The Batla House encounter, which had left ties between area residents and Delhi police in tatters, remains a sore point four years on.
The police have tried, and failed, to peacefully enter the area to conduct raids, while area residents still mistrust the force.
“We have been demanding a judicial enquiry over the Batla House encounter, because we feel it was fake. We have stopped trusting the police as they have started picking young men without reason,” Zafar Abbas, of Jamia Nagar, said. In July, the Delhi police’s crime branch had arrested a “spy” from the area, triggering massive protests as local residents blocked the Noida-Badarpur highway for hours.
“The area’s residents have become scapegoats, as they are targeted after any crime. The locality has been in the grip of fear. Young men are especially vulnerable,” explained Ikhlaq, a resident of Shaheen Bagh. The support for Zia-ur-Rehman, who is facing trial in connection with blasts during the civic September 2008 elections, was enough to prove that the residents are not going to accept the police’s version.
“Rehman contested from Jamia Nagar and lost only by 517 votes. The 7,677 votes he got was an effort by local people to tell the authority that they are with him,” he added. “We have been often tagged as terrorists and people regard Batla House with suspicion. A win for Rehman would have changed the image of the area,” 24-year-old Sartaj said.
Last week, the residents of Jamia Nagar took a team of policemen hostage and roughed them up when they went to arrest a suspected auto-lifter. The team comprised eight policemen in mufti. But local residents “created a ruckus”.
On the other hand, the Delhi police are trying their best to bridge the gap with the local people. Earlier this year, a coaching centre for underprivileged boys and girls for competitive exams was opened inside Jamia Nagar police station.
A senior police officer who did not want to be named said such moves could encourage more Muslims to the Delhi police.
“They know the locality better than anyone else. If an area resident joins the Delhi police, the residents would feel comfortable,” the officer added.