Deepak Vihar in Ghaziabad’s Khoda locality remained abuzz with police activity on Monday, a day after Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) city unit functionaries were allegedly attacked for objecting to the expansion of a mosque in the locality. However, the caretakers of the mosque said that they had stopped expansion work three days ago and said the attack did not have any relation to the expansion.
The victims claimed that they were attacked in a ‘pre-planned manner’ by men in an SUV, after one of the victims, Rakesh Garg, had called up the Indirapuram circle officer to complain about the expansion.
For a major part of the day, the Khawja Gareeb Nawaz Jama Masjid remained latched from the outside, while locals kept waiting outside as the police and local intelligence officials visited the spot. The caretakers of the mosque said that it was constructed around seven years ago on a small plot and they had planned on extending it.
“We were in negotiations with a third party to purchase an adjacent plot, of 50 square yards, which is lying vacant. The deal was to be finalised for Rs18-Rs20 lakh. Three days ago, there was some construction activity undertaken and the police visited the area, asking us to stop the construction,” Bhure Khan, a caretaker of the mosque and a resident of Deepak Vihar, said.
“When the police asked us if we had obtained the permissions for the construction, we stopped the activity as we had not obtained any. Since then, the work is completely stopped and the deal for the land has not gone through. The construction activity has absolutely no connection with the attack on VHP workers,” he said.
“There will be no construction if such incidents of violence are attributed to religious places,” said Mohammad Sajid, who also claimed to be a caretaker of the mosque.
Khoda is a densely populated area with narrow streets and hundreds of bylanes. Its residential areas are dotted with commercial activities and also comprise a number of temples and mosques in close proximity.
“We never had such an issue involving any religious structure in our locality. In one instance, we have one religious structure in front of the other but residents never uttered a word about it. We have been living peacefully and in harmony for years,” Shivram Singh Yadav, a local, said.
However, eyewitnesses to the attack on VHP functionaries told a different tale.
“I was heading home when I saw some men in an SUV beating up my neighbour. I tried to save him from the attackers but they hurled bricks and pelted stones at me. I was hit on my face. I ran after they opened fire. I heard four to five shots being fired. It seems they were beating him as they were annoyed with him over some issue,” Vinod Kumar, a local from Anil Vihar, said.
Anil Vihar is located adjacent to Deepak Vihar in Khoda. Anil Vihar residents flocked the small intersection in the vicinity on Monday.
“The attack was planned. They had come with rods, hockey sticks and seemed prepared. Why would men from the same locality beat up another local who is differently-abled? Even if the police terms it a case of road rage, why were the men in the car armed despite the prohibitory orders in place? Also, why these arms were used? We will protest if they are not arrested soon,” Vivek Mishra, a resident, said.
According to the senior superintendent of police, Deepak Kumar, Rakesh Garg had called up the Indirapuram circle officer and complained about the mosque construction. Garg was the primary target of the men in an SUV on Sunday night. Two others who rushed to save him sustained bullet injuries.