Date: 28 February 2020
Area: Shiv Vihar Tiraha
As I navigated my way through the tense Hindu-majority areas of violence-hit Shiv Vihar I saw a crowd rushing into one lane near a bridge that connects the locality to the Muslim-dominated Mustafabad.
“Yahaan m***a dikha hai. Do din pehle hi dange hue hai. Humara koi uss taraf nehi jaa sakta nahi unka koi iss side aa sakte hai. (A Muslim man was spotted in this area. Just two days ago, violence had broken out here. Neither can one of us go that side nor can any of them come here.)"
Twelve-year-old Sanju told me as he rushed to join the crowd to "shoo away" the Muslim man from the locality. A fortnight has gone by since the violence claimed at least 52 lives, but the rifts in the bylanes of Northeast Delhi are still wide. Fear of a repeat of the two dreadful nights have led communities in many Hindu- and Muslim-dominated colonies to pool in money and build iron gates for protection.
The “rifts” are being fortified with iron gates at the entrances of several Hindu- and Muslim-dominated colonies.
Brijpuri: Family Mourns Loss of Son, Neighbours Build Gates For Safety
“We feel scared even now. We are building the gates to at least have a sense of security,” said Anant Prakash Gupta, a resident of Brijpuri. His Hindu neighbours have contributed money to build an iron gate at the entrance of his lane that faces the road leading to Arun Modern Higher Secondary School and Farooqia Masjid, both of which were vandalised and set ablaze by mobs along with several other shops and homes in the area.
“The gate will stay closed from 10 pm in the night to 6 am in the morning. This might not stop the mob but at least it will give us some time to be prepared to protect ourselves.”
In the next lane, a 23-year-old SSC aspirant Rahul Solanki was shot dead during the violence. While his family mourned the loss of their son, his neighbours also prepared to erect iron gates as did the other residents in the Brijpuri area.
Iron Gates After Violence in Mustafabad & Shiv Vihar
Just as one crosses over the bridge towards the Muslim-dominated Mustafabad, similar gates and similar fears greet you.
Ayyub Ali, who owns a metal business in Mustafabad Gali No.19, stopped by on the way to his home to oversee the ongoing work. Most lanes in the area have already dug pits to hold the iron pillars of the gate.
Barely a kilometre ahead, in Shiv Vihar, while the Hindu residents in the lane adjacent to the Rajdhani school say a Muslim mob used the terrace of the school as a base to launch attacks in the neighborhood, a targeted attack on Muslim homes and shops near Auliya Masjid is also evident.
‘Just Like 1947 Partition’: Khajoori Khas Reels Under Fear
In Khajoori Khas, the lane opposite suspended AAP councillor Tahir Hussain’s house, Virendra Kumar says he has not spoken to his Muslim neighbours since the violence. “Their people were throwing stones at our house from the roof of Hussain’s house. We don’t want to indulge in any conversation with any of them.”
Kumar says his lane already had a gate but that was broken down by the mobs so they had to set up new ones. “At least in the night, we will be able to sleep in peace knowing that the gate is closed.”
In the next lane called ‘Shri Ram Gali’, 83-year-old Rameshwari sat on a cot outside her one-storeyed home. She recalls sitting in the same place on 24 February afternoon when “the mobs turned the entire area into a war zone.”
“I have witnessed the partition of India in 1947. The situation was exactly like that.”Rmeshwari
She says, “Although no goons came into our lane, people who were trying to escape scurried in and out. Even now the situation is tense. Police officers keep patrolling the area but we can’t trust them. They couldn’t stop the violence on 24-25 February.”
Four lanes ahead in Khajoori Khas stood Fatema Masjid, a madarsa and several Muslim homes – all burnt down. Fifteen-year-old Saif* showed us around his gutted madarsa and said, “Our Hindu neighbours assured us they will protect us. When the mob came shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, our neighbours helped them identify the Muslim homes in the area.”
Saif and his Muslim neighbours, who fled to a community centre in Chandu Nagar, came back to fill compensation forms. “Even now when we try to come back, the Hindu neighbours call us names, ask us to go away. We have come today because there is police protection.
“We barely have food to eat, where will we arrange for money to build gates in the lane?” said Halima, who has now taken up a new house on rent after receiving Rs 25,000 compensation from the AAP government. “We have to live with this fear for many many more years to come. The memories of the violence have created walls of hate and fear among both the Hindus and the Muslims.”