Several areas in Central and Old Delhi remained tense Monday after an argument the previous night over a parking spot spiralled into a communal flare-up. According to police, while the initial incident took place in Hauz Qazi, on Monday, several shops remained shuttered in Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazar. Allegations also emerged that a temple had been vandalised, and police spent the day trying to calm tempers on both sides.
Three FIRs have been registered and two men detained so far.
Urging people to help police restore normalcy, DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said: “After some altercation and scuffle over a parking issue in Hauz Qazi, tension arose between two groups of people from different communities. We have taken legal action and all efforts are being made to pacify feelings and bring about amity.”
According to police, around 10.55 pm Sunday, a man identified as Aas Mohammed was parking his two-wheeler outside one Sanjeev Gupta’s home. “Gupta, who was sitting inside his house, asked him not to park the scooter, saying he parked his cart there. An argument ensued and Gupta came out of his house. According to eyewitnesses, Aas Mohammed was beaten up by some locals, but he ran away and returned with his associates,” a senior officer said.
Randhawa said, “We have registered three FIRs — including two cross FIRs against Gupta and Aas Mohammed — and detained them. The third FIR has been registered in connection with alleged rioting and vandalism at the temple against unidentified persons. We are trying to arrest the accused.”
Locals told police that both men had argued over parking earlier as well. Gupta’s wife Babita alleged that a group of men “pelted stones at our windows and barged into our house. They dragged my husband outside and assaulted us, including my children”.
Police said a PCR call was received around 11.30 pm about two groups fighting, and people from both sides were taken to Hauz Qazi police station. In the meantime, a false rumour spread that a man had been beaten to death. “Around 350 people gathered outside the police station and some went outside Gupta’s home, where a temple is situated. It is alleged that some unidentified men vandalised the temple,” an officer said.
Temple priest Anil Kumar Pandey claimed, “I was sleeping when I heard some people screaming and came out. I tried to stop them, but they were aggressive.”
As tension spread, senior officers arrived at the spot and 600 personnel, including paramilitary forces with anti-riot gear, were deployed. Imams from local mosques were also called in to appeal to youth to disperse and maintain peace in their area.
Local MLA and Delhi Minister Imran Hussain also sought to persuade people to maintain calm. During the day, a photojournalist was allegedly attacked by unidentified persons while covering the incident. Police said they are probing the attack.
Delhi BJP vice-president Jai Prakash also visited the spot and said it was merely a case of personal enmity between people who happened to be of different religions. “Whoever vandalised the temple should be arrested and whoever tried to break communal harmony should also be arrested. I went to the area and I appealed to people to maintain peace,” he said.
Later in the evening, some people gathered in front of the temple and performed prayers. They also demanded the arrest of those who allegedly vandalised the temple. Meanwhile, Delhi Police arranged for new idols for the temple, and said they have tightened security to ensure the situation de-escalates.
Shopkeepers call for peace
Following tension between two communities in Central Delhi Sunday night, some shopkeepers at Chawri Bazar, Sadar Bazar, Khari Baoli and Chandni Chowk kept their shops shut Monday morning. Several shopkeepers complained of losses and appealed for peace in the area.
Sanjay Bhargav, who heads the Sarv Vyapar Mandal in Old Delhi, said, “The incident hit business today… those who come here to shop will get scared and not turn up if such incidents take place often.” At Chawri Bazar’s Lal Kuan, where the incident took place, several kite shop owners said customers refrained from turning up.
“We were asked by authorities to keep our shops closed. This is the first time in decades that two communities here are fighting like this,” said a shopkeeper who has been here for the last 40 years.