There was panic in a Muslim neighbourhood of Paldi in Ahmedabad since Sunday after people found red “cross marks” on the gates of their societies. As a group of residents wrote a letter to the Election Commission and Ahmedabad Police Commissioner expressing fear on Monday, a police team was sent to investigate the marks only to find that they were painted by staff of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) as part of the civic body’s garbage collection project.
“There is no need to panic. It is something that we have been doing. It is a part of the waste management project. The idea is to mark point of interests which will then be given stickers. We plan to install GPS systems in those stickers so that we can track the drivers to see if they are collecting garbage or not,” Deputy Health Officer of AMC’s West Zone Chirag Shah said. The AMC has halted the entire process.
“In the next three to four days, we will put the stickers with the GPS,” Shah said, adding that such marks were also put on the gates of Hindu colonies. Police also denied that there was any angle of mischief behind the entire episode. “These signs were made by the AMC sanitation department to guide their garbage pick-up workers. There was no mischief or criminal dimension to the episode,” Ahmedabad Police Commissioner A K Singh told The Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, residents of Delight Flats wrote a letter to the EC “urging to take immediate action against marking/highlighting of Muslim community building(s)/premises”. The letter stated that on Sunday they saw “cross-marking” in red at main gate of their apartment. Similar marks were seen in nearby apartments, including at Aman Colony, Nasheman Apartment, Tagore flats, Ashiyana Apartments among others. “Such marking has left many in the Muslim community in shock and fear as it is done by some unknown element, and shows clear purpose of identifying Muslim areas,” the letter added.
“We started getting WhatsApp messages since morning about such marks. A poster was also in circulation which made people little apprehensive,” said Khatum Yusuf, a resident of Sahil apartment. Delight Flats, a posh locality in Paldi, was targeted during the 2002 post Godhra riots. Paldi comes under Ellisbridge assembly constituency and is a BJP bastion.