Jahangirpuri wears a drastically different look. A few days after the communal violence on Hanuman Jayanti on April 16, shops open only for a few hours and residents require police permission to even stand outside their properties—all under the watchful eyes of baton-wielding cops.
Jahangirpuri is a resettlement colony set up in 1975-76 by uprooting slum dwellers from various areas of Delhi, including Shahjahanabad. A majority of the Muslim population of the area hails from different districts of West Bengal.
Hussain, whose father belonged to West Bengal’s Haldia district and struggled to settle in the colony, never imagined going through a similar struggle and beginning all over again—until the North Delhi Municipal Corporation smashed his cart and seized the old clothes he had collected for sale on Wednesday.
“Generally, people throw old clothes or exchange them with hawkers for plastic baskets. I would buy old clothes, separate the fine parts and sell them to a glovemaker. The clothes seized by the officials would have fetched me Rs 60,000.” Hussain tells Newsclick adding that he and his family won’t celebrate Eid.
“I would have got new clothes for my children using that amount. We didn’t celebrate Eid for two consecutive years due to the pandemic and the lockdowns as there was no source of earnings. I thought we would celebrate Eid this year—but everything is lost,” Hussain adds as his wife watches the debris in disbelief.
Mohammed Akbar, who sold soft drinks and cigarettes, complains that the officials did not bother to serve a notice before removing the temporary shed over his shop. “They bulldozed my shop, and took away two refrigerators, cartons full of cigarettes and other materials.”
Fretting about how will he feed his family, Akbar breaks down. “I have to pay an EMI of Rs 12,000 today. I do not know how will I arrange it?”
Ganesh Gupta, who owned a juice shop for 45 years, ran from one police personnel to another showing the Delhi Development Authority allotment letter given by Delhi Development Authority as shops were being razed. “I requested them to look at my documents and said that I had been adhering to all the rules. Still, they demolished my shop,” he tells the media.
Not far from Gupta’s shop, Allauddin collects the remaining bamboo pieces of his demolished cycle-rickshaw repair shop. “My shop was shut since the stone-pelting. I hardly have any savings.”
Bilal (name changed), standing beside Allaudin interjects: “Do you know how painful it is to hear that you are an outsider? My parents came from Kolkata to begin a new life. We were educated at local schools. We live and will die for the country. Still, we are called Bangladeshis.”
When asked about the atmosphere in Jahangirpuri post the riot, Bilal says, “I was bullied in schools for my religion but I was not frightened. Post the unrest, I fear for the security of my family. My relatives and friends have been calling from different cities and asking me to relocate. Fear has gripped us. I am worried about Eid because it will coincide with a Hindu festival.”
Shockingly, the demolition drive continued for almost two hours even after the Supreme Court (SC) ordered to maintain the status quo with NDDMC mayor Raja Iqbal Singh claiming that the corporation did not receive any such instruction from the SC.
Brinda Karat, a former Rajya Sabha member and a Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), reached Jahangirpuri around noon to ask the police and corporation officials to adhere to the SC order.
After reading out the order to Delhi Police special commissioner Deependra Pathak, Karat told Newsclick, “I got to know about the demolition after the Supreme Court order. We thought we must intervene because it is illegal. The entire demolition drive is the result of the BJP’s communal agenda. They [the BJP government] don’t even follow an apex court order. Even if somebody has encroached, there is a legal remedy. How can anyone flout the law?”