Ten days after a Durga temple in Old Delhi was vandalised by a mob, residents on Tuesday organised a procession to install new idols of the goddess. Muslims living in the neighbourhood participated in the event, serving food and water, as crowds of visitors, sporting saffron scarves and waving saffron flags, chanted slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
The congested Hauz Qazi neighbourhood has been on edge since the night of June 30, when an argument broke out between two residents, one Muslim and the other Hindu, over parking space. The spat took on religious overtones after the Muslim man, who was jostled, allegedly returned with some friends and threw stones at the temple. In the process, idols were damaged.
Seventeen people, including 10 minors, were detained for the violence. Religious leaders and community organisations appealed for peace, even as outsiders who had seen images of the vandalised temple on social media came to the area to register their protest. For several days, police patrolled the area.
As the dust settles, the area’s Aman committee, formed to foster amity between religious communities, organised a Shobha Yatra on Tuesday.
But many members of Hindutva organisations who took part in the procession maintained a belligerent stance. Surendra Jain, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international joint secretary, said: “Yeh sankalp yatra nahi, chetavni yatra hai” – this demonstration does not merely signal determination, it is a warning.
Do people living in the neighbourhood share his view? On the sidelines of the procession, Scroll.in spoke to five residents and one visitor to the neighbourhood. Here is what they said.
‘Anti-social elements controlled’
A resident of Hauz Qazi, Dr Isharat Kafeel, 50, looked frazzled as he walked in and out of the procession to help serve food to visitors and other residents. “We have created a benchmark for the rest of the country to follow,” said Kafeel, who runs a clinic in the area.
He admitted Muslim residents were initially scared as the day of the procession approached. “We did not know what to expect,” he said. “But it has turned out so peacefully and all, because of our Hindu brothers and sisters.”
In the days leading up to the procession, even Yadeshwar Kumar, 84, had felt anxious. “I was sitting and chatting with some of my friends two days ago when some Hindus came and chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram,’” recalled Kumar, who was born and brought up in Old Delhi. “This slogan makes Hindus very aggressive and it spoils the mood.”
Kumar, fondly called “Guruji” by his neighbours, had played the role of a mediator as tensions rose among Hindus and Muslims after the incident. “I spoke to both sides and asked them to think about their future generations,” he said. “Young people are victims of rumours. Nothing should happen to temples or mosques.”
For Abdul Baqi, 50, president of the local residents’ welfare association, the procession was like a festival being celebrated. “We have forgotten the past and moved on,” he said. “This is the change that we have worked on together. And this is a message that India will not be divided.”
Kafeel also agreed that there had been “more improvement” since the police made arrests. “The anti-social elements have been controlled,” he said. “The police’s efforts have been very praise worthy.”
As Baqi chatted with other Hindu and Muslim residents of the area, he said that there was no room for such incidents to occur in the future. “A few people broke the temple but everyone fixed it together,” he said.
But not all of Hauz Qazi’s residents shared this sentiment. Some of them felt that the calm between religious communities was temporary.
Nearly a week ago on July 3, Rinku Saxena, 48, a resident, had told this reporter that the area was turning into a “mini Pakistan”. Now, he said he felt more secure after the police detain people.
“There is no chance of riots,” he said. “We saw before that Muslims were very aggressive but now their ego has gone. Now there is brotherhood among the Hindus here.”
But even then, Saxena, who runs a catering business, felt that his safety was not guaranteed. “It is only today that is peaceful,” he said. “We do not know about tomorrow.”
He was also troubled by the purported lack of transparency in how donations made to restore the temple were being handled. “All of it is money from Hindus only,” he said. “We will not accept money from Muslims. But we do not know what is happening with this money. And we are not allowed to raise questions either.”
Other residents said that it was difficult to move on from the incident. “All of this talk about Hindu-Muslim brotherhood is lies,” said Palash Saxena, 29, who stood outside the temple with saffron paste smeared on his forehead.
Contrary to what Rinku Saxena believed, Palash Saxena, a marketing professional, felt that there was “no unity among Hindus”. He claimed that several Hindu residents, fearing for their safety, had fled Old Delhi after the incident occurred.
But he also had other questions. “Why were Muslims allowed to be a part of the procession?” he asked. “What if they ate non-vegetarian food before joining in? I do not even consume garlic before entering a temple.”
Even some people who had visited the area to participate in the process claimed to be sceptcal. “The law is strict for Hindus but relaxed for Muslims,” alleged Pushpendra Mishra, leader of the Delhi chapter of the Sanatan Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organisation that Mishra said is linked to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindu youth group. “Hindus are being affected and Muslims have created problems everywhere. They have a criminal mentality.”
Mishra also said that the government was not doing an adequate job of providing safety to citizens. “I have lost faith in the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] ever since [Narendra] Modi said that we have to earn the trust of Muslims,” he said,
On May 25, after winning the Lok Sabha elections with a brute majority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need to “win the trust of minorities”, while addressing a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance held at the Parliament.
But Mishra did not consider this a good sign. “The BJP is on the same path as Congress when it comes to Muslim appeasement,” he claimed. “The party is not listening to us. This is all vote bank politics.”