Deserted Market, Tense Lanes: 3 Days After Communal Clash in Jahangirpuri
"The customer footfall is just 30%-50% of what it used to be," says Subhash Malhotra, 60, owner of Kesari Chai.
Around 6 pm at Jahangirpuri’s C-block market on Monday, 18 April, three friends – Ankita, Shalini, and Meena – nervously waited for some pages from a notebook to get photocopied.
“We had no option except coming here because this is the main market of the area. We did go to college today, although our parents were reluctant to let us step out,” said Ankita, a 21-year-old, who is currently pursuing BCom (Hons) in Delhi.
The otherwise bustling C-block market wore a deserted look on 18 April evening, three days after violence erupted barely 500 metres away between two communities during a Shobha Yatra on Hanuman Jayanti.
At least eight police personnel and one civilian were injured, with one police officer receiving a bullet injury. The Delhi Police has arrested 24 people and apprehended two juveniles in connection with the communal clash that broke out on 16 April evening outside a mosque.
On Sunday, most shops remained shut, while on Monday, some opened and a few closed before sunset. The footfall on Monday was low, and the mood tense.
Shopkeepers Back but No Customers
On Monday afternoon, a Delhi Police team visited the house of an accused, who can be seen opening fire in a purported video from 16 April evening. “The family (of the person identified in the video) pelted two stones at the police team. One person has been detained,” said DCP (northwest) Usha Rangani.
The news of this incident led to shopkeepers abruptly shutting shop in the middle of the day, fearing fresh violence. Among them was Vinodini, 35, a tea-seller.
“To set up the tea shop daily, I carry everything from my house to here. It takes me seven rounds. I can't leave my coffee machine here. What if someone vandalises it?" she asks. The incident of “two stones being pelted at the police personnel” meant she shut shop in the afternoon, and reopened later in the evening. Business, as expected, was lukewarm.
Many shopkeepers complained that while they have returned, their customers haven’t. Among them is Mohd Islam, who runs a bangle shop.
He said, “I was one of the last people to shut shop on the day the violence broke out. I saw people running from near the mosque towards the market to escape the violence. I returned to the market on Sunday but there are no customers.”
Sundar Sharma, who runs a flower shop nearby, said that these “isolated incidents like the one today when the family threw stones at the police personnel” are “further scaring customers away.”
'Saturday's Violence Was Unprecedented'
Inside the lanes of C-block Jahangirpuri, tension is palpable. The children are mostly indoors, and only a few shops near the mosque are open for business. In each lane, at least two police personnel are stationed, around 50 police personnel right outside the mosque, and a white “riot control van” is stationed on the road. Police patrolling in the neighbouring areas has been intensified.
Some people in the market attributed the low footfall on it being a Monday – the day most shops remain shut. Zabar, a mehendi artist, however, does not agree with the claim.
"I have been here for 22 years and have never seen these many shops shut. People who own shops here come from Rohini, Adarsh Nagar, and other areas. They are not locals. They might decide to return in a few days after the situation settles down,” he says. For the last two days, he has not had a single customer.
"The customer footfall is just 30%-50% of what it used to be," says Subhash Malhotra, 60, owner of Kesari Chai, one of the oldest shops in the market.
Subhash Malhotra at his shop called Kesari Chai.
"People are nervous, and rightfully so. I wasn’t here on the day of the violence, but I was updated and I am shocked by it. I have been here for 42 years and have never seen this type of violence," he says.
Malhotra, like others in the market, is tuned to the news for fresh updates on their neighbourhood, ready to pull the shutters down if fresh violence breaks out.
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