The Sunday Guardian spoke to several residents from both communities, along with those belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Karawal Nagar is a working-class area in North-East Delhi, with many involved in the almond processing industry that operates from its narrow and mostly dirty bylanes. Open drains and garbage mounds are a common sight and flies are everywhere. North-East Delhi has a substantial Muslim population.
In Sri Ram Colony, Muslims constitute anything between 80% to 90% of the total population, according to estimates provided by members of both communities.
The colony’s name acquired prominence last week when Brinda Karat, member of the CPM’s Politburo approached the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, alleging that the communal situation in the area had worsened due to provocative
behaviour of the members of the RSS. A report in the party’s mouthpiece People’s Democracy alleged that RSS members were raising provocative slogans against members of the other community and starting quarrels.
It was further alleged that members of the RSS, who assemble at the Ramlila ground — which is located in the middle of the colony — for their morning shakha were not inclined to allow the other community to offer namaz on Eid.
Members of the Muslim community claimed that any untoward incidents were averted on Eid only because of heavy police presence.
However, Anand Trivedi, an RSS member and a BJP office-bearer from the area told this newspaper that the allegation against the RSS of having vitiated the atmosphere was completely false. “We did not obstruct them from offering namaz and we even stood guard to see that no untoward incidents took place,” Trivedi claimed.
He also dismissed Karat’s pronouncements. “She does not even have the rudimentary knowledge of this area. She only added fuel to fire,” said Trivedi, who contested the Assembly elections unsuccessfully last year against Aam Aadmi Party candidate Kapil Mishra from Karawal Nagar.
The Ramlila ground lies at the centre of the confrontation between the two communities, along with the presence of RSS volunteers every morning. Muslim residents claimed that RSS volunteers had sometimes beaten up children playing at the ground. They further alleged that the RSS had become more active since the BJP government came to power. However, Trivedi denied these allegations. “As far as the children are concerned, we have not beaten anyone but they should also be careful about not getting in our way. As it is, we are at the Ramlila ground only for an hour every morning,” Trivedi said. He also denied that the present tension had any connection with the BJP victory in the Lok Sabha elections. “Every time a BJP government comes to power, they say that the minorities are facing difficulties,” he said. According to Trivedi, the RSS holds a shakha at the ground every morning between 6 and 7 am. “We get 50 to 100 volunteers every day. During Dussehra, we get close to 1,000 volunteers,” he added.
According to Md. Azam, Imam of the Qadri mosque, the RSS’ activities had caused them further difficulties as this year, they had to run around seeking permission from the authorities for offering namaz at the Ramlila ground. “It was very tiring for the elderly representatives of the community as they were already keeping rozas,” he added.
However, Trivedi said that the Muslims started offering namaz only after 2001, and that too after taking permission from the police. “The police stopped them before that. He added that from 2004 to 2012 onward, namaz was always offered under police protection. “Last year after Eid, the police maintained presence around the Ramlila ground for six months,” he pointed out.
Muslims residents said that the RSS had constructed a stage at the ground last year. But Trivedi said it had been in existence since 15 years and was only refurbished last year.
“The whole issue is that they want to grab the land belonging to the Ramlila ground and convert it into an Eidgah. Tomorrow, they will say we will do the same with Kashi Vishwanath,” he alleged. According to the Mahant of the Hanuman temple, Swami Raghavendraji Maharaj, the Muslims of the area want to maintain their dominance over the Hindus and that was the root cause of the problems.
“This is not Pakistan that they can drive us out of here,” warned Trivedi.
A court case in this regard has already been filed and hearings are on at a Delhi civil court. The next hearing is on 28 August. An FIR has also been filed by the RSS against some boys for allegedly attacking the local shakha office.