A three-decade-old dispute returned to haunt Jor Bagh’s BK Dutt Colony for the second consecutive day on Monday. Hours after the locality witnessed clashes between a crowd of devotees and the police, its residents decided to choke the heart of Delhi in a bid to be heard louder.
For some, images of armed police officers patrolling its narrow lanes brought back memories of post-Independence strife. Many others preferred to stay behind closed doors of their homes lest history decided to repeat itself.
“The only other time we heard of such palpable tensions prevailing in our colony was when my grandfather and his family had come here from across the border in late 1948,” said Gurneet Sakhuja, 48, a housewife.
“Even during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, there was a sense of security. Till now, there have been hardly any reports of major incidents against the citizens of our colony. But after what we witnessed last night, we fear anything can happen,” the mother of three said.
Stones and tear gas shells were lobbed as a crowd of nearly a hundred devotees attempted to force open an iron gate located on the Karbala shrine’s western flank on Sunday evening. Some devotees participating in the Shia mourning procession had even claimed that bullets too had been fired.
“We were just attempting to create an exit gate for the crowd of devotees through the western gate to avoid a stampede. The crowd had women and children in large numbers. But the police cornered our children and shot at them,” claimed an agitated Ali Mustafa Zaidi, 75, who also stays in the area.
A majority of the area’s residents are Sikhs, who had resettled here after migrating from western Punjab. Most of them decried a dozen black boards, declaring some eight rectangular parks located around the Karbala as Wakf property.
Their Shia counterparts pointed at six round depressions on a stone wall around the shrine as testimonies of police brutality."We are in the process of engaging both parties in a dialogue to keep the law and order situation under control," said a senior police officer.