Trilokpuri one year on: 'Mullas first fuel the riots and then file reports'
The local political leadership is largely dismissive of the riots, but the wounds of the riot victims are yet to heal.
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A few women have gathered outside the office of Aam Aadmi Party's Trilokpuri MLA Raju Dhingan. They are complaining about lack of cleanliness in their block. "The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) workers say that "Muslim blocks" are extremely dirty and unclean unlike their Hindu counterparts," says one among the agitating women. Two-time MLA Dhingan assures them of cleanliness and boasts about the installation of an electric transformer in one of the blocks on the same day.
During the Diwali season in October last year, Trilokpuri resettlement colony was the centre point of a Hindu-Muslim communal skirmish, which allegedly occurred after the members of the two communities sparred in relation to the setting up of a Mata Ki Chowki, that is, a temporary religious structure near a local mosque.
"Riots will not happen again in Trilokpuri. The riots were planted by the BJP as part of a carefully thought out political strategy to win the elections in Delhi. However, the electorate rejected them. Earlier I won by a margin of 18,000 votes. This time around I have won by a margin of 30,000 votes," says AAP MLA Raju Dhingan. He adds that his hands are tied since he doesn't have evidence against anyone regarding their role in the riots otherwise he would have exposed them in the media.
Dhingan's veiled comments were an apparent reference to deceased BJP leader Sunil Vaid who passed away in December 2014, shortly a month after the riots. He was accused of instigating the Hindu mobs during the rioting. However, Sunil Vaid's widow Kiran Vaid, who unsuccessfully contested from Trilokpuri seat during the 2015 Delhi Assembly Elections, vehemently denies the accusation.
"Opposition leaders including Raju Dhingan have levelled false allegations against my husband. My husband literally ran after the boys and pleaded them to stop," says Kiran Vaid. She mentioned that her husband did a lot of work for the local Muslim community and Muslim women were seen weeping during his funeral. She added that Hindu-Muslim relations in Trilokpuri are cordial and the Muslim community actively participated in Valmiki Jayanti celebrations this year.
"Except for Dhinghan, tum kisi Hindu se jaake poochlo (go and ask any Hindu about the rioting), no one will say a word against my husband," she says. Kiran Vaid claimed that her husband told her that "yuvaoon mein josh bhara hua tha (the youth were full of enthusiasm)" and though he tried a lot, he couldn't entirely stop riots from occurring.
Trilokpuri's local political leadership is largely dismissive of the riots but the wounds of the riot victims are yet to heal. In Block 27 stands Israr Khan's "A-Z" shop which was gutted down during the riots. Though Israr wasn't himself present during the rioting, he mentions that his neighbour Medina told him that "along with the police, some people barged into his shop after breaking the upper shutter." He further mentions that shortly thereafter people noticed smoke coming out of the shop.
By the time the fire brigade arrived, Israr's shop bore an altogether different look. Israr claims to have suffered a loss of more than 1.3 crore rupees. His shop has been renovated but Israr is in massive debt and says that he won't be able to repay it even after selling the jewellery of his six daughters.
The police have held the incident as a case of short circuit but Israr echoes the need for proper investigation. "The police committed a lot of atyachaar (atrocities) on us. They didn't register our FIR. The IO (Investigating Officer) told me that even if you go right up till the High Court, your FIR will not be registered," he says. "Some leaders of BJP-RSS were involved in the riots. They were shouting slogans like go back to Pakistan," says Israr. Besides Israr's shop, two more shops belonging to Muslims were burnt.
Israr argues that even if he accepts the theory that his shop was burnt as a result of short circuit then also the question arises as to how the other two shops caught fire. Although Israr went to the police station to file an FIR, the police allegedly threatened arresting him instead. As a result, he stopped going to the police station altogether. "I knocked on all doors be it that of ACP, DCP, SHO and LG but to no avail," he says.
Qureshi, a roadside trader dealing in scrap and chicken, also couldn't prevent his modest shop from being burnt to ashes. "I went to the police station to file an FIR. The policeman at the gate said that Mullas (Muslims) first fuel the riots and then come here to file reports. Go away," says Qureshi.
He adds, "I was at my shop till 11:30 in the morning. By 12:45, the mob had put my theka on fire. I tried seeing from far but couldn't. When I was going, people were saying stop him, catch him. I ran away since I was afraid." Very much like Israr Khan, Qureshi also sustained severe financial loses. He too is in debt.
Disenchantment with the police is not limited to Muslim victims living in predominantly Muslims blocks. On October 25, 2014, two teenagers Arjun and Ajeet were injured as a result of police firing. While Arjun was hit in the head, Ajeet sustained a bullet injury in his stomach. The boys who live in Block 28 were returning from tuitions when the stone pelting started and the police decided to open fire.
Ajeet underwent medical treatment for one week and was later on discharged. "My life has been destroyed. I was studying in class ten but couldn't attend classes afterwards. As a result, I failed. I am sitting uselessly at home and cannot even lift a bucket," says fifteen year old Ajeet. Delhi Police provided Ajeet's family with Rs 1 lakh as compensation but more than that amount was spent in treatment and medicines.
He adds, "I didn't go to school that day because the school bus hadn't come so my parents insisted that I go for tuitions and unfortunately, I went and was shot." Sheila, Arjun's mother, mentions that her sixteen year old son is still not well and water oozes out of his injury spots frequently.
"When I got the information that my son had been shot, I rushed to attend to him. He was lying on the road. Instead of helping us the police baton charged on me," says Sheila. Arjun was treated at a private hospital which asked for Rs 75,000 to be deposited immediately. Thereafter, Delhi Police assured to pay for the treatment.
"Delhi Police gave us a cheque of Rs 3 lakh but I had to go to the DCP office several times over a period of one month to get the money," says Sheila. She adds, "Delhi Police didn't behave responsibly. There used to be an SHO when my son was in the hospital but they haven't even visited us once ever since he was discharged."
Arjun was on ventilator support for one week and is still far from being in the best of his health. School officials have made his parents sign an undertaking stating that the school authorities are not responsible for his medical state. "What was the fault of our son? He had gone for tuitions. In fact it was Bhaiyya Doojh that day," says Sheila.
Arjun's mother wants Delhi Police officials responsible for firing at him and his friend to be booked and tried. She further wishes the government to support his son by assuring him a government job. Not far away from Block 28 lives Ashish, another young boy who was shot during the rioting. "There was a party at my place so my mother asked me to go and buy bananas form the market of Block 27. I went and was hit by a bullet," says Ashish.
After a botched up surgery at a local hospital, Ashish's leg had to be amputated to save his life. Delhi Police provided him with a cheque of Rs 3.5 lakh. Social Historian Mukul Kesavan, who closely observed the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Trilokpuri, is mindful of the role that the police play in the case of communal rioting. "I think it's fair to say that in the case of Trilokpuri (2014) there doesn't seem to be any spectacular case to be made for the police acting on behalf of one community or another but again I have to emphasise that I haven't studied that particular skirmish closely enough to be able to say this with confidence," says Kesavan.
Political apathy towards riot victims cuts across political lines. Neither sitting AAP MLA Raju Dhingan nor former BJP MLA Sunil Vaid came to meet the families of Arjun and Ajeet.
Only one leader named Nag Arjun helped them during their moment of crisis. On the other hand when Ashish went to Raju Dhingan to ask for relief in the form of a job, Dhingan allegedly asked him "tu wahan karne kya gaya tha (why had you gone over there)?" Dhingan is also said to have told Israr Khan "dekhenge (we will see)" when he complained to him regarding the burning of his shop. Ashish also paid a visit to local BJP MP Mahesh Giri but without much result. He voted for Aam Aadmi Party in the 2015 Delhi Elections hoping that "they will do something after wining" but they never did.
But riot victims hardly have any other option. Elaborating on the lives of people in resettlement colonies like Trilokpuri, Mukul Kesavan says, "If you wanted a paani ka (water) connection or bijli ka (electricity) connection or a plot of land or a ration card, more than most other places you were dependent on the political figure who represented you, who could get them for you so really large populations in these resettlement bastis (slums) are made up of people who aren't citizens, who have been in a sense so atomized and who have been so desperate that they are clients. They are clients of the political apparatus that run these areas. Their lives in a very real sense are contingent upon political patronage."
Refusing to be cowed down by criticism, Raju Dhingan says that "over 3 lakh people live in Trilokpuri" and that he "cannot meet everyone." He emphasizes that he tried to make himself as much available during the riots as he could and invoked Section 144 in the area. Responding to queries related to arbitrary arrests of youth during rioting, Dhingan says, "I can't say anything. Delhi Police doesn't give me reports since they come under the Central Government." Though Dhingan acknowledges that he received complaints of arbitrary arrests from both the communities, he praised the police for clamping down on rioters. "If the police do not act harshly then riots won't stop. The police did a good job here," he says.
In order to make Trilokpuri more secure, Raju Dhingan plans to build hundred gates in different blocks to prevent outsiders from entering settlements at odd hours. The Muslims complain that instead of gates only pillars have been built in their blocks, but Raju Dhingan is confident of delivering on his promise. However, near Block 26, the residents have built their own saffron gate in the face of the neighbouring Muslim block with the national tricolour hoisted on both its ends.
"What happened in Trilokpuri this time on a much, much smaller scale, this needs to be said, is not that a particular political party orchestrated these skirmishes, but political parties were quick to take advantages of these skirmishes," says Mukul Kesavan. That said, riot victims are of the opinion that Muslims and Hindus leave peacefully in Trilokpuri but political parties are responsible for fuelling hatred. While Ashish mentions that the Muslims supported Hindus during the Valmiki Jayanti celebrations this year, Israr Khan says, "We don't have any enmity with Valmikis. Our shops were burnt as a result of politics."