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Lives Hurt By Jahangirpuri Demolition: Cancer Patient, Mechanic, Muslims, Hindus

A bike repair shop owner saw his shop being demolished on live tv. Others are fighting the tag of 'Bangladeshi'.

Updated
India
5 min read

Haseena, 38, had only one source of income: a cart, which she and her husband would use to collect and sell scrap. This income not only fed their 3 children but was also needed for the treatment of their 7-year-old daughter Shahila— a cancer patient.

On the night of 20 April, hours after the cart was demolished in the Municipal Corporation-led "anti-encroachment" drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, Shahila began having palpitations and needed urgent consultation from her doctor.

But their lane, gali number 4 of Jahangirpuri’s C-Block, was barricaded from both sides; just as every other lane in the entire stretch around the area where the demolitions took place.

Haseena, whose child has cancer, had her cart demolished in the drive. 

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

“It was extremely traumatic, she got very unwell. And we needed medication, but there was no way to exit this lane,” Haseena said.

“Some people today helped with some medicines. But we are still so stressed about how we will source our earnings, with the cart gone," she said.

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Much like Haseena, many of those who lost their shops in the demolition drive are wondering how they will manage their livelihood, especially with the area still heavily barricaded.

Residents Talk of Emotional Connect With Mosque Now' Partially Demolished

Besides the shops that were razed, the front gate and courtyard of the Jama Masjid in Jahangirpuri's C-Block was also demolished in the drive. The mosque is the central one in the area, and several congregate in it for prayers. It is the same one where attempts to put up saffron flags were allegedly made by members of the Shobha Yatra on 16 April.

Even a day after the demolition, the prayers continued in full swing, with worshipers accessing the mosque from the back gate. "It was really heartbreaking to see the visuals of the mosque being hurt this way. I have been coming here to pray all my childhood, the people here have great emotional connect with the mosque," Ali, 16, said.

People collecting at the Jahangirpuri mosque a day after the demolition drive.

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

Muhammad, who was just leaving after the afternoon prayer, called the drive a "targeted demolition."

"There are many small temples on the same stretch, but nothing has happened to them. If the mosque was illegal, those temples should have been too. But this was clearly done just to harass us," he said.

'Saw My Shop's Demolition On Live TV'

Ashu Khan got to know about the demolition of his bike repair shop through live television.

"The Supreme Court had ordered a stay on the demolition, but it continued. I was watching a new channel when they showed my shop was about to be bulldozed. I ran towards my shop immediately, but it was too late by then. My shop had been razed to the ground," Ashu told The Quint.

Ashu's bike repair shop was razed. 

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

There were multiple bikes kept inside his shop, which got demolished as well.

"Nothing was spared. Not a single bike part remained for me to salvage. It's all gone," he said.

Hindu Shop Owners Who Lost Their Livelihood

At least three Hindu-owned shops were also demolished in the drive. These belong to Ganesh Kumar Gupta, Dileep Saxena and Raman Jha.

Gupta who used to run a juice corner in the area, said that the administration demolished his shop despite him having official papers. He had said that his shop got DDA approval in 1977, and that his father used to run it before him.

Saxena, meanwhile, showed up at the site of the police barricades on Thursday, a day after his shop was demolished to show papers of its authorisation.

"Look, I have all the documents to show that my shop wasn't illegal. Then why was I punished? I would urge Modi ji and Amit Shah ji to not punish people like me, who have done everything legally," he said.

Dileep Saxena showing his shop's documents. 

Fatima Khan/ The Quint

Arrests and Trauma of Being Termed 'Bangladeshi' 

The trauma and fear following the arrests of over 25 people in the communal clashes was still palpable. In one case, one of the shops razed is that of a family of 2 men arrested in the Jahangirpuri clashes. The Quint reported about it here.

Manu, 35, still has the injuries from the day of her brother-in-law's arrest on her face. "When the police came to arrest him, we kept begging them to spare him. But we were beaten with lathis too," she said. "And now, with the barricades all around us, we can't even move out to get our basic groceries. Should we just die here? It's difficult to survive like this," she said.

Manu showing her injuries days after the police arrester her brother-in-law.

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

Many who lost their shops to the demolition also complained about the 'Bangladeshi' and 'Rohingya' terms being employed-- both by the BJP and the AAP, to describe the residents living in Jahangirpuri.

"We aren't Bangladeshi. We are originally from Paschim Bangal (West Bengal) and have been living here for at least three generations. These terms are just being used to further demonise Muslims," said Saira, whose small restaurant was partially demolished, with its front portion bulldozed.

Saira's restaurant was partially demolished. 

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

Some Hindu residents too expressed grief at what was happening. Rohit, an auto-rikshaw driver, said he feels "disheartened" after the demolition drive.

"We lost nothing in the demolition. But our brothers and sisters lost everything. The people they are calling Bangladeshi are actually Bengalis. Is Bengal not a part of India? Then why this animosity towards them? These are poor people who now have nowhere to go," he said.

Rohit, an auto-rikshaw driver in Jahangirpuri. 

Ribhu Chatterjee/ The Quint

"It's the people from the other states who form our biggest clientele. We drop them to the railway station when they go back to their villages. But no one wants to consider all this, people just want to spread hate," Rohit added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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