Swords, slogans, and flags – the making of communal violence in Jahangirpuri on Hanuman Jayanti.
On the evening of Saturday, 16 April, Sajid Saifi was wrapping up work in his electronic shop, which happens to be right next to Jahangirpuri’s Jama Masjid – the central mosque in the area.
It was almost 6 pm, and the mosque was packed to the rafters with members of the Muslim community, waiting to open their fast in about 40 minutes and sit for the evening prayers. Just then, Sajid claims he saw “a group of 300-400 men walking with swords and other weapons in their hands, raising slogans of Jai Sri Ram.”
The group of men was part of the Shobha Yatra organised on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. But as the crowd came closer to the mosque, Sajid feared that Delhi might be added to the list of regions that recently witnessed major clashes during religious processions.
The crowd raised slogans of ‘Jisko is desh mein rehna hoga, Jai Sri Ram kehna hoga’ (if you want to live in this country, you must say Jai Sri Ram), Sajid claims. The crowd then attempted to hoist a flag on the mosque, but were stopped by people who were on its premises, following which the flags fell inside, he says.
When The Quint visited Jahangirpuri on the morning of Sunday, 17 April, the flags could still be seen inside the mosque.
“This was unacceptable. So, of course, there will be a backlash from people from inside the mosque. That’s how the clash broke out. It wasn’t mere sloganeering, but an attempt to enter the mosque with the saffron flags,” he claimed.
The clash then spread throughout the stretch of Jahangirpuri between the blocks of G and H (Hindu-majority) to C-block (Muslim majority). A total of nine people were injured in the violence that ensued. This includes eight cops and one civilian.
A total of 20 people have been named in the FIR and arrested in the case so far. Of these, 15 are Muslims and five are Hindus. Two juveniles have also been apprehended. Three firearms and five swords have been recovered from the accused persons, as per DCP Northwest, Usha Rangani.
Rangani had earlier stated that nine persons, including eight police personnel and one civilian, were injured and being treated in a hospital.
‘Yes, We Had Swords…but Just for Fun’
The Quint also spoke to multiple members of the Hindu community who were part of the Shobha Yatra procession.
“Our route was fixed, we also had permission from the administration for this route. But when our procession went past the mosque, some men from the top of the mosque began pelting stones at us. They had bags full of stones,” claimed Rakesh Sahu, a driver who lives in Jahangirpuri G block and was part of the procession.
Several videos of the procession, with people brandishing swords and sticks, have been going viral on social media. The Quint could not independently verify all the videos doing the rounds. But several people, who were part of the procession, confirmed that they indeed had swords and sticks.
“We had sticks that were used to hold the Hanuman ji flags. Some of us also had swords, yes. But our intention wasn’t to attack or to hurt,” Sahu added.
When asked why they carried swords, Sahu said, “The swords were just for show. We were enjoying ourselves, playing songs with the DJ, we were dancing and just having fun. The sword wasn’t to attack, it was just for fun.”
However, the members of the procession denied that there was an attempt to enter the mosque. “None of us tried to enter the mosque or hoist the flag, we don’t know where these flags inside the mosque have come from,” Hitesh Kumar, another member of the procession, said.
There were, however, some people from the Hindu community who were critical of the procession over the swords and the sloganeering in front of the mosque.
“We have lived in peace here for a long time. But Jahangirpuri is a sensitive area, so we have to be careful. I don’t understand why the Shobha Yatra needed to carry swords and weapons with them. Or why they only chose the route in front of the mosque, and then indulged in provocative sloganeering there. It’s not right,” said PS Dange, a 52-year-old shopkeeper in Jahangirpuri.
Fear and Sloganeering Amid Police Presence
There was heavy police deployment in the entire stretch of Jahangirpuri to calm the situation down, but the fear among the people remained palpable.
This could be because, despite the police presence, BJP leaders indulged in sloganeering right in front of the mosque, which was the heart of the conflict a day earlier. BJP’s Mandir Prakosht head Karnail Singh raised slogans of ‘Jisko is desh mein rehna hoga, Jai Sri Ram kehna hoga’ in front of the mosque on Sunday afternoon.