They were not part of mob, say kin of suspects held for Old Delhi tension
In the early hours of Tuesday, there were constant knocks on the doors of Mohammad Zubair’s (28) house . But his family did not open the door fearing that a mob may have come to avenge the damage done to a temple in the neighbouring locality of Lal Kuan in Old Delhi on Sunday night, said his younger brother Mohammad Sharique.
The policemen, who were knocking, then had to scale the wall and make their way in, said Sharique, pointing towards some missing bricks on the outer wall of his residence in the congested Katra Dena Beg lane. Zubair was taken to the police station by a team of five officers.
Zubair, who works in a factory that manufactures plumbing accessories, is among nine people nabbed till Wednesday night in connection with a case of alleged rioting and vandalism of a temple on the night of June 30 that led to communal tension in the Walled City’s Lal Kuan area and adjacent localities.
A kulfi seller, a daily wage labourer and a teenager who is a school drop out are among the others who have been apprehended by the police so far.
A fight involving a Hindu and a Muslim man over parking a scooter had snowballed into communal tension in Old Delhi’s Lal Kuan on Sunday night. Police said that around 12.30am on Monday, word spread in the locality that a Muslim man had been killed after being thrashed by a Hindu family. This, police said, led to people vandalising a temple in the vicinity and desecrating the idols. This in turn led to another group assembling to chase away and attack the group that had allegedly vandalised the temple.
On Wednesday, HT met the families of four people held by the police in connection with the incident so far.
Three of them said that their relatives joined the crowd on hearing a rumour that a Muslim man in the locality had been lynched. Of the three, two families said that they had received the ‘misinformation’ through word of mouth, while the third said that his relative had “most likely” heard about the incident through WhatsApp. The relatives of the fourth accused said that he was returning home from work and got “caught up” in the commotion.
All four families said that their kin were not part of the mob that allegedly vandalised the temple in the locality.
The police, however, maintained that each suspect was identified through video clips shot on mobile phone cameras by locals and with the help of CCTV footage.
“We have so far nabbed nine people. They all were identified through CCTV footage of the vandalism and violence. Ten teams are scrutinizing video footage to identify others who were involved in the violence and desecration of the temple. More arrests are likely to follow,” said DCP (central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa.
“The rumour that a Muslim man was lynched had spread through the locality and it was very believable. Lynchings have been happening across India. Like many others, my son too went to see what had actually happened. That does not mean he was part of a mob,” said Moinuddin Ansari, a scrap dealer, whose son Mohammad Anas (24) was picked up for questioning on the wee hours of Tuesday.
Anas, who is a daily wage labourer and often works as helper for mini trucks ferrying goods from the hardware market in Lal Kuan, was picked up from a lane in his neighbourhood in Shah Ganj locality between Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazar.
Wasif Ansari (22) too was picked up by the police in a similar fashion on Tuesday evening. Ansari, who is a kulfi (a frozen milk dessert) seller in the locality, had gone to buy some material for his vending cart on Sunday night, his relatives said.
“He was caught up in the commotion while returning home from work. By then, the circulation of the rumour through WhatsApp was yet to start. So, Wasif had no idea about what he was about to witness,” said his maternal uncle Jamaluddin.
Zubair, Anas and Ansari were later arrested.
An apprehended teenager, who is a school dropout, is “likely to have received the message through WhatsApp”, said one of his relatives. “But it can’t be said for sure because the rumour had already spread through word of mouth by then. But he was certainly not part of any mob,” said the relative of the 17-year-old boy.
The boy’s relatives said that many in their family amd neighbourhood received a text message that was circulated in a WhatsApp group on Sunday night. It read: “We have heard about a lynching. There was a dispute between two parties. Please check. And make sure your relatives are safe.”
On Wednesday, the situation had crawled back to being normal in Lal Kuan. Traffic restrictions were removed and all shops were open. The police had removed barricades from most places and minimised deployment. By evening, around 200 police officials and around 100 more CRPF personnel had been deployed in the locality. The temple, which was desecrated on Sunday night, was partially covered with curtains. Inside a group of men were repairing the damage.