A bike rally to mark Hanuman Jayanti on April 1 was marred by at least four incidents of hooliganism outside four mosques in east Delhi and Shahdara, with some members of the procession allegedly brandishing swords, lighting firecrackers, throwing colour and planting saffron flags near the religious sites.
The Anand Vihar councillor and BJP leader, Gunjan Gupta, who flagged off the rally from Prachin Hanuman Mandir in Madhu Vihar, however, said there was “nothing wrong” with what happened. Gupta has been named in a police complaint, along with the Mandawali councillor Shashi Chandana for allegedly inciting the crowd, escalating tensions.
Gupta said, “I did not take part in the bike rally and was present for the flagging off ceremony. There was no violence in the rally as the organisation conducting it is a disciplined outfit. It was a religious sentiment just like it happens in Muharram.”
Chandana did not respond to calls seeking a comment. Additional DCP (East) Jasmeet Singh said the ‘Bajrang Shakti’ rally was organised by the Akhand Bharat Morcha, which had taken permission for a bike rally.
“Some elements from the groups were involved in certain incidents regarding the mosques. Videos were also made of the incident. The local maulvi from Mandawali registered a complaint at Madhu Vihar police station, but they have also communicated that they do not want to pursue the matter,” Singh said.
The complaint was filed by the imam of Fazle Ilahi Masjid, and claims that those in the rally shouted communally sensitive slogans and burst firecrackers outside the mosque gate. The crowd allegedly planted saffron flags near the main gate and threw saffron color at the structure. “They kept shouting Hindustan mein rehna hoga toh Vande Mataram kehna hoga,” the complaint read.
According to eyewitnesses, the rally also stopped at Jama Masjid for 10-15 minutes.
The bike rally was supposed to start at 8 am but was delayed by two hours. The first mosque where it stopped was the 40-year-old Madni Masjid. When the crowd arrived, just two people were present there. “They were brandishing swords and started issuing threats. This went on for 15 minutes as police stood by and watched,” claimed Islam Khureshi, who was offering prayers at the time.
Police had deputed 10 Jaguar motorcycles, one ERV unit from every police station in the area and an additional 15-man team from four police stations. Two police gypsys also followed the rally. Eyewitnesses claimed the rally intentionally stopped at mosques on the way, and videos of the procession were broadcast on Facebook Live.
At Mohammadi Masjid, where the crowd stopped for 15 minutes, the video purportedly shows them shouting profane slogans and brandishing swords. “At first we though it was a wedding procession, but then we saw the swords,” Faizal, a civil engineer, said.
Children nearby were whisked away as the crowd started throwing colours at the main gate. “One of them took a sword with a firecracker and burst it nearby,” claimed Zubair Ahmed, who attended the afternoon namaaz.
However, some youths who who participated in the rally claimed they were only throwing flower petals, and that some members of their group had been assaulted.