New Delhi: Visible fear and unease enveloped the streets of Northeast Delhi on the third consecutive day of communal violence in the city. Even as most regions wore a deserted look owing to residents refusing to step out of their houses, several mobs were seen taking to the streets with batons and lathis shouting inflammatory slogans and threats in Maujpur, Jaffrabad, Babarpur and Gokulpuri.
The death toll rose to 11 Tuesday, while at least 141 injured people are being treated at GTB hospital. Those dead include a police officer, head-constable Ratan Lal, who died Monday. Six of the fatalities occurred Tuesday.
According to official police figures, around 100 vehicles have been set on fire in the entire region and as many as 80 shops have been damaged.
Many families living in these areas said this is the “worst violence” they had witnessed in the city in several decades.
“We (Hindus and Muslims) have been co-existing here peacefully since our childhood. I never thought I would live to witness this day,” 38-year-old Feroz Ahmed, a resident of Noor-e-ilahi colony near Jaffrabad told ThePrint. “It’s the worst violence I have seen in Delhi.
“We thought Hindu-Muslim riots aren’t possible in Delhi. This is something we are struggling to digest.” he added.
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With the rising death toll and injuries, the most palpable sentiment in the violence-hit areas was anger and frustration at the police, with many residents describing them as “spectators”.
“The police are listening to the orders of the home ministry. Mobs are walking around brandishing lathis and daggers, threatening anyone who looks Muslim. Why is the police not stopping them?” asked 30-year-old Shehzad from Babarpur.
At least one of the 10 civilians killed in the violence, Mubarak Hussain, was a 28-year old labourer was from Babarpur’s Vijay Park colony.
“What BJP’s Kapil Mishra was threatening to do in three days’ time, has already happened. The city is burning precisely because of these statements,” a 50-year-old woman, who was the neighbour of the victim, told ThePrint.
About 200 metres from the Babarpur Bus Terminal, a petrol pump was set on fire Tuesday afternoon consuming the surrounding area in thick billowing smoke.
Right adjacent to Babarpur lies Maujpur, which has become the epicentre of the pro-CAA protests after BJP leader’s Kapil Mishra’s call. On Monday, the violence in the Maujpur-Jaffrabad stretch intensified with several shops and cars set ablaze.
Several mobs took the street in Maujpur Tuesday, threatening anyone attempting to make videos. When asked how the clashes started, a man who was part of one such mob in the stretch between Maujpur-Babarpur told ThePrint, “The clashes started when the Mohammedans gathered to protest against the CAA. They basically wanted to make a Shaheen Bagh here and we Hindus will neither tolerate nor allow it.”
Following the violence, all the shops on the main streets of Maujpur remained shut Tuesday. Piles of clothes from garment shops allegedly owned by Muslims were taken out and burnt in the middle of the Babarpur road.
On one of the predominantly Muslim streets of Maujpur, a young boy said, “All of us have been on guard these past days. I have not slept for the past 24 hours.”
A group of women, carrying lathis, walked around the Maujpur market threatening many shop owners. “If you have Muslims as tenants living above your shops, ask them to leave now. Or we won’t spare you either,” a woman leading the mob said.
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The streets and main roads of Gokulpuri were deserted, populated only by groups of masked men weilding lathis and chanting “Jai Shri Ram”.
“This whole market was owned by Muslim thieves,” said a bystander outside the tyre market in Gokulpuri. An employee at the petrol pump adjacent to the tyre market said a group of 150-200 men stormed in at around 11 am Tuesday, and set the market on fire.
As thick smoke billowed and flames rose, dozens of men — and even children as young as 10 years old — gathered outside the gates to chant Jai Shri Ram before storming the compound and overturning a vehicle.
A few hundred meters away, inside Gokulpuri’s A Block, a masjid’s doors had been broken down and its insides vandalised.
“Should we wait for our temples to be destroyed? So many of our Hindu brethren have been hurt and injured in Maujpur — why don’t you go there and shoot? Why come here?” said a resident of A block, before heckling one of ThePrint reporters (and photographer Manisha Mondal), threatening to beat them if they took videos.
The residents of Gokulpuri — a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood — alleged that Muslims of the neighbouring Kardampuri area began the stone pelting. “This whole thing started as a pro-CAA, anti-CAA thing, but first Muslims started pelting stones before the whole thing flared up,” said Indu, who lives next to the tyre market.
When ThePrint moved to Kardampuri, through Yamuna Vihar, hordes of men chanting Jai Shri Ram had set a car on fire and were firing shots in the air while Muslim youth from the neighbourhood retaliated with stone-pelting. “They’re firing bullets, and you’re worried about stones?” said one youth.
A 14-year-old boy, who had gone to buy water from a store, was caught in the cross-fire and injured with a bullet graze wound on his back. His family initially didn’t take him to the hospital for fear that he would be taken to a police station.
“I had gone out to buy a packet of water, and when I was coming on my way back, my foot got stuck in something and I tripped. As I got up, I was suddenly struck by the bullet. I had no idea what had happened,” he told ThePrint.
The boy’s family was later persuaded to take him to the hospital.
A Muslim woman, who did not wish to be named, fled her home with her two children in Gokulpuri Monday night and moved to her cousin’s house in Kardampuri. “All these men from Bajrang Dal stormed our neighbourhood, and set fire to our neighbour’s houses. We fled without our clothes or even slippers,” she said.
“We escaped with the help of a Sikh neighbour. Without him, I don’t know what would have happened,” she told ThePrint.
The violence affected normal life in the region.
It was Ved Prakash’s (25) wedding today. An event that he had been preparing for the last six months. But on Tuesday with violence spreading in Northeast Delhi, all his preparation was for nothing.
“I nearly managed to get out of my house after getting dressed but the car that I had booked to reach the venue cancelled, the photographer, the vendor, decorator, everyone has cancelled their bookings as they are scared to come out of their homes. None of my relatives are coming for the wedding,” he said.
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With inputs from Ananya Bhardwaj.