“We are holding back for now – once Trump leaves, Muslims will not be safe,” said Gaurav Shastri, a young priest at a local temple in Babarpur, a locality in North East Delhi, on Tuesday afternoon. United States President Donald Trump was in Delhi on a two-day visit to India, scheduled to leave in the evening.
Another man in the crowd, who identified himself as Pratap, joined in: “They will be wiped out. We attacked two Muslims at the chowk. And why not? They are killing the children of Hindus, cutting their throats.”
Pratap claimed the violence on Monday had started after crowds vandalized an idol at the nearby crematorium, even though no such incident has been reported in the news. Justifying the attacks on Muslims, he declared that it had to be made clear that “Hindustan was for Hindus”.
— Junaid Saleem (@junaidsalim_) February 25, 2020
The men were standing along the main 100 feet road, a thoroughfare leading up to Maujpur, which has been the epicenter of violence since Sunday. For weeks, the area had seen peaceful sit-in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which makes only non-Muslim undocumented migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan eligible for Indian citizenship. Together with the proposed National Register of Citizens, it is feared, the Act could be a tool to harass Muslims.
Over the weekend, after a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party announced that the protests had to be cleared, crowds in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act turned out on the streets. This led to a spate of increasingly communal clashes: largely Hindu supporters of the CAA on one side, Muslims protesting against the law on the other.
Delhi violence reason
On the morning of February 25, the third day of the violence, knots of people were milling about the 100 feet road, many of them wielding rods and sticks. Scooters went shooting past, bearing more men with sticks, many with saffron headbands and tikas. Cries of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Jai Shri Ram” periodically rent the air.
Several localities line the 100 feet road, including Babarpur, a Hindu-majority locality, across the road from Kabir Nagar, where Muslims form the majority. It is the last stretch of the road before it meets the Maujpur metro line. While residents of Babarpur observed the milling crowds from shuttered shop fronts, Kabir Nagar looked deserted on the afternoon of February 25.
Trouble had been brewing for three days, said Shastri, who wore his hair slicked back and paired the bright saffron streaks on his forehead with a blue bomber jacket. Around 10 pm on February 24, he claimed, Muslim crowds had entered the lanes of Babarpur. The residents of Babarpur had come out around 11 pm, in “self-defense”, he said. No one slept much that night and around 5 am, the crowd spilled out of the locality into the 100 feet road, he added.
“Both sides threw bricks then, we also threw,” Shastri continued. Around 8 am, he said, the police arrived.
When Scroll.in reached the spot around noon, a crowd was still milling around. In the afternoon, a handful of paramilitary personnel of the Rapid Action Force tried to restrain the crowd at a barricade sectioning off Maujpur. Apart from that, the police were scarce on the ground.
Around 1.50 pm, Scroll.in witnessed the crowd fall upon a man and police personnel beat them back. A little later, the police fired a round of tear gas shells. But Shastri claimed, “those are bombs thrown by Muslims.”
A little after 2 pm, Scroll.in saw, a group of young men from Babarpur breached the divider on 100-feet-road and stepped into the Kabir Nagar side. To cries of “Jai Shri Ram”, they tossed a petrol bomb at a building with a shuttered shop on the ground floor and a green flag fluttering from the first-floor roof. This was followed by stones that broke window panes.
Every time a stone or a petrol bomb was hurled, there was celebratory cheering. The Hindu mob seemed to particularly target commercial establishments bearing Muslim names, tearing down name boards above the closed shutters.
Though tense, the atmosphere often turned festive, with stick-wielding men grinning at each other and women coming out to watch. A little way down the 100 feet road, some among the crowd were taking a snack break at food carts.
It was around 3 pm when reinforcements arrived – buses full of paramilitary personnel and water tankers manned by the Rapid Action Force. Scroll.in witnessed the crowd greet them with chants of “Musalman pe lathi Chalco, hum tumhare saath hai”. Wield your sticks on Muslims, we are with you.
‘Looking after our own security’
By afternoon on February 25, most Muslim enclaves in the area were cut off. Residents of Kardampuri, a little over a kilometer away from Maujpur, cautioned Scroll.in reporters over the phone that it might be risky to enter the locality. They had barricaded themselves in since the evening of February 24. “No one is coming in, we are guarding the locality ourselves, not depending on anyone,” 19-year-old Uzma, a university student who lives in the area, told Scroll.in on the phone.
A carefully planned plot to collapse the complete Law & Order, #DelhiRiots weren’t spontaneous but a conscious effort to break the basic secular fabric of India #GenocideInDelhi #WednesdayWisdom #DelhiRiots2020#DelhiCAAClashes #DelhiVoilence #DelhiBurns pic.twitter.com/SfnB7saKGK
— Geetika Swami (@SwamiGeetika) February 26, 2020