A communal clash on September 25 in Jahangirpuri, North West Delhi, in which Muslims were accused of shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, started with an argument over an illegal parking area, according to two prominent local residents in the area.
The altercation, in which at least five persons were injured, began after a candlelight march that residents held in memory of the Indian Army soldiers killed in the terror attack on Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18.
Following this, several police teams were sent to the spot. Later four residents of a slum in C-D Park of Jahangirpuri were arrested on various charges, including rioting.
The complaint on the basis of which an FIR was registered said, “The altercation started after the accused passed remarks at a woman, who participated in the candlelight march, and when others intervened, they started raising the slogan: Hindustan murdabaad, Pakistan zindabaad.”
But Shaikh Israfil Qadri, president of the residents’ welfare association in Jahangirpuri, and Indermani Tiwari, the president of the body that organised the march, said that the fight started with an argument over an illegal parking lot close to a government school in the locality. This point, however, finds no mention in the complaint attached with the FIR.
On Thursday evening, four days after the incident, several police teams continued to patrol the area. A robust team has been deployed at a crossroads close to what some locals refer to as the Bangladeshi colony.
Jahangirpuri is inhabited by over 10,000 families who migrated from West Bengal during a post-Independence food crisis in the state, said Qadri. The migrants – the majority (95%) of whom are Muslims and belong to West Bengal’s West Midnapore district – had settled in slums along the Yamuna Pushta (embankment) road at that time, said Qadri.
He added that in the early 1970s, the government approached the migrants with a resettlement offer under which those who agreed to participate in a state-sponsored sterilisation drive were allotted houses in Seemapuri in North East Delhi. In 1976, the others were allotted homes in Jahangirpuri.
Most of the migrants and their descendants, who now live in Jahangirpuri, work as contractual garbage disposal workers. They live mostly in the C and D blocks of Jahangirpuri, which locals often refer to as “mini-Pakistan” and “Bangladeshi colony”, said Qadri.
Encroachment to blame?
Qadri said that the complainant in the case was the person who operated the illegal parking lot.
“There is an ongoing dispute between Bengalis and some persons – having the support of locals – who have encroached on an entire road…and turned that into a paid parking area,” said Qadri, while pointing towards a stretch opposite a building that was once a cinema hall. “The problem started three to four years ago.”
Qadri added: “That evening, when we first got to know about the altercation, we heard that the fight was over the encroachment dispute. But when we reached there, it had taken a different colour. Later, there was stone pelting from both sides, causing injuries. Then why did the police not register a cross case?”
The president of the residents’ welfare association then fished out a copy of the FIR related to Sunday’s incident, and pointed to the attached complaint in which the complainant addressed himself as the owner of a “private parking” in Jahangirpuri and claimed that he was attacked when he tried to intervene in an altercation between the accused and a woman, who was a participant in the candlelight march.
“Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully in this area for the past four decades and never indulged in any violence,” said Qadri. “This sloganeering allegation is a hoax and so is the claim that it was a Hindu-Muslim clash. The tension is being fanned by some with vested interests.”
Migrants vs migrants?
The candlelight march was led by the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar Ekta Mahamanch, which registered as a Non-Governmental Organisation last year.
Tiwari is its president. He said he is a social worker who had been active for the last five years in the Hindu-dominated blocks of Jahangirpuri, where a large number of migrants from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh live.
Referring to the Bengali migrants living in the locality, Tiwari said: “All of them have come here with forged identity documents, helped by the Congress for they were their vote bank. They have no right to live here.”
Talking about how Sunday’s fight started over the illegal parking dispute, Tiwari said: “We could not tolerate [it] when the boys from the other community started the pro-Pakistan sloganeering.”
He added: “Jahangirpuri has become the second Kairana in India.”
This was a reference to the village in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district that was in the news earlier this year after a Bharatiya Janata Party MP claimed that Hindus had left the area in large numbers in past years due to “threat and extortion by people from a certain community”. The lawmaker, Hukum Singh, later backtracked, saying that the Kairana exodus was not a communal issue but one that pertained to law and order.
Tiwari claimed that he planned to sell his plot and leave Jahangirpuri by May next year. He named several others who, he claimed, had sold their properties due to the deteriorating law and order situation in the area.