After Trilokpuri now Bawana on Muharram: Is Delhi losing its secular temperament?

New Delhi: The pattern of low-intensity communal tension is at play again; this time in North-West Delhi. Close on the heels of the Hindu-Muslim conflict in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri, Bawana locality is on low boil a day before taziya procession on the occasion of Yaum-e-Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram.

Led by local BJP MLA Gugan Singh and Congress councillor Devender Kumar alias Poni, around 700 villagers of Bawana on Sunday convened and attended a Mahapanchayat, to protest against the traditional route of the taziya procession in the area.

Communally charged sloganeering, hate-filled speeches and religious symbolism marked the day-long event. Speakers repeatedly and aggressively cautioned the ‘other community’ of dire consequences in case of ‘unruly behaviour’.

(L) Way to Mahapanchayat venue where communally charged speeches were delivered. (R) (Policemen keeping a vigil near a canal separating tense JJ colony and Bawana village. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

(L) Way to Mahapanchayat venue where communally charged speeches were delivered. (R) Policemen keeping a vigil near a canal separating tense JJ colony and Bawana village. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

The route in dispute is through Bawana market, which is 2-3 km away from JJ colony, a resettlement colony established in 2004. This market is dominated by well-off Hindus, mostly Jats, was a tradition route of the procession. The aggressive words came despite the fact that despite the fact that on police intervention, organisers of the procession had already agreed to change the route, keeping it confined to the outskirts of the Bawana JJ Colony.

“We will not allow the taziya procession to pass through our area and it has already been brought in the notice of the administration. If it still takes place, violence will ensue and the police will be held responsible for the disturbances as we have given it to them in writing,” BJP legislature Singh told Firstpost over phone.

Asked why he has a problem with the taziya route, he said, “They (Muslims) use this occasion as show of strength. They wield sword and play with fire and raise slogans, which disturb us. They do not have any right to disturb us. We do not have any objection if they do this hooliganism in their own area, but we want tolerate it in our locality.”

This is not the first time that such a procession is taking place. Why then didn’t he raise objection earlier? To this he said, “We have always opposed it but the previous government never paid heed to our complaints.”

Congress councillor Devender Kumar aka Poni refused to make any comment when asked why he took part in the gathering and spit venom instead of reaching out to members of both communities for confidence building.

Muslims of the JJ colony said they have been taking out the procession for the past 10 years. “We have been taking out the Muharram procession from the same route for the past 10 years but never faced any problem. In fact, Hindus used to cooperate us because they had same respect for taziya as we have,” said Mohammed Suleman, an elderly resident of the colony.

“We do not want any conflict. Given the situation, we have decided to change the route but our decision does not validate the legitimacy or rationale of the demand made by the other side. It only shows our willingness to accommodate and reconciliation,” said another resident Quayyum Khan.

A taziya in Bawana's JJ colony. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

A taziya in Bawana's JJ colony. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

The JJ colony has a Hindu-Muslim population ratio of 60:40. The Hindus of the slum clusters are apparently not happy with the Mahapanchayat and the decision of not allowing the taziya procession.

“Holding Mahapanchayat reveal the ugly politics being played to divide the two communities, which co-existed here for years. Delhi by-elections are round the corner and diabolical attempts are being made to polarise the communities. The conspiracy of hate and violence must be exposed,” said Surendra Yadav.

Another Hindu resident of the JJ colony said, “All those who are opposing the religious procession are fringe elements of the society. They are disturbing the harmony because they know it well they will not face stiff resistance from our fellow Muslim brothers as they are daily-wage labourers. It is concentrated effort to chase them out.”

“Anti-social elements are in both communities and it not unfair to generalise it,” he told Firstpost, wishing not be identified.

Ram Prasad Singh even went on to add Muharram’s taziya procession has been “historically a very secular demonstration of Hindu-Muslim solidarity” standing against evil in the memory of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

According to locals, the situation is so bad now that Muslims wearing skull-caps are now afraid of going to Bawana Chowk area.

In view of the simmering tension, the Delhi Police assured that all security measures have been taken, especially in sensitive areas and warned that those found involved in spreading rumours will be dealt with strongly. "Security has been beefed and we are keeping a tight vigil. Our officials are in touch with leaders of both the communities to maintain peace during the Muharram processions, Special Commissioner (Law and Order) Deepak Mishra told Firstpost.

Cops guarding tense JJ Colony in northwest Delhi's Bawana locality. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

Cops guarding tense JJ Colony in northwest Delhi's Bawana locality. Naresh Sharma/ Firstpost

"We have deployed heavy police force in Bawana and Trilokpuri areas. We have asked all senior officials to remain alert. We won’t allow anyone to disturb peace. We had information a month back regarding tension prevailing in the area (Bawana) and preventive steps were taken," he said.

Although, an alternate route was chalked out with consent of both the communities with police intervention, there have been reports of similar demands at meetings in other parts of the city like Mundka and Shiv Vihar (Kanjhawala). There was a similar tension in Bawana in the first week of October on the festival occasion of Eid-al-Adha, with Hindus accusing Muslims of stealing and slaughtering their cattle.

Updated Date: Nov 04, 2014 09:00 AM

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