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"The world is watching, and nobody is helping us": The forgotten hawkers of Jahangirpuri

Hindu religious processions in Delhi turn violent


"How can they claim we are Bangladeshi?" says Rokiya, "I have lived in Delhi my entire life, was born here and got married here." 


On April 20, Rokiya’s seekh kebab stall was among many structures that were demolished in the anti-encroachment drive by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).


Rokiya has lived in Delhi's Jahangirpuri for her entire life. 


However, the Delhi BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) have accused these residents of being Bangladeshi immigrants, but locals claim they came from West Bengal during Indira Gandhi's administration and were assisted in settling in the Delhi neighbourhood.


The anti-encroachment drive comes just four days after communal violence hit Jahangirpuri when Hindu right-wing groups across the country held a march or "shobha yatra" to mark Lord Hanuman's birth. 


Three such processions were seen in Jahangirpuri, a neighbourhood in North Delhi. These  “peaceful” processions devolved into yet another violent incident in the country's recent spate of communal violence.


A total of nine people were injured, including eight police personnel and one civilian. 


What happened in Delhi's Jahangirpuri?


The Hindu religious procession began at E-Block near Bajrang Bali Mandir and stopped outside a mosque after peacefully going through multiple places.


The first two rallies, held in the afternoon, were peaceful. 


"In the afternoon, the Muslims in the neighbourhood asked the Hindu devotees to avoid the mosque's route, and the devotees complied and moved on," Irfaan*, a resident of Jahangirpuri, said. 


The procession arrived at C block again around 6:00 p.m., with roughly 400-500 Hindu men armed with swords and weapons shouting Jai Shri Ram slogans outside the C-block mosque as Muslims waited to break their roza (fast) inside.


"Around 4-5 young men moved towards the mosque; we knew this had happened before in Ram Navami processions, so the people in the mosque closed the door - but these men climbed on top of the gate, the mosque caretaker caught them and tried to stop them - and that's when the altercation began," Irfaan* told South Asian Today.


According to Irfaan*, people in the mosque stopped the mob from hoisting the saffron flag on top of the mosque.

 


However, Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana refuted the claim.


One of the inhabitants of Jahangirpuri told us he has lived in the area for 40-45 years and has never experienced such violence. 


"The last time we saw violence was in 1984, and we also saved many people at that time. Puran Singh Dange, a 63-year-old shopkeeper in Jahangirpuri, said.


"This is the first time we've seen violence during a religious parade," Dange said.


When questioned about the weapons brought in the procession, Dange asserts that swords and firearms were unnecessary, as were aggressive slogans. 


"What's the point of carrying swords or guns, this isn't a religious procession," Dange said. 


He went on to say that the procession's participants were not locals. 


"Those participants weren't from our neighbourhood; this was clearly politically motivated to disrupt the unity between Muslims and Hindus in Jahangirpuri," Dange told South Asian Today.


Apparently, stones were thrown from both sides, and rounds were fired from a country-made weapon. 


During the event, some vehicles were allegedly set on fire.

 

"The world is watching; nobody is helping us"

 

The decision to raze the “illegal structure” in Jahangirpuri came after Adesh Gupta, the Delhi BJP president, wrote to North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor demanding that those arrested in the Jahangirpuri riots be identified and "illegal encroachment" and construction be demolished, the Indian Express reported. 


On the morning of April 20, around seven bulldozers razed multiple structures of people living in Jahangirpuri. 


Though the Supreme Court had ordered a halt to the demolition, the demolition went on for two hours.


Rukaiyya, a 46-year-old scrap dealer from West Bengal's Haldia region, has lived in Jahangirpuri since 1976.