Communal clashes fed by rumour-mongering have left Trilokpuri area in East Delhi tense over the last three days. At least 35 people, including 13 policemen, have suffered injuries so far. No one is talking about communal polarisation yet, but the low-intensity yet sustained violence hints at ulterior motives.
In a heavy exchange of gun fire between the two communities, five persons suffered bullet injuries on Saturday, the third consecutive day of the violence following which a curfew was imposed and shoot at sight order was enforced.
According to a police officer, a mata ki chowkior jagran (special worship offered during Navratri) was organised in front of a mosque at the Block 15-20- 27 junction of Trilokpuri on Diwali night which was objected to by local Muslims. Heated arguments between them resulted in stone pelting and burning of a shop.
Soon, the police intervened and controlled the situation, he said.
“Tension mounted once again on Friday night after former BJP MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya reached the spot with his supporters and announced to build a temple there. I have not personally heard it from him but have got several complaints. This aggravated the tension in the area with members of both communities started pelting stones on each other and opening gun fire. Fifteen people, including 13 policemen and two locals, have been injured,” the officer, who did not want to be named, told Firstpost.
Police force along with personnel of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was deployed in the area, he added. Several attempts to contact Vaidya failed as he did not pick up the phone.
An eyewitness said, “At least two-three thousand people, most of them Valmikis (a Dalit sect), from neighbouring areas gathered near Block 15, where Muslims are in majority, at 10 pm on Friday and started pelting stones, chanting slogans and hurling abuses. This provoked retaliation. A few rounds of firing also took place between them and the drama continued till 12:30 am.”
“We kept calling the police but they arrived there after two hours,” he alleged.
Fresh violence took place on Saturday morning. “Despite the presence of Delhi Police officials, RAF, additional police forces, water cannon and riots control vehicles, the hooligans once again gathered in the area and stone pelting and gunfire started from both sides,” said another eye witness.
Block 14 resident Puja Pandey alleged, “On Friday evening, there was an assurance from both sides that communal harmony would be maintained and both sides would not engage in rioting but it was not respected. Stoning started on Saturday.”
Accusing the police of discriminating between the two communities, she said, “Two members of my family were arrested by the police for no reason. Cops barged into our house and took into custody of my nephew Akash Pandey (17) and cousin Jitendra Pandey (23) when they were having lunch on rooftop.”
Two youth – Vijay and Manoj – from Block 14 have received bullet injuries and are undergoing treatment. “The area has no history of communal violence. We used to live here like a family. I fail to understand how brothers were made to turn on brothers. We had never expected such a situation,” said another resident of Block 14.
Locals also accused the police of misbehaving with residents on pretext of searching them. “They have been carrying out random searches in the area and have been abusing almost everyone. They are even beating up men whenever they try to come out of the houses,” said 65-year-old Geeta Devi, a resident of Block 19.
The violence that had erupted from Block 20 spread to other blocks as well. The police managed to control the situation by Saturday afternoon after using mild force to disperse unruly mobs and climbed the rooftops to prevent people from launching attacks from vantage points. The area is congested with narrow lanes and bylanes separating one block from the other.
Narrating the ordeal, Rayees Ahmad, a resident of Block 15, said, “First, we were attacked by rioters and now, we are facing police crackdown. Our youth are being randomly picked up and brutally beaten by the police.”
Around 70 people have been arrested so far. A case of rioting has been registered against them.
Concerned about the safety of women and children, several families in Trilokpuri are fleeing their homes because of the prevailing tension. “I along with my two daughters am leaving for my relative’s place in Shakurpur. We feel insecure here,” said 52-year-old Shamim.
Another, who was also leaving for Shaheen Bagh in Okhla, said, “I am sending my wife and children to my friend while I will stay here to safeguard my house,” said a local.
Meanwhile, there is heavy presence of security personnel in the area. Higher officials of the Delhi Police are camping there to restore peace and order.
“The situation is under control and we are asking people to maintain peace. All nooks and cranny of the colony have been barricaded and our men deployed at each check post are properly searching every one before letting them to enter. In addition, we have also deployed forces on the terraces of buildings to ensure that stones are not being hoarded,” DCP (East) Ajay Kumar told Firstpost.
Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjay Beniwal said, “As of now, situation is under control. But whosoever breaks the law will face arrest. We are keeping a watch.”
Intelligence Bureau and other agencies are also keeping a watch on the situation of the area. A few days ago, the intelligence agencies had warned the states of communal clashes during the festivals season.
Interestingly, for Raju Dhingan, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Trilokpuri, it was a “small incident”. “It was not at all a communal tension. Some anti-social elements have tried to disturb peace of the area and we will teach them a lesson in the next elections,” he told Firstpost.
BJP MP from East Delhi Maheish Girri said, “We request from both communities to help the police maintain law and order. All efforts are on to restore peace in the area. A peace committee has already been formed and I am personally in touch with local Muslim residents and leaders.”