At Aalam Muradabadi Biryani shop in Delhi’s Burari, it was business as usual on Saturday evening, two days after shopkeepers and staff were allegedly threatened to shut the establishment by a man who claimed to be part of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal. In a video, the man can purportedly be seen using communal slurs towards the staff for “opening their shop on Diwali”, and telling them they were operating in a predominantly Hindu area.
The shopkeeper and staff eventually start packing up and towards the end of the video, the man tells them his name and that he is part of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal.
DCP (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said: “We have registered an FIR in connection with the incident.” No arrest has been made so far.
Magroob Ali (27), also known as Alam, manages the shop and cooks the biryani in a kitchen nearby. He said: “We shut soon after the incident even though others in the market were there to support us. We do not know why he targeted us but we think he just wanted to instigate people and instil fear.”
Seven people work at the shop and earn their daily wages from making and selling biryani. Every few minutes, a new customer, mostly those passing by either on foot or a bike, stops to pick up a plate. It took a few years for the business to pick up, said Magroob, and now they earn around Rs 7,000 a day. The restaurant is known for their ‘Dilli wali biryani’ and chicken nihari.
Magroob and the rest of the staff are migrants who came to Delhi to find work. He learnt how to make biryani during a stint at a restaurant in Aligarh eight years ago. After that, he came to Delhi to start his own business and his elder brother joined him. Their family is from Rampur in UP, and has roots in farming.
His elder brother, Aijaj Ali, said their parents, back in their hometown, found out about the incident and have been worried ever since.
“We came to the shop and went on with business as usual the next morning because we knew that the entire market is with us,” Magroob said.
Tarun Singh, who stays in the neighbourhood, comes to check in on the brothers often. “We are all there to support them because they have been here for so many years. A woman who was present the evening of the incident told the man on the bike to leave them alone… all they are doing is earning their rozi-roti,” he said.
Shariq Ali, a staff from Uttarakhand, has been working at the shop for four years. Referring to the rows of eateries serving biryani in the neighbourhood, he said, “There was no reason why one would target us. We do everything we can to respect religious sentiments, and most of our clients are Hindus too.”
Magroob said, “We do not know if police have taken action so far. If the man turns up again, we will reach out to the police.”