After a religious procession sparked communal violence in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, some media persons visited the crowded neighbourhood to find locals seething with anger and distrust.
Around nine people – including seven police personnel – were injured in the incident, which broke out on Saturday. One of the policemen was hit by a bullet. The atmosphere in the relatively poor neighbourhood, which has a large Bengali-speaking Muslim population, was still tense a couple of days later. According to eyewitnesses tensions flared after hundreds of people – including many members of right-wing Hindu organisations – marched to celebrate the birth anniversary of Hindu god Hanuman. Videos show participants dancing and chanting religious slogans, with many holding swords and tridents.
The march passed a mosque, and that’s where the trouble broke out. Stones were thrown, triggering the violence.
Both sides blame the other. The marchers say they came under an organised attack by Muslims, who threw stones and other sharp objects from rooftops.
Muslims deny this, saying that Hindus yelled provocative slogans near the mosque, leading to an argument. The first stone, they allege, came from the other side.
The Delhi police have detained two dozen people, including two minors. The police’s crime branch is still investigating how the violence began. They are also looking into allegations by local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders that “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” were behind the violence.
The flare-up – the biggest in Delhi since the 2020 riots that killed more than 50 people, mostly Muslims – was similar to others that recently broke out in some other northern Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
There too, violence began after religious processions to celebrate the Ram Navami festival passed near mosques.
After the Jahangirpuri incident, 13 opposition parties issued a joint statement, expressing shock at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence.
“This silence is an eloquent testimony to the fact that such private armed mobs enjoy the luxury of official patronage,” they said.
Religious polarisation has soared in India since 2014, when Modi’s Hindu nationalist government swept to power. Festivals, in particular, have become frequent flashpoints for communal violence. (Agencies)