On Wednesday, 11 March, the Parliament of India discussed the communal violence which shook several parts of northeast Delhi in February. While politicians across party lines raised concerns about the law and order situation in the national capital, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi in her speech claimed that in Karawal Nagar’s Shiv Vihar area only the houses belonging to the majority community were burnt down and vandalised while those belonging to the minority community remained untouched.
“At Shiv Vihar in Karawal Nagar, it was found that on one side there are houses belonging to the minority community and on the other are those belonging to the majority community. It was found that there was no damage to any house belonging to the minority community while the houses of the majority were gutted,” Lekhi said while addressing the House.
What Happened at Shiv Vihar?
According to the 2011 Census, Shiv Vihar is home to over 22 lakh people. 68.22% of its population is Hindu and 29.34% Muslim. Shiv Vihar tapers Old Mustafabad, which is a Muslim majority area. However, both Hindus and Muslims own shops and run small businesses near the Shiv Chowk.
The area witnessed heavy communal violence from the afternoon of 24 February to the night of 25 February.
“Both Hindus and Muslims live here and have shops in the area. It was difficult to identify the rioters. They were mostly outsiders who burnt down everything that came their way,” Ravi Kant Upadhyay, a resident of the area told The Quint.
Another resident Rajkumar, who owns a garage, told us, “Suddenly at 3 pm on 24 February a mob started pelting stones. It almost felt like someone's raining stones on us. So I escaped to the parking area nearby. Somehow I, my brothers and my nephews managed to save ourselves.”
Was One Community Selectively Targeted?
While Lekhi in her speech suggested that houses of only the majority community were destroyed, a visit to the ground paints a different picture. Houses in the area were indiscriminately burnt and vandalised. We also saw multiple small shops owned by Muslims which were shut down and abandoned following the violence.
1. ‘The Burnt House Next To Our Shop Belongs to Hashim Ali’
Sripal, who was overseeing the repair work at his family’s shop, said, “My brother-in-law owns a hardware shop here. Nothing remains of it now. The shop adjacent to it has also been burnt. Next what you see is a house that belongs to Hashim Ali.”
“He had a spare parts shop on the ground floor and he and his family lived on the first floor,” he added.
While Sripal’s family has started the repair work at their shop, an exercise that is expected to cost them over Rs 10 lakh, Hashim and his family left the place after the violence and are yet to return home.
2. ‘They Robbed & Looted Everything That Came Their Way’
Ravi Kant Upadhyay tells us that he is a Hindu and has been working for a Muslim person for over the past twenty years but never saw such violence in the area. He refutes the claim that one community was specifically targeted. “They looted houses and burnt shops. Then they pelted stones. They didn't care about who is a Muslim or a Hindu.”
Master Hashim Ali, another shop owner, said, “They weren't specifically targeting anybody. Properties belonging to both Hindus and Muslims were burnt down.”
3. Rajkumar’s Garage & Ali Hasan’s Weigh Bridge
Two of the worst affected plots at Shiv Chowk belong to Rajkumar, a garage owner, and Hashim Ali, whose weigh bridge was burnt to ashes by the mob. Not more than 500 m apart, the two plots have suffered losses to the tune of over a crore.
“During the riots, a huge mob came towards my godown. They were asking if I am a Hindu or a Muslim. They wanted people to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' to prove that they are a Hindu. Three hours later my godown was set on fire,” Hashim Ali said.
He told us that the shop had computers and other devices which were damaged and the rioters even looted cash.
Rajkumar told us that when he saw the mob approaching all he could think of was to save his life. “We (Rajkumar and his brothers and nephews) left everything and went back home. On 25 February we returned to see our entire garage gutted,” he said.
Days after the national capital saw one of the worst communal violence since 1984, residents of Shiv Vihar have now started working to bring their lives back on track. Most of these people run small businesses and have suffered huge losses.
Meenakshi Lekhi’s claim that people belonging to only one community was affected holds no water when one meets the victims.
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