Around 5,000 Muslim vendors have left Ggm, alleges hawkers’ body
Most of the vendors from the minority community hail from places such as Meerut, Aligarh, Bijnor, Moradabad, Mainpuri, Muzaffarnagar, Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and Nuh district, and a majority of them have returned to their hometowns due to alleged threats
The hawkers’ association in the city has estimated that at least 5,000 street vendors from the Muslim community, who sold fruits, vegetables, fast food and other items across major markets and roads, have either left Gurugram or stopped their daily business in the aftermath of the communal violence that hit Nuh, Sohna and Gurugram on July 31.
Most of the vendors from the minority community hail from places such as Meerut, Aligarh, Bijnor, Moradabad, Mainpuri, Muzaffarnagar, Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and Nuh district, and a majority of them have returned to their hometowns due to alleged threats and sporadic acts of violence that took place in Sohna, Badshahpur and Sector 70A, the hawkers’ association said.
A few vendors who are continuing with their business amid fear, said threats, intimidation and fear of violent attacks had ensured the exodus of Muslim vendors to either Delhi and Noida, where their relatives stay or to their villages in the neighbouring states.
Rajender Saroha, general secretary, Dron Rehri Patri Feri Committee, Gurugram, said the ground situation is worrisome and the Muslim vendors are scared after last week’s communal flare-up.
“There are around 40,000 vendors across Gurugram and around 40% of them belong to the Muslim community. Many of them have already left the city or have stopped operating from the markets due to fear of attacks from fringe groups. We have been trying to help them, but they are still afraid. Many were threatened and asked to leave the city immediately,” Saroha added.
As per the data collected by the hawkers’ association, there are around 16,000 registered vendors who are recognised by the municipal corporation, but the actual number of vendors is around 40,000. They operate in almost all parts of the city but are prominent in places such as Sadar Bazar, Palam Vihar, MG Road, Sohna Road, Badshahpur, sectors 14, 23, 46, 49, 64, 65, 70A, 72 and 74, villages such as Fazilpur, Darbaripur, apart from most areas in Old Gurugram. A number of vendors also operate around major medical establishments such as Medanta Hospital and Fortis Hospital in Sector 44.
“There are usually over 100 vendors on MG Road alone, who sell fast food and other assorted items and almost half of them belong to the Muslim community. On Monday, there were only 30 to 40 vendors as most of the Muslims have returned to their villages out of fear,” said Balram Kumar, a vendor on MG Road.
HT did a spot check and visited major roads such as MG Road, Major Sushil Aima Marg in Palam Vihar and Sadar Bazar on Monday and found that the number of street vendors has reduced considerably.
Mukesh Pradhan, a commission agent in Sadar Bazar, said fruit business was down by almost 50% as a majority of the fruit sellers and juice vendors are Muslims. “We employed three workers from Nuh but were forced to send them home as there was tension in the area. The fruit loaders are also majorly from the Muslim community and most of them have returned to their hometowns in UP,” he said.
Owais Ali, a fruit vendor, who operated in the city told HT on phone that he had left for his village in Uttarakhand after violence broke out in Badshahpur. “I was not feeling safe after the attacks and left for my village. We are poor people and can’t afford to get in trouble,” he said.
Another vendor, identified as Anis, said he had been running his business in Gurugram for the last 10 years, but never saw such a grim situation before. “We have been working peacefully and earning our livelihood. I have decided to stop work for a few days to remain safe,” he said, adding that a majority of coconut sellers were also from the minority community, and they had left for their respective homes.
In Badshahpur, 95% of the vendors are from the minority community and most of them have also left. “Most of the vendors left after a few shops were vandalised in the main market following the Nuh incident,” said Saroha.
The locals, meanwhile, alleged that apart from the communal conflagration in Nuh, another reason for the attack on Muslims was that there is a feeling among youth that that entire street vending trade has been monopolised by them and there is no economic opportunity left for them.
Saroha, however, denied this allegation and said the only reason for the targeted violence was communal polarisation as most of the local Hindu residents in the city are well off, and don’t need to ply street carts to earn a living.
The members of the hawkers’ association said they have asked the authorities to intervene and prevent people from leaving the city. “There is a need to take corrective measures and establish law and order on a priority basis,” said Keshav, a street vendor, who said that not only Muslims, but even Hindu vendors were suffering because of the communal strife.
Due to the violence, the operation of vends has been restricted in most of the areas, and business is bad for all of us, Keshav said. “The communal strife has impacted our business,” he added.
The Gurugram district administration, when asked about the matter, said the situation is getting normalised and strict measures have been taken to curb violence and arson attacks by miscreants.
“We have reached out to people and asked them not to panic as the situation is very much under control. Regular flag marches were conducted by police and paramilitary forces in the vulnerable areas, and I visited these areas myself,” said Gurugram deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav.
Yadav said Section 144, which was imposed in the city has also been revoked and it signals return to normalcy. “Cases have been registered against hooligans and paramilitary forces are on the ground around the clock to prevent any untoward incident”, he added.