August 05, 2015

India: Rumours spark communal tension in Khajuri Khas in New Delhi

The Hindu
August 1, 2015

Rumours spark communal tension

Shiv Sunny

(Top) Children playing with a burnt vehicle at Khajuri Khas in New Delhi on Friday. (Above) The spot where a vehicle was burnt.— Photos: R.V. Moorthy

I had nothing to do with the clashes. I got caught in the stampede

Several persons, including policemen, were injured when two communities clashed in North-East Delhi’s Khajuri Khas on Friday afternoon. The rioters threw stones and set ablaze some vehicles after persons from both communities allegedly went about spreading “rumours”.

According to the police, the tension in the area had been building since the wee hours of Friday. A vehicle carrying animal hide was stopped by some locals in Khajuri Khas, who called up the police claiming it was cow skin, said a police officer.

“We apprehended the vehicle driver and helper, and were investigating the case when members of one community blocked the road outside the Khajuri Khas police station. We removed them after assuring them that the seized material will be sent for tests and an FIR registered,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (North-East) Veenu Bansal.

The protesters, however, relocated to Khajuri Chowk, where they blocked the road and raised slogans against the members of the other community. “Our protest did not go down well with the other community members and they began throwing stones at us,” alleged Sukhram Bhat, claiming to be an RSS wing leader.

Members of the other community had a different tale to tell.

Khalid Ansari of Aman Action Committee alleged the protesters included some drunken youth who misbehaved with women and beat up people belonging to the other religion. “That triggered violence between the two communities. People from our community set some motorcycles on fire in response,” he told The Hindu .

Subsequently, hundreds of people from both communities gathered at Khajuri Chowk and threw stones at each other. The commotion led to 13-year-old Sahiban suffering burns in the legs due to boiling oil from a cauldron in the market being spilt there.

“I had nothing to do with the clashes. I got caught in the stampede,” said Sahiban.

However, rumours about the boy’s death spread quickly, triggering more clashes. Some persons from the other community tried to take advantage of the situation by linking the clashes to the recent hanging of Yakub Memon.

The police had to use “mild force” to disperse the mob. Some locals claimed the police also resorted to firing in the air, but the DCP denied it.

There was no certainty on the number of civilians injured and Mr. Bansal refused to quote a figure. However, he said less than a dozen people had approached them till late on Friday evening. Leaders of the two communities said they were aware of at least three injuries on each side.

The police have booked a case of rioting and another in connection with seizure of animal skin. However, no arrests have been made in connection with the riots. The police are seeking the help of CCTV footage to identify the culprits.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Eastern range) Sanjay Beniwal said the situation was brought under control by late afternoon, after which no further unrest was reported. The area saw heavy police deployment for the rest of the day, even as the personnel claimed that people were going about their work as usual.

Members of peace committees have been pressed into service to cool tempers on both sides.

I had nothing to do with the clashes. I got caught in the stampede