near Kushal Cinema’ in the FIR, and hoist a saffron flag.
“You can still see that Bhagwa flag there from the night, also other flags inside the mosque. This is proof that the people were forcefully trying to enter the mosque,” Mazahiri said, adding that those who “attacked” the mosque are “outsiders”.
Asked about this, Special CP Pathak said: “Further investigation is on.”
Nafeez, a local shop owner, said: “It’s hard to say if tensions will escalate further. But I pray it doesn’t.”
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)