At least 800 Delhi Police and CRPF personnel were spread across the 800-metre Hauz Qazi stretch in Old Delhi Tuesday, after an argument over a parking spot spiralled into a communal flare-up Sunday night.
Barricades at two points, ropes and a slew of officers were deployed to keep both communities under check as various groups gathered outside a temple that was allegedly vandalised the night of the argument.
While broken window panes had been replaced at the temple by police, locals and members of right-wing groups, such as Vishva Hindu Parishad’s international working president Alok Kumar, visited the spot. “We’ve given police four days to arrest all the accused. If that doesn’t happen, the Hindu Samaj will take a decision,” said Kumar. He later met Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik.
For two days in a row, shops remained shut in Hauz Qazi’s Lal Kuan area where the temple is located. Around 4 pm, when Manjeet Singh (45) opened his shop, located next to the temple, protesters forced him to lower the shutter. Singh said, “This disharmony is bad for business and we’ll suffer for days. We have suffered losses in lakhs.”
DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said, “We’ve told everyone in the area to keep shops open Wednesday onwards.” The DCP said he requested both communities not to react to sloganeering, and told security forces “not to be aggressive and keep the two communities apart”.
The temple is located in an alley and shares a wall with Zeenat Mahal, which was built by the wife of the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1846.
Resident Rakesh Gupta said, “The temple was vandalised and the accused have been arrested, but a lot of outsiders have come here to create havoc. Locals don’t want this to escalate… outsiders won’t let us open shops.”
Another resident showed messages from nearby coaching classes asking parents not to send their children for the next two days. Many recalled that while the area has seen minor skirmishes, matters have not gone out of hand in over two decades.
Apart from the heavy police and CRPF deployment, a few RWA presidents held meetings and sent messages appealing for peace and to not believe “fake or old videos” doing the rounds on social media. A group of young men from both communities held posters that read “chhodo ab yeh ladai, Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai”. The temple priest and the imam of Jama Masjid also appealed for peace.
Earlier in the day, Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan visited the area and appealed for peace. Other leaders from BJP and AAP also appealed for peace.