Feature: Fortress Jahangirpuri: A Week on, Residents Still Grappling with Crippling Restrictions

 

Zafar Aafaq

New Delhi — Crippling restrictions imposed by the authorities are still in place in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri more than a week after communal violence shook the area. Metal barricades are intact at the main square and on the roads that lead to the mosque at C- Block, the epicentre of the clashes that broke out on April 16 when Hindu revellers raised provocative slogans and allegedly attempted to barge into the premises of the mask.

Four days later, on April 20, BJP-run North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMCD) carried out demolition of encroachments at the same location. Bulldozers moved in and razed carts and shops and the gate of the mosque. The JCB machines stopped only after the Supreme Court  sent out a written order  to halt the exercise and maintain the status quo.

The residents, most of whom are either rag pickers or vendors selling wares on carts, lament that they are living in a fortress behind grilled gates in lanes and bylanes. They are not allowed to venture out or open go about their daily routine.

Hasina, who helps her husband at their dhaba on the main road outside C- Block, alleged that her shop was partially demolished in the NDMC drive. Now, the police are not allowing her to clear the debris. “A police booth has been set up outside my shop,” she said, adding,. “When I venture near my shop, the policemen deployed there scream at me. They are not letting us interact with the media or the NGO workers.”

Hasina informed that her husband  had to borrow money to run the shop.

Sheikh Aslam used to sell cattle fodder. His shop too was demolished during the drive. “We are facing a huge problem not being able to leave our homes,” said Aslam.

His neighbour  Jameela whose  garment shop was also demolished also complained of being confined to home. “The police are not allowing us to even buy vegetables,” she regretted while speaking with Clarion india.

On Sunday evening, a peace march was organised under police watch in Jahangirpuri by members from both communities. Around 100 people took part in the march holding tricolour in hands with flower petals being showered by residents from balconies. They vowed to maintain communal harmony in the area. Following this, the restrictions were eased to an extent, but the shops close to the mosque continue to remain shut.

“The police are stopping us from venturing out. Today morning when I managed to enter my shop, I found it in a shambles with all the wares scattered. But they (the policemen) did not allow me to collect anything,” said Aashiq, who runs a bike repair shop next to the mosque. He complained that his shop was demolished by the MCD without serving any notice even after the Supreme Court issued an order for maintaining the status quo.

Police were stopping leaders of Opposition parties and even Parliamentarians from visiting the localities and meeting the victims.

Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar who led a party delegation to Jahangirpuri on Saturday lent his voice to the claims of residents that they were facing  trouble due to the undue restrictions imposed on the locality. She said the residents were feeling “caged” and living in “fear” due to the restrictions. She complained that the police stopped her delegation from entering the locality but local children helped them navigate it to meet the victims.

Meda persons had similar stories to share. They were stopped at the barricades and denied access to locals even after showing press cards. “The police are not cooperative at all,” said Wasique, a journalism intern with a news website. “I was stopped at all entry points by security personnel and it took me more than an hour to find a way in.”

Residents demanded that the restrictions should be lifted and they  be allowed to resume their lives. We want to live together here in peace as they used to.

“My cart was rounded up and taken away on the day of the demolition,” said Farid who lives in a crammed one-room dimly lit house with his wife. “I don’t know how to earn now even as I have a loan to repay.”