A culvert separates the cluster of houses in Shiv Vihar in Gokulpuri and Chawan Park in Karawal Nagar. But it does more than just draw a physical boundary between the unauthorised colonies. Often, the question of who has right of way on the culvert has hounded the two communities that live on either side. On Monday , a clash led to a tense communal situation, though members of both the communities agree that it was instigated by rogue elements, probably outsiders.
The situation remained calm, if tense, on Tuesday even as police arrested one person from Chawan Park and detained four others from Shiv Vihar.
Mohammad Mustafa, a resident, claimed that the Monday clash was no different from the frequent arguments that youths of Chawan Park got into with their counterparts from Shiv Vihar over cricket matches. Apparently, two youths crossing the culvert on a motorcycle had found their way obstructed by four people in Shiv Vihar.Mustafa said the quartet, who he alleged were drunk, had beaten the two men, who then returned to the spot with their parents and others. Fearful of a mob attack, residents of Shiv Vihar had also organised themselves into a group. When both the sides began pelting stones at each other, police were called to defuse the situation. However, the cops had to resort to a cane charge when the crowed refused to disperse. The lanes near the culvert were littered with bricks on Monday as police equipped with riot control equipment patrolled the roads.
“Minor violence erupts periodically here, but it has never been related to religious feelings,” said Mustafa. “This is the first time that religion has been in focus. There were some announcements made from the mosque and instigation by the other groups.”
Mustafa added that Jagdish Pradhan, MLA of Mustafabad, visited the area to take stock of the situation.
Old-time residents of Chawan Park like Kabir Ahmed, 56, said that there has always been communal amity between the community of tailors and petty businessmen in Mustafabad, the acceptance of each other’s community evident in the regular cricket matches among the youth of both the colonies. But, said Ahmed, the police intrusion on Monday worsened the situation because the cops “randomly hit out against the locals”. “On failing to identify the miscreants, the police started using their canes on people who had gathered around, even detaining several when they tried to reason with the policemen,” charged Qadeer, a resident of Chawan Park.
The people normally manage to resolve the periodic tensions that arise in the area.For instance, a few months ago, a youth from Chawan Park was thrashed for allegedly misbehaving with a woman from Shiv Vihar, but elders from both the communities intervened and settled the issue. “There was no police case in that case,” said Bittu, who owns a grocery shop in Shiv Vihar.
The area came up in 1976 as a resettlement colony for slum-dwellers evicted from different parts of the capital.It was a part of a slum-clearance drive that Sanjay Gandhi had led. Today, the slums have developed into a pocket of unauthorised colonies. Most of the residents have come from UP and Bihar and are employed as tailors or in government jobs.
According to MLA Pradhan, the area had remained peaceful until a few years back, when locals started renting their houses to outsiders.”It used to be a close knit colony still then,” said Pradhan.”Now it has been affected by the new people who have brought their own biases to the area. The tension is a result of that.”
This article first appeared in The Times of India, Delhi Edition issue dated 17.08.2016