After violence, livelihood worries locals. They complained due to unprecedented police presence they are unable to carry on with commercial activities.
NEW DELHI – A fact-finding team of IFTU Delhi Committee came up with little known facts about the violent communal clashes that took place outside a masjid in C block of Jahangirpuri during a Hanuman Jayanti rally on the evening of April 16 in its comprehensive report. One of them is that a large number of those shouting slogans and brandishing swords, sticks and other weapons in the rally were juveniles and young boys.
The IFTU team comprising Com Rajesh Kumar, general secretary, Delhi Com of IFTU, Mangal Dev Verma, member, Mayapuri IFTU and Ram Naresh Yadav from Mayapuri IFTU Committee visited Jahangirpuri Block B and C and the surrounding blocks on April 19 to collect the data that could lead to the truth behind the violence.
The Team walked down the road turning in from Ring road (there is a police post now at this corner) separating B and C block from G block. They turned right again at the T point (where now there is a police post), onto the road between B, C block on one hand and D block on other up to where the police barricading begins a little distance before the C Block Masjid. From here, they retraced their steps and walked straight beyond the T point and the police post towards G block, K block and the jhuggi bastis there.
Observations of the team:
1. Most of the shops lining up along the road that turns in from Ring Road, up to the barricade near the Masjid, were closed. Very few people are on the roads. A large contingent of Delhi Police and other security forces is deployed in the barricade just before the C block Masjid and so also at the end of the street beyond the Masjid. People are allowed to enter and exit before 9am and after that only those with Identity Cards showing them to be residents of that specific area are allowed to enter.
2. The team spoke to the owner of an open tea shop and to local residents at their homes and to the local slum dwellers. The locals said the area has mandirs, masjids and gurudwaras.
3. The local residents have mostly lived here in the same area for 15 to 20 years. They said we have been celebrating festivals together. We help each other through good and bad times. No “danga phasad” (mob violence) has occurred here before this.
4. The locals we met mostly ran shops on redis (hand carts) on the streets of the B, C blocks market area. They sell vegetables, fish, meat on the redis apart from clothes and other items. Vans from the mandis come to the market every morning to unload fresh vegetables, something that has not happened since 17th April. Earlier, all the rediwallas and street shops would sell their wares daily. There are also rickshaw-pullers and a huge number from both Hindu and Muslim communities who are kabadis (rag pickers). Almost 1,000 to 1,500 of the last live here. Many are Bengalis, and all are from West Bengal.
The residents of this area are working class and industrial workers, loaders and mandi workers, maximally daily wage workers live here in thousands.
All the people who work locally complained that due to numerous police pickets, their businesses are shut. In the evening, the police allows the redis to be taken out from 4 pm in the market area and at 5pm announces on a mike that it is time to shut down. For the past two evenings, very few have set up their redis. A few shops are open; some owners are locals. The locals complained that the police have been saying the area will remain closed for many days and also innocent people are being arbitrarily picked up. They are planning to return to their home states for the time being.
5. We asked the people what had happened on 16th April in the area. Most of those who are local shopkeepers said the market was open. There was a sudden commotion and everyone ran helter-skelter. A rally was coming with young boys, mostly juveniles, in large number. They were holding sticks, saffron flags, some swords etc. and swinging them in the air and shouting Jai Shri Ram and other slogans. Suddenly near the masjid there was an altercation. We just ran towards our homes.
6. We were not able to meet anyone whose family member has been arrested or anyone willing to describe more clearly what actually happened at the masjid. Fear is palpable among the people.
7. That fear was also clear in the schoolchildren coming to give exams at the local government school and those returning. Each child was accompanied by a family member and the latter all said they would wait at the school till the exam finished to take the child back home. Security forces were sitting at the school gates. The school is on the road going towards the masjid.
8. Everyone we spoke to was in agreement on one point. They all said we have lived here for so many years. There has never been a rally like this before. We have seen such a march (juloos) for the first time. The people were not of this area, we have not seen them.
The police have said NO PERMISSION was given for this march which walked through this part of the area, from in front of the masjid at the time of evening prayer. They say ‘someone’ left a letter at the office of the area DCP or SHO.
Our experience of the police dealing with trade union rallies makes us pose the following questions:
1. Did the police contact the person/organisation that left the letter and inform that permission has been denied? Why did they not do so?
2. If the rally did not have permission to walk, how come it was allowed to walk in the area? Why was the police accompanying it (the policeman injured has been reported in English daily newspapers as stating that he was at the back of the rally and came to the front when altercation began).
3. If policemen see a rally where youngsters are brandishing arms, are they supposed to or not supposed to inform seniors especially the SHO. If no, why not? If yes, did the senior officers do whatever they are supposed to?
4. Locals were categorical that no such procession was carried out in past 15 to 20 years. They were equally clear that a large number people shouting slogans and brandishing sticks and weapons were juveniles and young boys. It must be identified who or which organisation has put such items in juvenile hands.
1. There must be an immediate, impartial, time-bound enquiry into the entire incident, including the role of the police before and during the incident. We recommend a time-bound judicial inquiry by a sitting Judge of the Delhi High Court.
2. The local markets should be allowed to reopen and people allowed to resume their daily economic activities. Administration must take people friendly steps for same.