North Delhi, like many states in the country, was the scene of community clashes on Saturday during Hindu festivals.
Jahangirpuri is now locked down by dozens of armed police and paramilitaries. This district in the north of Delhi – located nearly thirty kilometers from the center of the Indian capital -, dense, poor, and dusty, is home to a majority of Hindus (75%) and a minority of Muslims, many of whom are from West Bengal. The two communities have learned to live together, each in its colony, residential blocks closed by gates and accessible by narrow, barely paved alleys. The neighborhood has a dozen.
In the main street, near the mosque, shops run by Muslims have lowered their curtain. The religious building bears the traces of the violence of the weekend, the courtyard is cluttered with stone blocks, saffron flags, and broken glass.
Saturday, April 16, at midday, several hundred men dressed in saffron, armed with swords, pistols, and carrying flags crisscrossed the Muslim enclaves in procession on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, a Hindu religious festival, in cries of “Jai Shri Ram!” ( “ Hail the god Ram!”), the rallying chant of Hindu extremists. Around 5:30 p.m., when the spirits were well warmed up, they headed for the mosque. Clashes between the two communities then broke out. Several people were injured, and stores and vehicles burned. The police intervened late to restore calm.
Gas Sarwab, a Muslim from the neighborhood, witnessed the scene and wants to testify. “The Hindus came from outside, ” he says. They came with the sole idea of provoking our community. They organized three processions threatening us with their sabers and asking us to sing their god Ram. Politicians from the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling Indian People’s Party] were in the procession. At prayer time, they came to the mosque to plant their saffron flags along with the gate and attack with stones the Muslims who were inside. »
The police quickly drew the opposite conclusions. According to the inspector dispatched to the scene, it was “a peaceful demonstration to mark Hanuman Jayanti” disrupted by Muslims when the procession passed in front of the mosque. Twenty people have been arrested as Muslims. Local BJP officials, meanwhile, have added fuel to the fire by blaming the violence on “Bangladeshi and Rohingya” illegal migrants residing in the area.