New Delhi: The road linking Maujpur and Jafrabad, which usually bustles with traffic, wore an eerie look on Thursday. As The Sunday Guardian reporters travelled down the road towards Maujpur, closed shops, shattered glasses and remnants of burnt vehicles were the only visible “entities” on the road. The heavy deployment of paramilitary forces and municipal corporation trucks trying to clean the marks of violence gave the sense that Northeast Delhi was struggling to get back to normalcy.
According to eyewitnesses this road was the epicentre of the dreaded communal violence that shook the national capital for three consecutive days starting Sunday.
Despite heavy deployment of paramilitary forces, an uneasy calm prevailed in Maujpur Chowk and its neighbouring areas which witnessed the first clash between pro- and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters on Sunday.
“There was an anti-CAA protest site a few meters away. People were not happy with the protesters as they were blocking the service lane. On Sunday, there was a confrontation between pro- and anti-CAA protesters here in this Chowk. Soon, the situation turned ugly and both sides started pelting stones at each other,” said an eyewitness at Maujpur Chowk.
Locals claimed that small clashes between pro- and anti-CAA protesters took place in the area both on Saturday and Sunday. “Primarily, the clashes were limited to pro- and anti-CAA protesters. However, it took an ugly turn on Monday after a large gathering of people at Maujpur Chowk near the temple on the road. Around 11.30 am, the crowd started moving towards our area and started attacking our homes with stones,” said Hussain, a resident of Vijay Park, a Muslim locality, located a few meters from Maujpur Chowk.
The area has both Hindus and Muslims. While Hindus mainly reside in Maujpur, Muslims are concentrated in Vijay Park. According to residents, there has never been any communal tension in the locality earlier and both Hindus and Muslims lived there in peace and harmony. However, uneasiness and tension started brewing once violence broke out in the area.
“I have a lot of Hindu friends in Maujpur. Yesterday, I called one of them and he asked me not to come to the gullis (bylanes) for my safety as anything can happen,” said Iqbal, a resident of Vijay Park.
The sharp polarisation in the locality is quite visible as a Hindu youth from Maujpur said, “None of this would have happened if they did not pelt stones on Sunday.”
‘SELECTIVE TARGETING OF PROPERTY’
Residents of the riot-hit Northeast district say that properties were selectively targeted by the rioters. Asim Choudhury, a resident of Vijay Park, which is a primarily a Muslim-dominated locality, took these correspondents to show how the rioters identified and attacked properties owned by Muslims, while properties owned by Hindus in the same locality remained untouched. Shahnawaz Qureshi, the owner of “Qureshi Tower”, told The Sunday Guardian, “They have attacked my house and the Qureshi Tower, very specifically and did not even touch the adjacent properties of the Hindus. They even forcefully entered my house and ransacked everything.”
The situation is similar on Brijpuri Road leading to Mustafabad, where the selective targeting of Hindu houses was witnessed. In Brijpuri, dark smoke from the ashes of the houses burnt during the violence is still floating in the air. Here, multiple houses belonging to the Hindu community were burnt down.
“We don’t know who did all this. But we all know that houses belonging to Hindus were set on fire by the rioters. What we have still not been able to understand is that why they targeted Doctor Sahib’s house. Thankfully, there was a door on the rear; they somehow came out from that door and saved their lives,” said a neighbour of Dr N. Chaudhury, whose house was set on fire by the rioters on Tuesday.
The house and shop of Sanjay Kaushik, another resident of Brijpuri, was also set on fire by the rioters on Tuesday, taking away his means of livelihood and the roof over his head.
On that very fateful day, the Arun Public School, metres away from Kaushik’s house, and owned by a politician, was set on fire by hundreds of rioting mobs. As per eyewitness accounts, the mob broke open the school gate and vandalised and set fire to everything that came in their way—even school buses, library and classrooms were not spared. What remains are burnt furniture, shattered windows and horrid tales that eyewitnesses recount.
MOST AFFECTED AREAS
In the most affected areas of Chand Bagh, Khajuri Khas and Mustafabad, the horrors of the riots could be felt with the properties burnt to ashes and voices drowned in the mayhem that just happened hours ago. The scale of the riots can be seen from the broken pieces of bricks lying all over, burnt houses and shops, vandalised cars and a grim sense of fear on every face.
Chand Bagh is also the same area where AAP councillor Tahir Hassan lives and it was from his factory, that mayhem was unleashed on the common man, residents say.
A Chand Bagh resident, who was not allowed to venture out by the security forces, told The Sunday Guardian, “Nobody wants to relive and even remember what we saw here over the last two days (Monday and Tuesday). It was like a war zone, everything was burning, petrol bombs were being hurled, mobs running amok with lathis, rods and swords. We lived through the worst of times.”
In Yamuna Vihar, adjacent to Chand Bagh, the rioters had a free run for hours when they attacked houses, set fire to cars parked on the service lane and vandalised schools.
The Victoria Secondary School located in Yamuna Vihar was attacked and pelted with stones by the rioters even as school children were inside the premises, writing their CBSE examinations.
“It was on Monday when the rioters attacked our school at around 1 pm. At that time, examinations were going on and we somehow saved our children,” said the gatekeeper of the school.
Dharamveer, a resident of Gali Number 22 in Chand Bagh, just a few meters away from Victoria Secondary School, said, “It all started due to the protesters who started blocking the whole road since Sunday. Earlier, they used to sit in the service lane protesting against the CAA. I too used to go there as it was more like a festival than protest. Now, you tell me how can you support all this?”
In the same neighbourhood, a Honda showroom owned by a Muslim man was set on fire by miscreants at midnight on Tuesday. Residents say that the rioters first broke the CCTV camera and then attacked the showroom.
“But we doused the fire on our own as we are not against any community,” Dharamveer added.
In Mustafabad, two mosques and a madrasa were set on fire. The Sunday Guardian visited one of the mosques that was set on fire; the black soot emanating from the fire still remains on the mosque’s walls, but heavy presence of security forces around the mosque did not allow these reporters to film or shoot the mosque where several people from the Muslim community were getting ready for evening prayers.
FEAR AND PAIN
Though normalcy is slowly returning with the deployment of paramilitary forces, fear and trauma is quite visible among residents, even as many were seen leaving their homes for safety and peace. “Only we know how we have been here for the last three days. I have not slept in all these days. People are fighting with each other. I don’t feel secure here anymore,” said Ashok, 40, who lived in a rented house here at Brijpuri’s D Block.
A resident of Brijpuri’s Gali Number 18 said that half the residents had either left for their villages or had temporarily shifted to their relatives’ homes since Wednesday. “Now, since the violence has stopped, people are leaving for a safer place. In the first two days, no one could even step outside their homes,” said Sankar, another resident of Brijpuri.
The trauma is palpable in Muslim neighbourhoods as well. Residents are seen carrying their belongings and leaving for safer locations. One such resident from Mustafabad told these correspondents that they were temporarily going to their village in Bihar and would return once the situation improved.
With inputs from Abhinandan Mishra.