New Delhi: A day after communal clashes broke out in Northwest Delhi's Jahangirpuri, there's an eerie calm in the neighbourhood. On Saturday evening, a crowd of Hindu revellers conducted a rally — a Shobha Yatra to mark the birth of Hanuman, a Hindu deity. It ended in riots.
The allegations are that participants in the rally entered a mosque and waved saffron flags in front of it. This, according to witnesses in the neighbourhood, led to the riots. The gates to Masjid Bangali Basti — situated in the corner of the street where violence emerged — are now shut.
Two cops are manning the gate at the entrance to the lane of Gali no 3, just a few steps away from the mosque. "Please keep the gate open. Don't stop us from going in and out," a woman argues with a cop who responds, "We have orders from top. You cannot go out."
What Really Happened?
It depends on who you ask. While some eyewitnesses in the neighbourhood say that the violence broke out because the procession raised provocative slogans and attacked the mosque, a temple priest who led the rally said the allegations are 'baseless'.
The First Information Report citing the statement by Rajiv Ranjan, an inspector at Jahangirpuri police station who was on duty in the square at the time of clashes said, "When Muslims objected to the procession, stones were pelted from both sides."
The rally started from E-Block near Bajrang Bali Mandir and after passing peacefully through several areas it stopped outside the mosque.
"When the procession arrived they started sloganeering and threw stones at the mosque. We requested them to leave the spot because it was our iftar time. But they did not relent," said Masooda, a Muslim woman.
"What is the purpose of brandishing knives, guns, swords in a religious procession?" she asked.
Another local said that the people in the rally raised slogans like 'Hindustan Mein Rehna Hoga, Jai Shree Ram Kehna Hoga' (If you want to live in India, you have to say Jai Shree Ram).
"Muslims did not react. But when a few of them barged inside the mosque and tried to plant a saffron flag atop it, our Muslim brothers stopped them," said another Muslim woman.
"Would you allow a Muslim flag to be raised on a temple," she asked, alleging that Hindus first pelted the stones which damaged the facade of the mosque.
"Then Muslims retaliated, this is a fact," she added.
Eight people have been injured in the violence including seven cops and a civilian.
Were There Swords And Firearms?
The procession of Bajrang Dal members reportedly reached the mosque in Jahangirpuri's Block C at 5 pm, when the incident took place.
Shubham, a participant in the procession, told BOOM that when they reached near the mosque he saw some members from the Bajrang Dal raising slogans such as — "Jai Shree Ram", "Jo hum se takraega choor choor ho jayega" (Whoever clashes with us, will be destroyed)
He, however, said that it wasn't them who raised these slogans. "We did not shout these slogans to provoke anyone but they (Muslims) attacked first from inside the mosque."
Television channels carried visuals of participants in the religious procession, brandishing shotguns, pistols and swords. The video, reports said, taken in C-D Block Market in Jahangirpuri, was recorded before stone-pelting began.
Shubham admitted that "a few participants carried swords and weapons".
Three firearms and five swords have been recovered from the accused, said the Delhi police.
Shiv Kumar, a VHP leader and temple priest who led the rally, termed the allegations that they entered the mosque as "totally baseless". "The mosque is their religious place. Why should we go into it?" he said.
What Did The Police Do?
When the clashes erupted, the police said they tried to pacify the situation by beefing up security presence and appealing to the crowd on both sides to calm down.
After failing to control the crowd, the police fired tear-gas shells to disperse them. According to police, eight people including seven cops were injured. Meda Lal Meena, a sub inspector, was hit by a bullet on his left hand. "The mob set four-five vehicles on fire," the FIR notes.
However, many locals have raised questions over the way the police handled the situation. "If the police had given them permission to march then why were there not enough policemen accompanying the procession? If the police were present then it would not have turned violent," a local said.
Who All Have Been Arrested?
Police have arrested 23 people including three juveniles — 16 Muslims and seven Hindus — so far in connection with the violence at Jahangirpuri.
The FIR has been lodged in the matter under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 147 and 148 (rioting and rioting armed with a deadly weapon); Section 149 (offences by an unlawful assembly in prosecution of a common goal); Section 186 (voluntarily obstructing a public servant in the discharge of their public functions); Section 353 (assaulting a public servant); Section 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant); Section 307 (attempt to murder) and more, as well as Section 27 of the Arms Act (punishment for using arms).
According to the FIR, the incident kicked off when Mohammed* (name changed to protect identity) began arguing with the Hanuman Jayanti procession, after which stone-pelting, fighting and violence ensued.
In the FIR, the police have said he is 22 years old. However, the family says he is a minor. BOOM has age proof document that shows he was born in 2005.
"He is only 16," Asfiya said.
On Sunday, at around 2 am, the police swooped in on the Muslim locality to nab Mohammed* and his brother Sheikh Aksar.
"They slammed the door after climbing down from the roof. They grabbed and slapped them repeatedly. They abused and dragged them down the stairs," Asfiya, Aksar's wife said, sitting inside a dimly lit room at her relatives home in Gali No. 3.
"When I asked the police why they were beating my husband and his brother, they kicked me and I fell unconscious. There were no lady police with them," she said.
According to the police, Mohammed* fired the bullet that injured sub-inspector Meena and a country-made pistol was confiscated from him.
But Asfiya says they are both are innocent and have been falsely implicated. "It was iftaar (the time to break fast at sunset). They were at home. You can not find them in any videos that are viral. They are being trapped in this case."
Aksar runs a grocery shop in the neighbourhood.
The Muslims in the neighbourhood allege that police action is lopsided against them.
BOOM also spoke with the families of the Hindus arrested by the police on Sunday afternoon.
"My three sons have been arrested aged 21 (Suraj), 19 (Neeraj), 17 (Surya). Yes they took part in the rally but there is no evidence that they were involved in the violence," said Durga Sarkar, a resident of E Block.
"The police said they were taking them for questioning. We do not know what is going on. We tried to call them but their phones were switched off. Our sons are not associated with Bajrang Dal," she said.
What Is The Situation Now?
On Sunday afternoon, a group of women held a demonstration outside Jahangirpuri police station demanding release of those arrested. They were seen raising the religious slogan "Allahu Akbar".
At the same time,a group of Bharatiya Janata Party supporters including women also gathered at the spot and shouted slogans including "Jai Shree Ram and Bharat mata Ki jai." They demanded that police take action against Muslims and recover damages from them.
Inside the police station was Hans Raj Hans, member of parliament from North West Delhi, meeting the police officers to take stock of the situation.
When asked by BOOM what he had to say on the violence, Hans said, "I appeal to the people to not get provoked or instigated. The oppressors would be answered in their language. The conspirators want more violence but thank God we have been able to control the situation."
On being asked about allegations of police bias against Muslims, Hans assured that fair action would be taken against culprits irrespective of their religion.
Aneeta Jharial, a local BJP leader, was also present outside the police station on Sunday. She told BOOM that the Hindu procession was peaceful but Muslims pelted stones.
"Our men were shouting Jai Shree Ram and carrying saffron flags but these people (Muslims) threw stones, liquor bottles, meat pieces on them," she alleged.
Heavy police deployment had been present in the area since Saturday night and personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) have reportedly been deployed since Sunday morning to maintain peace and keep the situation under control.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to call for peace in the neighbourhood.
Delhi police commissioner Rakesh Asthana pleaded with the public not to pay heed to "rumours and fake news" on social media.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah reportedly met with Asthana as well as the special police commission (law and order) to get updated on the situation and told them to take all action necessary.
Meanwhile, several BJP leaders have called it a 'conspiracy'.
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