Police Broker Peace After Temple Attack: 15th Hate Crime This Year


The lane housing the Durga mandir that was vandalised in Old Delhi on June 30, 2019. Police met both Hindus and Muslims and brokered a peace as tensions flared.

Old Delhi, Delhi: In the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias in 2019 nationwide, two persons were injured and a temple vandalized after a dispute over parking in Delhi's Hauz Qazi area on the night of June 30, 2019.

This is the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded in the national capital territory (NCT) of Delhi--the eighth most violent state for such violence--according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks these crimes from 2009 to-date.

Hindus, 80.2% of the population, were targets in two hate crimes motivated by religious bias since 2009 in Delhi, Hate Crime Watch data show; Muslims accounting for 12.78% of the population have been targets in 60% (9 of 15) hate crimes. The religious identity of victims in three cases was not known.

All 15 religious hate crimes in Delhi over 10 years were recorded after 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre. Delhi is set to go to the assembly polls early next year (2020).

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 91.7% of 292 hate crimes motivated by religious bias– claiming 99 lives–were reported after 2014. Hindus, 79.8% of population, were victims in 14% attacks. Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, were victims in 58.7% such hate crimes, according to Hate Crime Watch, while Christians who form 2.3% of the population, were victims in 14.4% of cases.

The Hauz Qazi area houses a market that sells clothing, crockery, Unani medicines and hardware and electrical material. On a regular day, the market, 100 m from a metro station, is full of customers haggling at established and makeshift stores alike.

On July 2, 2019, when FactChecker visited the area, the market was returning to normalcy, in the presence of police and paramilitary forces. But tensions flared after a motorcycle rally with provocative sloganeering in the area, by members of right-wing organisations, including the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

At around 11 pm on June 30, 22-year-old student Aas Mohammed went to park his bike outside the home of one Sanjeev Gupta, 45, who runs a catering business.

“I told him (Mohammed) not to park his vehicle outside my house, as I feed the cows here,” Gupta told FactChecker. Opposite Gupta’s house is the Gali Durga Mandir, home to the temple in question.

The area outside Sanjeev Gupta’s home in Hauz Qazi, Old Delhi, where a scuffle over parking Aas Mohammed’s bike cascaded into greater violence.

“He started abusing me and brought 40-50 people with him. They entered my house and manhandled me," Gupta said, showing this reporter his injuries. "They even misbehaved with my wife and daughter." He had a clot in his right eye and bruises on his right cheek.

Sanjeev Gupta, 45, displays his injuries. Gupta scuffled with 22-year-old Aas Mohammed over parking on the night of June 30, 2019.

Eyewitnesses said they heard abuses from both sides, adding that Gupta and his associates beat Mohammed, before the latter returned with more men to attack Gupta.

First information reports (FIRs) were filed by both parties, but the police brokered a compromise. Gupta confirmed this and said that a rajinama (settlement) was signed by both parties.

Mohammed could not be reached. While some locals allege that he was taken into police custody, police sources said he was at home under police protection, which was also provided to Gupta.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa refused to comment on the details of the case, since “[the] matter is very sensitive, and the investigation is in process”.

The temple vandalism and its aftermath

After the scuffle on the night of June 30, around midnight, a mob entered Gali Durga Mandir and vandalised the temple, locals told FactChecker. The glass shield protecting the statues was damaged, a few statues were broken and part of a curtain in the temple burnt, FactChecker found.

The same mob also threw stones at Sanjeev’s house, locals said. Hindus alleged that the mob was Muslim.

“Around 12.30 am, I heard people screaming and sloganeering,” temple priest Anil Kumar Pandey told FactChecker. “They (Muslims) were abusing [Hindus] and pelted stones at the temple.” Asked if he could recall the slogans, Pandey said he did not remember exactly. “They were all Muslim and were shouting ‘Nara-e-Takbeer’ (slogans of ‘God is Great’),” he said.

Pandey said he did not come out of his house when the temple was being vandalised. “Bahut darawani aawaz thi. Bahut shor sharaba ho raha tha. Bahar nikalta toh bheed jaan se mar deti, kya pata? (The noise was horrifying and there was a lot of chaos outside; I could have been killed if I stepped out),” he said, adding that he called the police.

News of the vandalism spread quickly on Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups. Rumours seem to have been spread by both Hindus and Muslims, said Raheem Khan, a reporter with ETV Bharat and a resident of Hauz Qazi. “Initially, rumours were spread that a boy has been lynched by the mob. Then, we heard that Muslims have vandalised the temple,” said Raheem. “I am still trying to figure out which rumour came first.”

Since the morning of July 1, members of right-wing organisations, including the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Shiv Sena, were present in the area.

A couple of tents had come up near the temple where Hindu men with saffron tikas chanted “Jai Shri Ram” at regular intervals. Among them, a few who identified themselves as locals, demanded police action against the vandals. These tents were removed by July 3.

Tents had come up near the Durga temple in Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi, and “outsiders” were trying to incite communal tension, residents allege.

“Outsiders are trying to incite communal tension in Hauz Qazi,” said Zahid (he uses only one name), a resident of the area, adding that they made provocative statements and slogans. “For years, Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully here,” he said.

The “outsiders” said police action was not adequate. One of them, who self-identified as "Panditji", said, “Protection of Hindus is a big issue. Attacks are being carried out against Hindus all over the country.”

“Nobody knows who vandalised the temple, but a community has been demonised,” said Mohammed Sakeel, a Hauz Qazi resident. “We have been demonised for hurting the sentiments of the Hindus. Police have acted swiftly. Arrests have been made. [Footage from the] CCTV is being seen. Then, why is such sloganeering and provocation being carried out? That only means their intentions are not correct.”

Sanjeev Kumar, 36, another resident of Hauz Qazi, who earlier lived in the passage next to the temple, spoke about an old conflict related to the temple.

“A couple of property builders want to usurp this region (Gali Durga Mandir). Since it is a temple, they are unable to take over this piece of land.” They may have been involved in the vandalism, or may be supporting the escalation of tensions, Kumar added.

A few residents gathered around the temple saw merit in this theory. Thirty-five-year-old Narendra (he gave us only one name), another resident of Hauz Qazi, alleged builders were behind the incident since they had tried to seize the land earlier as well.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police have replaced the statues and curtains with new ones.

‘We want peace and business’

Soon after the motorcycle rally by Hindu right-wing groups on the evening of July 2, Muslim residents of Hauz Qazi organised a procession carrying placards and shouting slogans for peace: “Nafrat nahi, aman chahiye (We want peace, not hate), Manmutav khatm karo, aapas me gale milo (Put an end to the disagreement, hug each other), Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai (Hindus and Muslims are brothers), and “Aman aur karobar chahiye (we want peace and business)."

Muslim residents of Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi flourish placards with slogans calling for peace.

“The rumours related to mob lynching are absolutely false,” said Asad Azad, 42, secretary of the Fraz Khana Residents’ Welfare Association. “It was a street fight between two young men and nothing more. We are demanding that miscreants be punished and normalcy be restored in the area.” Three men were arrested for the vandalism the same evening, he added.

Salman Salaar, 30, who was leading the procession, agreed. “We will not allow party politics to milk votes from Hauz Qazi,” Salaar said. “Delhi-6 (old Delhi) has been a cosmopolitan locality, always known for its inclusiveness. We have lived peacefully here for years; we won’t let that social harmony be disturbed.”

“No religion is greater than trade,” said Harmeet Singh Chawla, a businessman from Sadar Bazaar. He said that because of the curfew-like situation, businesses took a hit. “If the shops remain closed, will it hurt only Muslims? Or will it hurt only Hindus? It will hurt all of us.”

Yadesvar Panditji, a resident of Hauz Qazi in his early 70s, agreed that life needs to be restored to normal. He said he is in touch with both Hindus and Muslims. He remembered the last such incident in the area: “The last time tension broke out here was in 1991, during the Ram Mandir agitation.”

Around 8.30 pm on July 2, a joint press conference was called by Jamshed Ali Siddiqui and Tara Chand Saxena of the Aman Committee (peace committee) set up by the police to de-escalate tensions. Both Siddqui and Saxena hailed the “commendable job” done by the Delhi Police.

“The Delhi Police has played a positive role. They have ensured [a] belief that prompt action will be taken against the culprits,” Saxena said. Siddqui said Muslims would help repair the temple and the temple should not have been vandalised.

The Aman Committee has also assured that markets will open from July 3 and business will run as usual. Most shops in the area had indeed re-opened on July 3, FactChecker found, and paramilitary forces moved out. However, police units are ubiquitous and the “outsiders” have been removed from the area.

Despite the assurances from police and peace committees, Hindus and Muslims are fearful. “Kya pata abhi kuch din shant rahe mamla aur police ke jane ke baad kuch gadbad ho (Who knows? There may be peace for a few days, but when the police is no longer around, there could be some disturbance),” said Zahid.

(Kumar is a New Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

The lane housing the Durga mandir that was vandalised in Old Delhi on June 30, 2019. Police met both Hindus and Muslims and brokered a peace as tensions flared.

Old Delhi, Delhi: In the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias in 2019 nationwide, two persons were injured and a temple vandalized after a dispute over parking in Delhi's Hauz Qazi area on the night of June 30, 2019.

This is the 15th hate crime motivated by religious bias to be recorded in the national capital territory (NCT) of Delhi--the eighth most violent state for such violence--according to Hate Crime Watch, a FactChecker database that tracks these crimes from 2009 to-date.

Hindus, 80.2% of the population, were targets in two hate crimes motivated by religious bias since 2009 in Delhi, Hate Crime Watch data show; Muslims accounting for 12.78% of the population have been targets in 60% (9 of 15) hate crimes. The religious identity of victims in three cases was not known.

All 15 religious hate crimes in Delhi over 10 years were recorded after 2014, when the BJP came to power at the Centre. Delhi is set to go to the assembly polls early next year (2020).

Nationwide, over a decade to 2019, 91.7% of 292 hate crimes motivated by religious bias– claiming 99 lives–were reported after 2014. Hindus, 79.8% of population, were victims in 14% attacks. Muslims, who form 14% of India’s population, were victims in 58.7% such hate crimes, according to Hate Crime Watch, while Christians who form 2.3% of the population, were victims in 14.4% of cases.

The Hauz Qazi area houses a market that sells clothing, crockery, Unani medicines and hardware and electrical material. On a regular day, the market, 100 m from a metro station, is full of customers haggling at established and makeshift stores alike.

On July 2, 2019, when FactChecker visited the area, the market was returning to normalcy, in the presence of police and paramilitary forces. But tensions flared after a motorcycle rally with provocative sloganeering in the area, by members of right-wing organisations, including the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

At around 11 pm on June 30, 22-year-old student Aas Mohammed went to park his bike outside the home of one Sanjeev Gupta, 45, who runs a catering business.

“I told him (Mohammed) not to park his vehicle outside my house, as I feed the cows here,” Gupta told FactChecker. Opposite Gupta’s house is the Gali Durga Mandir, home to the temple in question.

The area outside Sanjeev Gupta’s home in Hauz Qazi, Old Delhi, where a scuffle over parking Aas Mohammed’s bike cascaded into greater violence.

“He started abusing me and brought 40-50 people with him. They entered my house and manhandled me," Gupta said, showing this reporter his injuries. "They even misbehaved with my wife and daughter." He had a clot in his right eye and bruises on his right cheek.

Sanjeev Gupta, 45, displays his injuries. Gupta scuffled with 22-year-old Aas Mohammed over parking on the night of June 30, 2019.

Eyewitnesses said they heard abuses from both sides, adding that Gupta and his associates beat Mohammed, before the latter returned with more men to attack Gupta.

First information reports (FIRs) were filed by both parties, but the police brokered a compromise. Gupta confirmed this and said that a rajinama (settlement) was signed by both parties.

Mohammed could not be reached. While some locals allege that he was taken into police custody, police sources said he was at home under police protection, which was also provided to Gupta.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa refused to comment on the details of the case, since “[the] matter is very sensitive, and the investigation is in process”.

The temple vandalism and its aftermath

After the scuffle on the night of June 30, around midnight, a mob entered Gali Durga Mandir and vandalised the temple, locals told FactChecker. The glass shield protecting the statues was damaged, a few statues were broken and part of a curtain in the temple burnt, FactChecker found.

The same mob also threw stones at Sanjeev’s house, locals said. Hindus alleged that the mob was Muslim.

“Around 12.30 am, I heard people screaming and sloganeering,” temple priest Anil Kumar Pandey told FactChecker. “They (Muslims) were abusing [Hindus] and pelted stones at the temple.” Asked if he could recall the slogans, Pandey said he did not remember exactly. “They were all Muslim and were shouting ‘Nara-e-Takbeer’ (slogans of ‘God is Great’),” he said.

Pandey said he did not come out of his house when the temple was being vandalised. “Bahut darawani aawaz thi. Bahut shor sharaba ho raha tha. Bahar nikalta toh bheed jaan se mar deti, kya pata? (The noise was horrifying and there was a lot of chaos outside; I could have been killed if I stepped out),” he said, adding that he called the police.

News of the vandalism spread quickly on Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups. Rumours seem to have been spread by both Hindus and Muslims, said Raheem Khan, a reporter with ETV Bharat and a resident of Hauz Qazi. “Initially, rumours were spread that a boy has been lynched by the mob. Then, we heard that Muslims have vandalised the temple,” said Raheem. “I am still trying to figure out which rumour came first.”

Since the morning of July 1, members of right-wing organisations, including the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Shiv Sena, were present in the area.

A couple of tents had come up near the temple where Hindu men with saffron tikas chanted “Jai Shri Ram” at regular intervals. Among them, a few who identified themselves as locals, demanded police action against the vandals. These tents were removed by July 3.

Tents had come up near the Durga temple in Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi, and “outsiders” were trying to incite communal tension, residents allege.

“Outsiders are trying to incite communal tension in Hauz Qazi,” said Zahid (he uses only one name), a resident of the area, adding that they made provocative statements and slogans. “For years, Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully here,” he said.

The “outsiders” said police action was not adequate. One of them, who self-identified as "Panditji", said, “Protection of Hindus is a big issue. Attacks are being carried out against Hindus all over the country.”

“Nobody knows who vandalised the temple, but a community has been demonised,” said Mohammed Sakeel, a Hauz Qazi resident. “We have been demonised for hurting the sentiments of the Hindus. Police have acted swiftly. Arrests have been made. [Footage from the] CCTV is being seen. Then, why is such sloganeering and provocation being carried out? That only means their intentions are not correct.”

Sanjeev Kumar, 36, another resident of Hauz Qazi, who earlier lived in the passage next to the temple, spoke about an old conflict related to the temple.

“A couple of property builders want to usurp this region (Gali Durga Mandir). Since it is a temple, they are unable to take over this piece of land.” They may have been involved in the vandalism, or may be supporting the escalation of tensions, Kumar added.

A few residents gathered around the temple saw merit in this theory. Thirty-five-year-old Narendra (he gave us only one name), another resident of Hauz Qazi, alleged builders were behind the incident since they had tried to seize the land earlier as well.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police have replaced the statues and curtains with new ones.

‘We want peace and business’

Soon after the motorcycle rally by Hindu right-wing groups on the evening of July 2, Muslim residents of Hauz Qazi organised a procession carrying placards and shouting slogans for peace: “Nafrat nahi, aman chahiye (We want peace, not hate), Manmutav khatm karo, aapas me gale milo (Put an end to the disagreement, hug each other), Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai (Hindus and Muslims are brothers), and “Aman aur karobar chahiye (we want peace and business)."

Muslim residents of Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi flourish placards with slogans calling for peace.

“The rumours related to mob lynching are absolutely false,” said Asad Azad, 42, secretary of the Fraz Khana Residents’ Welfare Association. “It was a street fight between two young men and nothing more. We are demanding that miscreants be punished and normalcy be restored in the area.” Three men were arrested for the vandalism the same evening, he added.

Salman Salaar, 30, who was leading the procession, agreed. “We will not allow party politics to milk votes from Hauz Qazi,” Salaar said. “Delhi-6 (old Delhi) has been a cosmopolitan locality, always known for its inclusiveness. We have lived peacefully here for years; we won’t let that social harmony be disturbed.”

“No religion is greater than trade,” said Harmeet Singh Chawla, a businessman from Sadar Bazaar. He said that because of the curfew-like situation, businesses took a hit. “If the shops remain closed, will it hurt only Muslims? Or will it hurt only Hindus? It will hurt all of us.”

Yadesvar Panditji, a resident of Hauz Qazi in his early 70s, agreed that life needs to be restored to normal. He said he is in touch with both Hindus and Muslims. He remembered the last such incident in the area: “The last time tension broke out here was in 1991, during the Ram Mandir agitation.”

Around 8.30 pm on July 2, a joint press conference was called by Jamshed Ali Siddiqui and Tara Chand Saxena of the Aman Committee (peace committee) set up by the police to de-escalate tensions. Both Siddqui and Saxena hailed the “commendable job” done by the Delhi Police.

“The Delhi Police has played a positive role. They have ensured [a] belief that prompt action will be taken against the culprits,” Saxena said. Siddqui said Muslims would help repair the temple and the temple should not have been vandalised.

The Aman Committee has also assured that markets will open from July 3 and business will run as usual. Most shops in the area had indeed re-opened on July 3, FactChecker found, and paramilitary forces moved out. However, police units are ubiquitous and the “outsiders” have been removed from the area.

Despite the assurances from police and peace committees, Hindus and Muslims are fearful. “Kya pata abhi kuch din shant rahe mamla aur police ke jane ke baad kuch gadbad ho (Who knows? There may be peace for a few days, but when the police is no longer around, there could be some disturbance),” said Zahid.

(Kumar is a New Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

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