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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Delhi: Amid chaos, a mohalla is an island of calm, and an example

While police in riot gear and paramilitary forces kept a tight vigil on the main road, locals such as Balpreet Singh Kalsi (26), Mohd Imran (33) and Champa Verma (52) held fort at the two “mixed lanes”.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Updated: February 27, 2020 6:58:23 am
Delhi violence, Delhi riots news, Delhi violence news, Gurdwara Mohalla Maujpur, Arvind Kejriwal delhi riots, Delhi violence death toll, indian express Residents say they plan to take turns standing guard at the gates for at least a week. (Express)

The remains of the riot — burnt shops, shattered glass, teargas shells and presence of paramilitary forces — made Maujpur main road look like a ghost town Wednesday. But in gali numbers 4 and 6 of Gurdwara Mohalla, less than 100 metres away, the scenes were starkly different.

While police in riot gear and paramilitary forces kept a tight vigil on the main road, locals such as Balpreet Singh Kalsi (26), Mohd Imran (33) and Champa Verma (52) held fort at the two “mixed lanes”.

Kalsi, who lives opposite the gurdwara at gali number 4, told The Indian Express, “My grandfather died in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. My father has told me horror stories from the time. My grandfather went missing from Maujpur Chowk while waiting for help. I can’t let a repeat of that happen again. This is a mixed lane of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim families and we take turns to give pehra (stand guard) at various points of the colony 24×7.”

In gali number 6 lives Mohd Imran with his wife and two toddlers, surrounded by Hindu neighbours. “These neighbours are like family, we have an understanding that if I am in trouble, they will protect me, and if they are in trouble, I will protect them,” he said.

To ensure no violence takes place inside their lane, residents collected Rs 4,000 on Tuesday and got a metal gate fixed at the colony so non-residents cannot come in. “Another gate of the colony was damaged in the violence and we immediately got that fixed too. We will give pehra for a week,” said Imran.

In fact, in gali number 4, at least “40 non-resident Muslims” rushed inside Tuesday afternoon, but were stopped by the young men of the nieghbourhood on pehra duty, said Salman Ansari, a local. He added, “They had sticks and seemed angry… They could have harmed the non-Muslim homes in the area. We made sure they couldn’t proceed.”

Members of the colony also have a WhatsApp group called “V68,” after resident Palvinder Singh Khalsa’s house address, where they quell rumours and keep each other informed about any suspicious movement. “On Tuesday night, there was a rumour that the gurdwara had been set on fire and around 200 Sikh men wanted to rush here. I had to tell them that I am standing in front of it and there was no fire,” said Khalsa.

In a Hindu locality nearby called Mata Mandir Marg as well, residents were vigilant. “We give pehra all night, and if a Muslim local comes in, we ensure he reaches his lane unharmed, we escort him. All the violence has been meted out by outsiders; our colonies are not like this,” said a resident.

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