Two separate clashes between police and Shia protesters at the dargah Shah-e-Mardan in Jor Bagh — one after midnight and the other on Monday afternoon — left several, including police officers, injured. Police said no case had been registered and no one had been detained.
The flare-up was the latest in a long-running dispute between members of Anjuman-e-Haideri — the trust responsible for the upkeep of the venerated Shia site at BK Dutt Colony in Jor Bagh — and the owners of Rajdhani Nursery. The trust alleges the nursery had encroached Waqf land near the Jor Bagh karbala, with the help of a prominent Congress leader.
According to Anjuman-e-Haideri, the first clash occurred when police were setting up barricades at night. “Around 1.30 am, police were placing barricades, 15 feet away from the nursery and on our land. When we protested, we were lathicharged. Eleven people were admitted to the AIIMS Trauma Centre,” Syed Bilal Hussain, of Anjuman-e-Haideri, said.
Police were fortifying the Jor Bagh karbala area in anticipation of protests at the site after Shia leaders said a delegation from Uttar Pradesh would try to meet the top Congress leadership on March 31.
On March 10, Shia protesters were stopped from entering the capital on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, resulting in violence. While the High Court has issued orders prohibiting such protests outside designated areas, the Delhi Police said it decided not to take chances, tightening security on NH-24 and shutting down the Jor Bagh and INA Metro stations.
But members of Anjuman-e-Haideri said the security measures were aimed at “troubling Shia Muslims”. “The High Court has prohibited protests, but today people came to the karbala for a religious gathering. There were three programmes planned here on Monday — at 10 am, 12 pm and 3 pm — but police ensured there could be only one in the afternoon,” Hussain said.
Tension, simmering since the midnight clash, snowballed in the afternoon when people were gathering on a ground that links the dargah Shah-e-Mardan and the nursery. A clash followed, with stones being pelted and attempts being made to remove the police barricades. Police lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
Members of Anjuman-e-Haideri claimed the violence was sparked by people sent by the owners of the nursery and said one person was handed over to police. Police, however, said no one had been detained. Wasim Khan, owner of Rajdhani Nursery, said the allegations were baseless.
Meanwhile, residents of BK Dutt Colony said the ongoing dispute was causing them hardship. “This dispute has only spelled trouble for us. Traffic is affected and on days like today (Monday), we are forced to stay in. Our cars have to be parked elsewhere and we live in fear,” Ramesh Singhania, a resident, said.