Two peepul trees, a caretaker and an earlier altercation over parking space are at the centre of Saturday’s violence in BK Dutt Colony near the Jor Bagh karbala in South Delhi.
On Saturday, Zulfikar, the chowkidar of the Dargah Shah-e-Mardan, popularly known as the Jor Bagh karbala, was trimming bushes and cutting grass around the Naqqar Khana — a structure opposite the venerated Shia site — in preparation for Muharram. Residents asked Zulfikar to stop, alleging that the land around the Naqqar Khana was under dispute.
While police arrived soon, rumours that Zulfikar had been trying to cut a peepul tree spread through the colony. Police said almost 200 people arrived at the scene. This was followed by pelting of stones.
Apart from the peepul tree near the Naqqar Khana at the front, there is another behind the karbala. As the rumours spread, people started gathering at the back, effectively closing the exit for those within the Shia site.
“As stones came down on us, we were trapped. People had gathered at the back. Most of them were outsiders who were brought in to increase communal tension. Some had loudspeakers announcing that the tree was to be cut,” Syed Bilal Hussain, member of the Anjuman-e-Haideri — the trust responsible for the upkeep of the venerated Shia site — said.
The alleged “tree-cutting machine” turned out to be a grass-trimmer — similar to the kind used by municipal corporations.
While BK Dutt Colony is no stranger to such clashes — due to the ongoing dispute between Anjuman-e-Haideri and owners of Rajdhani nursery over a land dispute — many residents said the violence had never been so bad. “The matter worsened following the parking row that took place on Dussehra. Things were already tense and the peepul tree was just the trigger,” one resident said.
On October 3, an altercation over parking turned violent. According to an FIR filed by BK Dutt Colony Vikas Samiti president, Harbans Dankal, a resident parked his car near the karbala, inviting protest. The FIR stated that members of the karbala emerged with “hockey sticks” and proceeded to beat the resident. He claimed the incident had been captured on CCTV camera, and the footage given to police.
However, members of Anjuman-e-Haideri denied the incident and said the allegations made to police were false. Later on Sunday evening, both sides led by the BK Dutt Colony Vikas Samiti and Anjuman-e-Haideri claimed the violence was instigated by the other.