An Unemployed Driver to a Ragpicker: Who Are The Accused in Jahangirpuri Case?
Families and neighbours of both Hindus and Muslims arrested in the Jahangirpuri case await clarity from the police.
"We live far away from where the violence broke out. My son had stepped outside for work, he is a ragpicker but he was arrested by police on the basis of suspicion. He has a prosthetic leg, he didn't do anything that day," said Rubina Sheikh, Hamid's mother.
Hamid is one of the 25 accused, mostly Muslims, in the Jahangirpuri violence case.
On 18 April afternoon, Rubina stood outside the Jahangirpuri police station in northwest Delhi with four-five relatives and neighbours as they tried to make sense of what Hamid has been accused of.
On 16 April evening, violence erupted in the area and stone pelting took place between two communities during a Shobha Yatra on Hanuman Jayanti. At least nine people were injured, including seven police personnel, one of whom received a bullet wound.
"Hamid, aged 36, has been arrested. He is a scrap dealer. During interrogation, he disclosed that he had supplied bottles which were used for pelting during the incident."DCP (northwest) Usha Rangani said.
"Hamid is illiterate," Rubina told The Quint. "He was made to sign some documents by the police. He didn't do any of this," she added.
The Quint spoke to the families of seven accused, two days after the arrests were made.
'Is Celebrating Hindu Festivals a Crime?'
In a narrow lane in Jahangirpuri's G-block, flanked by several neighbours, stood an angry Durga Sarkar. The Delhi Police, late night on Sunday, 17 April, arrested her husband, Suken Sarkar, and their two sons Suraj, 21, and Neeraj, 19.
"Our family arranged the chariot for the Shobha Yatra. Is that why they have been arrested? Since when did celebrating Hindu festivals become a crime?" asks Durga.
Her husband Suken is a labourer at a tiles factory, and their sons are college students.
"My husband told me that the Shobha Yatra was proceeding peacefully before they (Muslims) started pelting stones. Why did they do that? We never create any trouble when they celebrate their festivals. If we can't raise Jai Shri Ram slogans in Hindustan, where should we go?"Durga Sarkar, Wife of Accused Suken Sarkar
Next to Durga sat Meenu, whose husband Sujeet, 38, has been arrested in the case as well. "Sujeet used to work as a driver. Three months ago, he lost his job. It appears that in this colony, we can celebrate every festival except Hanuman Jayanti," she says.
Meenu is also worried about the family's finances. "We are daily wagers. The day we earn is the day we get to eat," she says.
'He Participated in Shaheen Bagh Protests. So What?'
The FIR filed by Delhi Police mentions that the communal violence during the Shobha Yatra started after 'a man named Ansar, along with some of his friends, picked up an argument with those participating in the procession'.
"The Shobha Yatra to mark Hanuman Jayanti was proceeding peacefully till it reached the Jama Masjid in C-Block where a man named Ansar came with a few people and started an argument with those participating in the yatra. The argument escalated and stone-pelting and sloganeering started from both sides," reads the FIR.
Later, the police claimed that in its investigation, it found that Ansar was previously involved in two cases of assault and was also arrested repeatedly under preventive sections and booked five times under the Gambling Act and the Arms Act.
Abrar Ahmad, whose shop is next to Ansar's home, however, told The Quint that "Ansar played a key role in trying to keep the situation calm on 16 April evening".
He said, "Ansar tried at least twice to convince the yatra to not take the procession in front of the mosque. It’s because of him that there was peace for a significant amount of time during the initial period of the rally."
After Ansar's arrest, leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused each other of having links with him.
“The mastermind of the attack, Ansar, has been found to be an AAP worker. There is evidence of this in the form of photos. Tahir Hussain, who was the mastermind of the 2020 Delhi riots, was also an AAP councillor. Is AAP running a riots factory?” alleged BJP MP Manoj Tiwari.
Responding to the claim, AAP leader and Delhi minister Satyendar Jain said, “I think he must be linked to the BJP since it knows the inside story.”
BJP leader Kapil Mishra also claimed that Ansar mobilised crowds of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.
"All the rioters who are being caught from Jahangirpuri, all these people were involved in Delhi riots and Shaheen Bagh. The main criminal, Ansar, used to take women from here to Seelampur, Zafarabad, Shaheen Bagh to get the roads closed," Mishra tweeted.
Reacting to Mishra claims, Asif, who lives close to Ansar's shop in C-block, said that participating in a protest is not a crime.
"I have known Ansar for 20-25 years now. I live close to where he runs his mobile shop. A lot of people are trying to paint him as a criminal because he participated in the Shaheen Bagh protest. What is the problem in that? A lot of us went to Shaheen Bagh. Even I did," he said.
'Targeted Because of His Faith'
Mohammad Shagir lives in a small shanty in Jahangirpuri's C-block, close to the mosque where violence broke out. His brother Zakir, 22, is one of the men arrested in the case.
“They came to our home at 6 am and broke open our doors and took away my brother,” Shagir told The Quint.
Shagir denied Zakir pelting stones at the procession. “He was far behind the crowd, he wasn’t involved at all. At this point, the police is just entering our homes and taking Muslim men away,” Shagir said.
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