On 1st August newspapers were full of reports that there were ‘clashes between two groups’ in Khajuri Khas area of north east Delhi and that the Delhi police had acted to restore law and order. We were also contacted by several workers residing in the kuccha colony of Khajuri Khas, a poor and working class colony, that the area was communally disturbed. As this is an area where both Hindus and Muslims reside and also because the memory of incidents in Trilokpuri and Seelampur in the past few months are there, the Delhi Committee of Indian Federation of Trade Unions sent a team to investigate the incident. Com Rajesh, Secretary of the Committee, Com. Jai Prakash Joint Sec. and Com. Raja of West Delhi IFTU Committee accordingly visited the area on 2nd August 2015.
Location and Background
The team found that the area comprises of Khajuri chowk, less than half a kilometer away from which is a traffic light termed the kuchcha- pucca colony red light. To the left is the kuchcha Khajuri Khas colony and to the right is the main or pucca colony. The kuchcha colony comprises of five blocks. Muslim families predominate here who earn their living by selling fruits, vegetables and other items from redis or by plying rickshaws. Workers from other states like UP, mostly from majority community, have also purchased land here and live in houses they have built. There is one govt. primary school and one private school (up to 8th) in the area. The pucca colony houses mostly Gujjar families who are govt. employees, traders or do their own business. Here there are two big govt. schools where children from the kuchcha colony also come to study. These schools have a morning shift for girls and an evening shift for boys and are overpopulated. According to residents of the kuchcha colony, there are regular disputes regarding eve teasing of girl students by the youth of the colony. There is also a private school here where few students of the kuchcha colony also study. Overall, there is a significant class difference between the two colonies.
At the Khajuri Khas chowk there is a PCR ‘heading’ point where a PCR vehicle is stationed and just a small distance away, a police beat box which remains manned. Local people said there are normally up to four policemen there. The chowk is chock full of redi patri sellers, there is a bus stand, a regular market, a small mandir and autos and jeeps stand around the chowk. Thus it is a very busy and crowded square.
Around 500 yards away from the kuchcha pucca colony traffic light is situated the Thana of the area.
Events on 31st July 2015
On 31st July, at around 2:30 Am in the morning, near the Khajuri Khas Thana, police stopped a tempo carrying animal skin. This skin has subsequently apparently been sent for testing while drive and helper are in police detention though it is reported that they have appropriate licenses.
The same morning, at about 11 AM, at the kuchcha-pucca khajuri traffic lights, some vehicle slightly injured a cow which probably also fell down but later got up and limped away. This created a jam for some time as the light was not working. Around 40 youth of the majority community came from the side of the pucca colony and started saying that the Muslims have ‘cut up’ a cow. In a group, and blocking the road, they walked the less than half a kilometer distance to the Khajuri Chowk, which at that time of the day is specially crowded. The crowd, on seeing them, got confused and while some started gathering, other started trying to go away. The youth reached the chowk, stopped a Muslim youth coming on a bike and began beating him. An old Muslim (reportedly 65 years of age) tried to intervene and was also beaten up. The youth set fire to the bike. Another bike also belonging to a Muslim was also set on fire a little distance away. All this occurred in the proximity of the police beat box and the PCR point where eyewitnesses who have redis in the area and maintain that they were present on that day, maintain that the PCR van and police were standing. In the middle of this, word spread that Hindus had killed four butchers in the kuchcha colony and also a child. This further added to the ferment in the crowd. It later turned out that no one was killed and one child sustained accidental burns in a shop in the kuchcha colony that morning.
It is only after the burning of the bikes and by when the crowd had swelled further in number that the police appeared on the scene. The police then tried to force the crowd to disperse but made no attempt to arrest the youth who had tried to provoke a communal situation and who melted away into the crowd, despite there being two burning bikes, and at least two people having been assaulted. Police also resorted to caning- the crowd was apparently argumentative and agitated but mostly not organized and after a while drifted away. Thus it was mostly the good sense of the people there that prevented the situation from aggravating. Though people got agitated for a while due to the severe provocation, yet they did not succumb. People went and calmly picked up their children from school. However the market shut down and redis closed shop and returned to their homes. Police then maintained a heavy presence at the chowk.
Police has registered an FIR against ‘unknown persons’. The youth who tried to incite communal violence can be easily identified and are untouched. Both the burnt bikes are still standing a little away from the police beat box at the chowk, on the day the IFTU team visited the area. The rest of the area was normally going about its work; in fact due to the Sunday bazaar there was more crowd than usual and consisted of all communities.
It is absolutely clear that there was an attempt here to use a totally unrelated incident to provoke communal violence and at least communal polarization. The pattern resembles the Trilokpuri incident a few months earlier, wherein a group of youth from majority community marched into the area unchecked by police, indulging in violence and inciting others. However here, despite the youth burning bikes of Muslims, the crowd did not lose its good sense and that is why the situation did not result in mad violence like it did in Trilokpuri. However this is not for want of trying by Hindu communal forces. It is known that RSS is active in the pucca Khajuri colony. Yet such incidents do create communal polarization. The Muslim families and the Hindu workers have been living peacefully in the kuchcha colony. The workers had left in the morning for their work place that day and returned only at night. However they told the IFTU team that some incident had occurred because people protested as the Muslims ’had cut up’ a cow. When asked if they had met anyone who had seen this, or whether this routinely happened etc., they retracted.
The police is fully hand in glove with those Hindutva elements who attempted to provoke communal violence. With a police beat box, a PCR van present in the area, a crowd cannot un-noticed block a road and march up to the chowk and then beat up two Muslims and set two bikes on fire. The police chose not to intervene. Similarly, none of the youth has been detained for deliberately trying to incite communal violence by several provocative acts. Rather the police has put out a story that the incident happened because a tempo ‘carrying animal skin was detained by the police on information given by a member of the public’, in the daytime. This tempo was stopped by the police several hours earlier, in the middle of the night. The police must have passed on this information to elements in the pucca colony. There is no connection at all in time between the two events. Rather, now to go along with their story, the police have kept the driver and the cleaner of the tempo in their custody. The team could not ascertain their identity. The majority communal nature of the police is once again clear in this incident, as it was earlier in Trilokpuri, Seelampur, and other such incidents in Delhi in the past few months since the Modi Govt. came to power at the Centre. Such incidents have also taken place in areas surrounding Delhi in Gurgaon and in other parts of Haryana and in Uttar Pradesh.
The AAP Govt. of Delhi has made no comment on the incident. Always ready to take on the police and the Central Govt. when AAP legislators or their appointees are involved, this Govt. has not demanded that the Central Govt. enquire into the police being hand in glove with the Hindu communal elements in this incident. It has not even questioned the veracity of the police story, let alone condemning the role of the Delhi police. This is in keeping with the role of this party in earlier such incidents in Delhi especially in Trilokpuri, where there was an AAP MLA. They did not say a word against the police or the Central Govt. in the earlier such incidents.
The team demands that an enquiry be conducted by a sitting High Court Judge into the role of the police in the events in Khajuri Khas and for that the local police senior officers as well as the police personnel be shifted out of the area. The Hindu youth who attempted to provoke communal violence by spreading totally baseless rumors, by beating up innocent Muslim citizens and destroying their bikes in acts of arson should be arrested and charged. The bike owners should be compensated.
The team points out that this incident too is part of the series of incidents in Delhi where communal polarization has been attempted at the local level by Hindutva forces with police collusion. We call on the people of Delhi to remain vigilant, to pinpoint the trouble mongers and not allow our city, with its different religious communities, to be divided along communal lines.