Trilokpuri: Residents Blame Intruders
The arc of violence in Trilokpuri reveals the role of rumours and outsiders in unsettling the peace in this locality
Asad Ashraf Delhi
When Mirza Ghalib left for an expedition from Delhi to Calcutta in 1827, he wrote a poem on the way in Benares, called Chirag – Dair, appalled by the decline of the Mughal Empire and the subsequent rivalries that it created, which had led to many feuds. But artistic expressions hold relevance for ages, and so it was that two centuries later it struck me on my peace-making visit to the riot-hit area of Trilokpuri in Delhi.
On speaking with many residents in Trilokpuri, barring a few, all of them blamed their neighbours for inciting the violence. The same neighbours whom they had wished on Diwali and the ones who wished them on Eid. This sudden turn of events was probably the sole intention of the mischievous forces who instigated the violence for
Trilokpuri, located in East Delhi, across the Yamuna, is home to Muslims as well as Hindus. The Sikhs formed a majority of the migrant workers from Pakistan here before they had to flee to other parts of Delhi in the 1984 riots. By any account, almost 350 Sikhs were butchered here, some of them burnt alive in the most barbaric manner while others fled to escape the wrath of this majoritarian madness. Since then, peace had prevailed here till it was shattered again in October 2014.
I was in the No Man’s Land between Blocks 14 and 15 in Trilokpuri, which is strewn with brickbats. Block 14 has a Muslim majority, while 15 is dominated by Hindus.
A young boy, Ankit, 14, strode up to me. He said, “Some people who I had never seen before were shouting ‘Har Har Mahadev’ in our locality in the morning, and then all of a sudden started hurling stones at Block number 14.” In return, stones were hurled from the other side.
I asked if he had Muslim friends in the locality. The reply came, Yes! But then, “I have decided not to be friends with them anymore, they are bad people, they are violent, they kill, they eat cow.” If need be, “I will also hurl stones at them, it’s not good to have people like them as neighbours.” I couldn’t resist and told the young and very honest boy that I was a Muslim too. He looked at me in surprise and said, “But you don’t look like them.” I am still trying to comprehend what made him differentiate me from the other Muslims. He slowly walked away from me without making any other remark.
Zareena Khatoon (name changed) sat at the doorstep of her house, her face pale with gloom. When asked what had happened in the morning, she said, “I have a son your age, he also has a beard like you. The police have taken him away. Can you come with me to the police station? If you are not a Muslim, they might listen to you, he is innocent, and even if he has pelted a stone, that would be in self-defence.”
There are others like Zareena who will have to run from courts to jail for the next few years to ensure the release of their loved ones. There are also reports that boys in jail have been beaten
Sanjay Beniyal, Additional Commissioner, says his men did a stupendous job in getting the situation under control. He refuses to buy claims that the police were being partial or that innocent people have been picked up. But a senior IPS officer, on condition of anonymity, admitted that there were instances when the cops simply picked up someone on mere suspicion and inherent bias.
Activist Kiran Shaheen, who lives in Mayur Vihar and is working extensively in the riot-hit area, told me, “I went to the court when these boys were produced before a magistrate. They looked weak and frail, as if they hadn’t been given food these two days and were beaten up badly. I have no hesitation in saying that most of these boys were Muslims.”
The list of people in jail confirms this. Of the 44 people, 34 are Muslims. When confronted about this, an IPS officer of ACP rank accepted that there was an element of bias, but refused to say it on record. Outside the jail, many young women looking for their husbands, old men searching for their sons and kids crying for their fathers had gathered.
A neighbourhood tea-seller, Ramesh, told me that things were perfectly fine in the locality until some people from outside came and disturbed the situation. He says, “It is the RSS that is responsible for the riots. I have never seen an idol being displaced outside the mosque like this; it’s the first time it happened. It’s nothing but a
An old turbaned man sitting nearby added that in 1984, “These people used Chilla Muslims to kill Sikhs in this locality and today they are using Valmikis to attack Muslims. Nothing has changed.” It came as a shock to discover a Muslim connection to the 1984 riots, but further research revealed some written accounts about it, some in the documents of the People’s Union of Democratic Rights.
Anita, a Dalit activist, refuted all the claims and narratives that suggested the clash was between Muslims and Dalits. She says Dalits never instigate communal violence on their own. “It’s always someone else who uses them to carry out acts of butchery as the upper castes refrain from indulging in it. This narrative of Muslims fighting the Dalits is a new technique used by the RSS to create a rift between the two communities and break down any formidable political alliance that existed between them,” she said.
The exact cause of the violence remains unknown. While everyone has his own theory, what seems increasingly likely is that the rumours themselves have been responsible for the violence. When the real reasons are obfuscated, rumours play a powerful role in continuing the violence — a strategy that seems to have become the norm just before elections.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech appealed to the country to halt communal and caste violence for at least a decade, it’s worth pointing out that he appointed a man accused in 22 riot cases Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
Interestingly, some people from Trilokpuri who were inspired by PM Modi, especially a VHP worker and resident of Block 17, said, “Modiji was right when he said that communal violence is a hurdle to the development of the country. But I think if there is dirt and filth, it has to be cleaned for the greater good of society.” To expect anything else from him would have been far-fetched, of course. If the man at the helm is stoking the fire, how can you blame a mere worker?