New Delhi: Usman Saifi had been religiously guarding a Ram temple in Gali Number 18 of Mustafabad’s Nehru Vihar for over a week now. Ever since riots broke out in the Muslim-dominated area of Northeast Delhi, Saifi and his neighbours were conscious of not letting tensions simmer for too long.
“He knew that if anything happens to the temple, it will be the Muslims of the area who will be blamed.” his wife Salma told ThePrint.
Saifi, 45, was picked up by Delhi Police from outside the temple late Sunday and detained. His neighbours say the police accused him of rioting and took him to Dyalpur station at 12:45 am.
“So many people guard the temple, not just him. I don’t know why they only targeted him” Salma said.
At the temple, the shock of Saifi’s arrest still confounds the temple guard, and those who witnessed his arrest.
‘Put a pistol to his head, took him away’
Muslim men in the neighbourhood say they have been sitting outside the over two-decade-old Ram temple in Mustafabad ever since the riots began.
“We can’t afford any slander, or any sort of allegations thrown our way. So, we would sit outside the temple every night and guard it,” said a Mustafabad resident, who was guarding the temple Sunday night with Saifi.
“The police suddenly came in their car, put a pistol on Saifi’s head and took him away. He didn’t even get a chance to defend himself,” the eyewitness added.
A temple guard also says he had seen Saifi every night since the riots.
“I don’t know anyone by their name. But I have seen him here sitting outside the temple. These men were not just guarding the temple, but also themselves — by ensuring they are not accused of anything,” the guard told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
‘Police saw my son rioting in video footage’
According to police sources, at least 150 people have been arrested until now in connection with the Delhi riots. However, there are no official figures on the detentions. “People are being detained in connection to rioting every day,” a source added.
At the Mustafabad relief camp, several families have approached the police and the legal help desk stationed there.
“Since last night, we have been getting several complaints of arbitrary arrests. We are trying to help these people locate the stations where their arrested or detained kin is kept,” said a Supreme Court advocate at the legal help desk.
At the help desk, a woman named Fatima tried seeking help, alleging that her husband and 17-year-old son were picked up by the police Monday afternoon, when the three of them were crossing the Shiv Vihar bridge.
“My husband and son put up a fruit stall at the Shiv Vihar puliya every day. They had put one up on 25th February as well. But the police caught hold of them saying they saw my son rioting in video footages,” said Fatima, adding that she kept telling the police they are innocent.
“They came to arrest my son, but then turned towards my husband and said ‘tum iske baap ho?’ and took him away as well,” Fatima added.
Several other families claimed male members of their family were picked up late Sunday.
“The men here have been sitting outside their homes every night ever since the riots as a safety measure for our families,” said Mohammed Umair, a resident of Mustafabad, whose neighbour Mohammed Yameen was picked up by the police Sunday night.
“We were sitting together when Yameen went to buy some milk, but he never came back. It’s only later when we went to the Dyalpur station to inquire did we find out about his arrest.”
(With inputs from Ananya Bhardwaj)