Was The Trilokpuri Communal Violence An Attempt To Polarise Voters Before Delhi Assembly Elections?

Posted on October 27, 2014 in Politics, Specials

By Debamita Samajdar:

“…Perhaps you have never heard of Jagrans, have you? They take place from Navratri to Diwali and this year, it just naturally got extended over the weekend as Diwali fell on Thursday. You’ll see these jagran camps on the roads distributing water and invariably housing Hindu Gods’ pictures and/or idols. Late on that fateful night, this Muslim guy drunk as hell came from nowhere and started to pee by the camp. An altercation followed between him and and some guys from the camp and believe-you-not, rather than apologise and leave the scene, he shouts obscenities to the point of even threatening to desecrate ‘their’ idols. Obviously, he gets beaten to the pulp. Right then, some guys from Block 28 (a Muslim dense region) were passing and they later on descend with more people from their neighbourhood, armed with ‘kattas’ shooting bullets at the camps. Unfortunately, the bullets hit two kids coming home from tuitions and they died on the spot. The tension then spreads to Mayur Vihar. And that’s it!”

This is, by far, the most far-fetched retelling of the Trilokpuri clashes between the mobs that I have heard, and that too from a Trilokpuri resident himself. One wonders as to how many more of such ridiculous and tragic rumours are doing the rounds of Delhi by now. Terminological inexactitude such as above serve to help perpetuate hatemongering, as also mould the psyche of entire generations to come, by virtue of consecutive subtle changes made to the core story as it passes from one person to another. The seeds of intolerance are thus engendered.

Block 20, eerie calm. Bricks gathered and kept after every few meters. Picture credits: Kumar Sundaram
Block 20, eerie calm. Bricks gathered and kept after every few meters.
Picture credits: Kumar Sundaram

Case in point: Ankit, a 14 year old kid, exclaims “I have decided not to be friends with Muslims in school any-more. They fight with us, they are bad people and it’s better to stay away from them” narrating his account of the clash “people who we did not know and didn’t recognise were in our locality in the morning. They shouted slogans like “Har Har Mahadev” and started hurling stones.”

That the 3 day long high intensity tension in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri was but an engineered event by the B.J.P. as their usual diversionary tactic in the run up to the Assembly Elections in Delhi seems to be the most popular opinion doing the rounds of social media, with local residents wondering as to how so many brick-bats were made available to the rioters in such a short period of time. The netizens are forced to question the Centre’s motive as the similarities between the Delhi incident and the Muzaffarnagar experiment at communal polarisation becomes hard to ignore.

Similarity 1:- Some of those involved in the Delhi communal violence belonged mostly to the Valmiki community, and Muslims. In Muzaffarnagar, the violence involved Kashyap, Valmiki and Jhimar groups, besides Muslims.

Similarity 2:- In both the cases, the incident was perpetrated by outsiders, as per the Police.

Similarity 3:- In Western Uttar Pradesh, the immediate motive was polarisation before the general elections. In case of Delhi, the Assembly Elections seem to be the target.

Yet, I still fail to grasp the possibility of stray incidents swaying the vote of the larger chunk of the Delhi population which, irrespective of the socio-economic strata it might belong to, is the face of a cosmopolitan city (at-least for the rest of India), and hence, presumably of a secular mindset.

The answer to my question could perhaps be easily found in the electoral equations that the B.J.P. seems to be aiming for, trying to bring in the Dalits into the Saffron fold in which, if they are successful, the Dalit votes accounting for more than half of the vote share in the region, would enable them to easily offset any advantage from the upper and middle class votes. Communal polarisation, their tried and tested method, therefore seems to be the easiest way in trying to mobilise a large chunk of the Dalit votes as well as accelerate the added advantage of the Dalits being confused over their political choice, following the 49 day stint of the AAP, a party for which the Dalit community in general, and the Valmikis in particular, had staunchly supported and voted for in large numbers.

Whether it be AAP, Congress or BSP, the parties are apprehensive of the fact that since the Muslims constitute only 15%of the local population and thus, don’t weigh heavy in elections, a polarisation among religious lines may end up in favour of the B.J.P..

The AAP has already issued a statement wherein it alleges of a political design being present behind this communal tension in Trilokpuri and it’s adjoining areas. It also demands that the Delhi Police probe the role of former MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya in the incident citing credible reports of him having convened a meeting on Diwali night following which the trouble started. According to a police officer, a ‘Mata-Ki-Chowki’ jagran (special worship offered during Navratri) was organised in front of a Mosque at the Block 15-20-27 junction of Trilokpuri on Diwali night, which the local Muslims objected to. Heated arguments between them resulted in stone-pelting and burning of a shop. “Tension mounted once again on Friday after former B.J.P MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya reached the spot with his supporters and announced to build a temple there. I have not personally heard it from him but have got several complaints. This aggravated the tension in the area with members of both communities starting to pelt stones on each other and opening gun fire”,said the officer who did not want to be named.

A major surprise was the relative inaction by the electronic media as evident from the lack of reports covering the incident, as also the lack of outrage following it. Indians in many part of the country were in the dark regarding this event. It goes without saying that no matter who or what might have triggered the clash. Unless the civil society and the media actively participates in trying to combat the situation, it will be just a matter of time before they take a turn for the worse and disastrous effects follow as echoed by Anita, a local resident of Trilokpuri and a Dalit activist who is worried whether the narrative of the Dalit-Muslim violence reported in the newspapers is a larger conspiracy to break down any formidable alliance that exists between the two communities.

A positive step has already been taken by Delhi’s civil society and this petition, signed by activists, academicians and citizens, has been sent by e-mail and fax to the Lieutanant-Governor and the Police Commissioner of the Delhi Police.

Another hypothesis springing up points towards property dealers masterminding the riots for economic motives because temporary erosion of property values would now inevitably follow. As profane as it may sound, every possibility must be looked into.

It is surprising how a minor scuffle between the two communities on the night of Diwali apparently over the issue of religious hymns, delay in idol immersion and putting up a Mata Ki Chowki in front of a Mosque of the block No.20 of the trilokpuri area (reported by The Hindu as Block No.15) would erupt into a full-fledged communal clash by the night of October 24, leaving 14-15 injured, 70 in police custody, atleast 4 people with bullet wounds and the Delhi Police imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC in the area.

Whether or not the Delhi incident gets replicated in different parts of the country, and if a pattern is established following the footsteps of Muzaffarnagar, only time will tell.

As Trilokpuri already fights hard to lose it’s dubious distinction of being home to the worst violence against the Sikhs in November 1984, where bonfires of burning bodies were lit, I would perhaps not overstep to say that with the Muslim families sending away their women and children in anticipation of more nights of trouble, as also amidst allegations of unlawful targeting and detaining of many youths by the police, it is not impossible that Trilokpuri might have to witness a repeat of this furore.