Even though stones strewn across the streets in Delhi's Seelampur have been cleared and people have returned to their usual businesses, anxiety over the violence that shocked the busy trading area of the National Capital on Tuesday is still palpable.
Throngs of people scattered on the streets and tea shops can be overheard talking excitedly on the incident. The word pattharbaazi (Hindi for stone-pelting) shoots out of them every now and then.
Yet, on Friday a rally went from Seelampur to Jama Masjid with anti-NRC and anti-CAA placards. Thousands of people participated in the rally spontaneously registering their protest against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the fear of losing citizenship lurking among the Muslims in the area. This happened two days after a violent clash broke out between the security forces and the protesters.
On Tuesday protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act rocked the Seelampur locality in Delhi with a magnitude of violence earlier never experienced by many in the area. Protesters confronted the security forces, which shot tear gas shells and baton-charged them in return.
Seelampur is among the new areas in the National Capital to witness violence during the ongoing protests against the Act, which has now spread across the length and breadth of the country. The violence that erupted in the locality claimed a number of private and public properties including city buses.
Even as the Delhi Police continues to arrest persons suspected to be involved in the violence, how a protest programme that began peacefully in Jafrabad took an ugly turn, still remains a mystery for the dwellers of the locality. The protest was called by former Congress MLA Choudhury Mateen Ahmed.
The Delhi Police gas arrested 23 persons till now in connection with the incident, but contradicting theories float about who incited them to get involved in violence.
“The rally began in Jafrabad and its destination was Seelampur via a number of lanes within the area. It was never meant to pass through the main roads. But a group of protestors left the main rally and went to the Jaffrabad main road where they were confronted by the security forces, after which a series of violent incidents took place,” said Ovais Sultan Khan, a participant in the rally narrating the incident.
But many other participants in the rally contradicted this story, as they claimed that none in their rally went to the Jaffrabad main road.
“Our rally never went out of the pre-determined route. Police vehicles were moving along with us from the beginning to the end of the rally,” said Anil Gaur, a participant in it.
He also added that they were totally unaware as to how the incident took place.
“We (had) informed the police about our rally and its route beforehand and stuck to it. No protester from our rally caused violence. There is also CCTV footage of our rally and the police can verify them at any moment,” says Pasha Khan another participant in the rally.
However, some of the residents claimed that besides Ahmed, present MLA Mohammed Ishraque Khan of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had also organised a rally on Tuesday.
“The AAP MLA delivered a speech to the rally after which the protest turned violent,” said Anand Sharma, a trader in the locality.
But the AAP MLA has denied having a rally on that day.
“Neither I called for a rally on that day nor I delivered any speech there. There is no such evidence,” said Mohammed Ishraque.
The Delhi Police which is still inquiring the entire episode denies to comment on the validity of these claims but said that no permission was given to hold a protest rally on Tuesday.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Atul Thakur told Firstpost, “Certainly we made security arrangements for the rally. But none had any permission to hold the programme.”
What evoked the protest
Even though the question who incited the violence remains to be answered, the reason behind the protests is loud and clear — the fear among Muslims of losing Indian citizenship following the NRC.
“The combination of CAA and the proposed NRC may strip millions of Muslims of their citizenship. It is bound that if the proposed NRC is implemented than many would not be able to prove their ancestry in India prior to 1951. In that case, the CAA would ensure that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists would regain (their citizenship) through the CAA, while Muslims would be left out,” said Ahmed.
Citizenship Amendment Act ensures that the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists who came to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 31 December, 2014, would be eligible for citizenship in India.
Khan fears that not many would be able to submit the required proof of citizenship and Muslims would eventually fall through the cracks.
“This is the country we chose for ourselves during Partition and now we are scared of losing our citizenship,” he lamented.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwary on Thursday alleged that there were rumours being spread about the CAA. He also invited the opposition to a debate on the issue.
Khan said that there was no question of anyone spreading rumours on this issue as the BJP leaders themselves have clarified them to be true.
“I have seen in televised interviews of many BJP leaders where they clearly announce that anyone who fails to prove citizenship would be thrown out. So where is the question of anyone spreading rumours here?” he said.
Gaur said that Hindus and Muslims have always lived like brothers in the locality of Seelampur and he participated in the rally in solidarity with the Muslims.
“Even after the Babri Mosque demolition all of us stood together. I wanted to assure them that we would stay together no matter what comes,” he said.
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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2019 19:08:21 IST