Having lived a stone's throw from Trilokpuri for over a decade, I have passed through its dingy byways on dozens of occasions. And stones were thrown, shops burnt and vehicles damaged in those very alleys of this east Delhi colony when communal tensions flared last week. While the police now say the clashes were sparked and stoked by a series of accidental occurrences and canards, some residents refuse to believe this, saying these are counter-rumours to soothe frayed nerves.
"There are no coincidences and accidents. The area has been simmering for years. Ab dekhna ye hai ki aag ko hawa kisne di (We need to find out who fanned the flames)," said a local retailer who did not wish to be named.
To many, Trilokpuri is like a desert in the middle of the oases that are the three divisions of the upmarket Mayur Vihar locality. The privileged neighbours were initially oblivious of the occurrences in the colony of daily-wage workers. But the situation became all too real when the maids didn't show up and the vegetable carts disappeared from the streets. Fewer autorickshaws on the roads during peak hours drove home the point.
"The grocery shops in the area were closed. I have been buying my monthly supplies from there for years now; it's cheaper. I had to drive six kilometres to a wholesale convenience store," a fellow Mayur Vihar resident lamented his inconvenience.
The Rashomon effect is palpable in Trilokpuri these days. The truth has many versions and faith is at a premium. "We didn't start the fire," say members of both communities as they wait for a semblance of normalcy to return. History is against them, though. This resettlement colony that was created by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for slum dwellers displaced in the Emergency era turned into a killing field after her assassination in 1984. No lives were lost this time, although dozens of inhabitants have marks on their bodies and stories on their lips.
"It's all politics," says an auto driver from the area after haggling over the fare. "We voted for the AAP in the last assembly polls hoping for change. But nothing ever changes here; not for the better, anyway."
East Delhi has come a long way since its "Jamunapaar" days about three decades ago. Roads have become wider, buildings bigger and pockets deeper. Some of the finest schools, hospitals and malls in the city now lie this side of the Yamuna. But, while boasting about the development narrative of east Delhi, most residents vaunt the opulent 'Vihars' - Mayur Vihar, Preet Vihar, Vivek Vihar - and leave out the inelegant 'Purs' and 'Puris' - Kalyanpuri, Trilokpuri, Seelampur. "Mind the gap," says the Metro as it tunnels its way to newer territories.
Trilokpuri, situated a few kilometres away from the headquarters of most national media organisations, has put the focus back on the many divides that define Delhi and India like no Muzaffarnagar ever could. We like to flaunt our syncretism to the world. But the danger is, instead of becoming a society without classes, we may turn into a society without class.