Violence broke out between 100 police personnel and about 300 Shia Muslims celebrating the chehallum festival outside a dargah (shrine) near south Delhi’s Jor Bagh area on Sunday evening.
Tension prevailed in the area till late evening but no one was critically injured.
While the police claimed that some devotees began pelting them with stones after being asked not to enter the Shah-e-Mardana dargah premises, a heritage site, from its western gate to avoid a stampede, some devotees and local residents said the police “went berserk and fired in the air unnecessarily”.
The episode unfolded about 100 metres from the Jor Bagh Metro station near the dargah managed by the Anjuman-e-Haideri.
The police said a crowd of Shia devotees tried to enter the dargah from the western gate, which is generally kept locked because of a land ownership dispute between government agencies and the dargah authorities. The matter is before the Delhi high court since 2005.
“Scores of persons celebrating the festival tried to enter the grounds from a particular gate and turned violent when officers requested them to use other entry points to avoid a stampede,” said a senior police officer.
This angered the crowd assembled inside the dargah premises and miscreants from among them started throwing stones at officers outside the gate. This resulted in injuries to 10 Delhi Police personnel and at least four Central Reserve Police Force officials, the police said.
The police said teargas shells had to be lobbed to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Amulya Patnaik, joint commissioner of police (southern range) said only two or three teargas shells were fired and no one had been detained.
The National Commission for Minorities too has been hearing cases brought before it by Anjuman members.