Delhi riots: Of dreadful nights and helpless state

Northeast Delhi remains terrified since the violence has gripped the area on February 24, 2020. The riots started centering the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protest, both the pro and anti protesters got into clashes after the provoking speech made by BJP’s Kapil Mishra at the anti-CAA protest sitting at Jaffarabad.  

Shiv Vihar, one of the worst-affected areas in north-east Delhi is still tense and scattered even after five days since the first violence broke out.

While walking in the lanes of Shiv Vihar, looking for resuming normalcy, one could only sense existential angst of the residences and spot paramilitary forces at every chowk and corner of the lanes. Every person you meet or talk with will tell you that “Mahol bhut kharab hai, log dare hue hai (The situation is worse and people are scared)”. From the past five days residents of east Kamla Vihar and Shiv Vihar gather in groups to stay awake throughout the night to guard their respective colonies and galis. Staying awake is necessary to keep an eye at every activity as things can go worse anytime, “specially the late-night hours from 2-4 am, are the most delicate hours”.

Friday prayers on February, 28, took place in the middle of terror and tension. Most of the Muslim families have moved out, only the men have stayed back to take care of the houses, shops and the masjid.

“They have already tried to attack the masjid twice sometimes they come during the daytime, too. So it is necessary for us to guard the masjid at night. Otherwise, they can come anytime and vandalise it,” said Raheem (name changed on request) who came to offer Friday prayers.

According to the locals, the mob knowingly targeted the Muslims, as they specifically attacked the Muslim shops and houses. “You go to the main road and you will see burnt houses and shops of Muslims only. Even though a lot is happening over CAA (referring to his area) but we didn’t do anything sort of protest or march in our area. I don’t know from where they came and who were they,” Raheem added. 

As one takes the main road, the torched shops, charred vehicles, houses narrate the scary picture of the rampage accrued in that area. The locals recall the sudden appearance of the mob and their devastating act of thrashing, beating, destroying everything at first place.

“‘Humari himmat nahi hui kuch kehne ki ya karne ki, Mai apni dukan mai tha par maine unhe kuch nahi kaha aur meri ankho ke samne unhone meri dukan mai tod-fod ki and jalai (I was inside my shop but I didn’t say a word to them (mob) and let them take things and torched my shop in front of my eyes),” said Haji Nasir, a resident of east Kamal Vihar area in Shiv Nagar.

Nasir, who came for the Friday prayers at the Umar Masjid  (mosque) located on the border of east Kamla Vihar and Lalbag Mandi, shared his experience said, “They (mob) were in huge numbers and we (referring Muslim strength) were very less. We are living together for years, we did not want any problems but then we realised they are not going to spare anyone.  So at first, I escorted the women and children to other places.”

As of February, 28, Delhi riots have taken more than 42 lives and left more 300 people injured. Shiv Vihar has seen the worst of the riots as two of the schools – Rajdhani Public School and DPR School – in this area have been set on fire by the mob. Nasir recalled the event and said, “The mob set the school on fire while students were inside. The children started shouting as the fire started spreading. In school you can’t identify who is Muslim and who is Hindu. Saving the school was very difficult but with the help of the police we rescued the children.”

Farhan Ahmed, a class 12 student, who lives in the next colony from east Kamal Vihar, which comes under UP, has a similar story to narrate. Farhan escorted his relatives to his house when the violence started. He said, “Right now I have 14 people at my house. They will come back once the situation gets better. Now we stay awake at night to keep ourselves safe.”

Locals also believed that this was not a mere fight between two communities instead it was one-sided planned attack to the particular community (referring to the Muslims).

The whole incident of carnage brought Delhi police under the umbrella of questions. Locals claimed that “Delhi police arrived very late and also didn’t do much”.

“People have lost their faith in Delhi police because they did not take the strong actions at first,” said one of the visitors to the masjid. (He did not wish to be named)

Describing the mob, many told that “most of them were very young, hardly ranging from 17 to 25.” Even it was day time very few people were spotted outside. “Madam, it is the fifth day that is why you can spot 50-60 people, otherwise the atmosphere was so tense that you wouldn’t have seen 10-12 people outside.”

Guptaji, who has a tea shop at the border of Shiv Vihar and Loni border near Lal Bag Mandi, talked about the whole incident and informed despite a lot of violence took place in Shiv Vihar area did not spread to UP.

Shiv Vihar and Loni, border of UP, is located like two neighboring colonies. Though the violence did not reach UP but the cloud of fear is definitely looming.

“People are very sacred till now. I haven’t seen the violence of this scale after 1984 anti-Sikh Riots. Since Sunday all the men from the nearby colonies stay awake at night to guard the mandi and houses,” said Guptaji.

Referring to the nature of mob, Guptaji said that “all of them were very young, mostly teens.”

Another shopkeeper in Shiv Vihar area, Rajkumar who runs a grocery shop informed that all the young and old men have become the watchdogs of the colonies. “I stay awake at night and all the men and young boys alternatively sit at every nukkad (corners) of the lanes to save the houses and shops,” said Rajkumar.

The resident of gali no 1 in east Kamal Vihar area have done the same like Rajkumar and others. All men stay awake whole night and they also took precautions like mirchi powder, putting electric current to the main doors of their houses to fight the mob.

“We all sit together at night and keep shouting so can people inside homes can sleep in peace. Sometimes people from next gali also join us and vice-versa. It is now our duty to protect our houses and families,” said Anant Prakash Rana, resident of gali no 1, east Kamal Nagar.