Some of us visited Trilokpuri today..curfew and section 144 has been imposed in the area, so we could only form groups of 2-3 and roam in the area and talk to the residents. There was an uneasy calm. No people on the streets except a handful. All shops were shut. There was a lot of police everywhere and some RAF. The area is almost entirely comprised of lower income and working class, dalits and muslims. While the picture is much more complex and disturbing, and the facts are many, a few observations from the visit are made below:
We talked to many people in Blocks 20, 21, 33 etc and it seemed clear that a deep hatred based on rumours and stereotypes had been generated in the Hindu residents through some well-oiled propaganda machine. People said things like “muslims urinated near the mata ki chowki, they throw meat at our pooja, they harass our women, they always threaten us about making this area into pakistan” etc..but none seemed to have actually SEEN any of this happen. While walking in Block 21, we saw the residence cum office of local BJP leader Sunil Vaid (who had lost the last Delhi Assembly elections to AAP candidate). While talking to women living near his office, we realized a meeting was going on inside. In a short while, about 15-20 men and boys came out from the house looking pretty charged up and instigated. Also a policeman was at the door of the house with a man who seemed like Vaid. Outside, a young man in a faded saffron bandana was video recording something. When one of us went closer to see, this was happening : young men were looking into the camera and pledging to vote for BJP! “hum kasam khate hai ki BJP ko hee vote denge!” All this while, the woman we were talking to denied any instigation by local (BJP) leaders or any election based motive. She blamed Muslims entirely. We walked further to block 28, which has a mixed Hindu Muslim population. Two young boys from Hindu community seemed to have been shot and injured in police firing.
while the police checked on us at all turns and stops, but did not stop us from entering these other gullies, they tried to chase us away from the Muslim dominated Block 27. A stricter curfew was imposed there, perhaps because two shops belonging to muslims had been burnt down and people accused the police of doing so. We were two girls, and we were driven away from entering block 27, inspite of our attempts to enter from different corners. We somehow managed to sneak in. Most people seemed either poor or lower income, work either as daily wage labourers (mistri, painter) or drive autorickshaws, or involved in small business or repairing works. We were told by friends who interacted with people on the other side of Block 27 that many in the muslim colony also work in nearby garment factories in Noida. Similarly the Hindus in the other blocks are almost entirely Dalits from the Balmiki community and are sanitation workers. The two of us were able to talk to some women for a long time. They described how the block 27 had been surrounded and attacked on 24th night, by people with stones and bricks, and bottles. Some of those people were shouting ‘Har Har Mahadev’. The people of this block had nothing to do with the incidents which happened on Diwali night in Block 20, and yet they were being attacked. We were told that they called the police many times, but the police turned up 2 hours later, and mostly stood as mute spectators, while the pathrav was happening. This continued the next day as well. Nazreen, a middle aged woman’s both sons were picked up by the police and brutally beaten up. Her younger son had gone out to buy milk when he was dragged and taken away by the police. When she went to the thana with her older son, he was also picked up. She was not allowed to give food to her sons, while she insists that the “Hindu mothers were allowed to do so”. She broke down in front of us many times. Even though she managed to get her sons released, she cried remembering how brutally the police was beating up boys in front of her. They repeatedly told us, “yeh police logon ki hai, toh hindu musalman dono ke liye hone chahiye? par yeh police poori tarah se ek-tarfah hai. Logon se bhi zyada galti is poore mamle main police aur netaon ki hai”. One woman told us, how both Hindu and Muslim women from Block 27 had pleaded with folded hands to the rioters to stop on the night of 24th. In front of our eyes, we saw a few Muslim families fleeing in fear.
Most people said that the area had not seen communal tension in the last few years (the memories of 1984 are present though). The BJP and Sangh is undoubtedly fully involved in instigating and planning this tension, which seems to have sowed seeds of long-term hatred among common people from the ‘majority community’ towards the Muslims. They will also evidently ‘benefit’ in the upcoming elections. All the residents we talked to said the AAP MLAs had not visited the area even once. Meanwhile, people were unable to buy groceries, milk, medicines, or go for their daily wage labour. The remains of the broken bond among people from both communities lay on the ground which now will benefit Hindutva forces.