New Delhi: On the night of June 30, a man tried to park his vehicle outside another’s home in Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi area. The house-owner objected, there was a fight. Soon, a crowd gathered and assaulted the house-owner. The house-owner was Hindu, the crowd was of Muslims. A temple in the area was vandalised.
Tensions ran high. WhatsApp forwards made matters worse, with rumours of a ‘Muslim man lynched’ and a ‘temple burnt to the ground’. For the whole of July 1, Old Delhi was on edge. Traders kept their shops shut. There was heavy police presence on the ground.
However, local residents and community leaders, both Hindu and Muslim, made sure the situation did not escalate further. With the help of the police, representatives of both communities kept in touch with each other. Five people were arrested for vandalising the temple. Muslim residents volunteered to help rebuild it. There were appeals for peace from mosques’ loudspeakers.
And thus, one sensible step after sensible step, locals from both communities managed to pull their area back from the brink. On July 3, prayers were performed again at the temple that was vandalised.
Delhi: Prayers being offered at the temple in Hauz Qazi area, which was vandalised on 30 June after a clash broke out between two groups over parking in the locality on the day. pic.twitter.com/f1aDx15dju
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2019
The Old Delhi incident has shown what happens when leaders decide to guide, not incite, and residents choose to trust old neighbours over social media’s inflammatory calls.
The residents put up various videos, appealing for peace and asserting ‘they were brothers’.
Mufti Mukarram Sahab, the Shahi Imam of Old Delhi’s Fatehpuri mosque, condemned the temple’s vandalisation. In a video message, he appealed to people to stay calm and urged “the Muslims and the members of the Residents’ Welfare Association of the area to come forward and make up for the losses incurred.”
Haroon Yusuf, former MLA of Ballimaran, also requested the people to maintain peace and condemned rumours spread through social media.
Councilors Niraj Sharma and Mohammad Sadiq urged people to not give the incident a communal angle as it could tarnish the decades-long history of harmony in one of the most historically and culturally significant areas of the national capital.
People held demonstrations with banners reading ‘we are brothers’, ‘we are neighbours’, ‘we are friends’ and ‘we don’t want violence’.
Jamshed Ali Siddiqui and Tara Chand Saxena of Aman Committee held a joint media briefing after the incident and helped reopen markets.
Jamshed Ali Siddiqui and Tara Chand Saxena of Aman Committee hold a joint media briefing. Saxena says 'Police has played a very positive role and supported us.They have assured that action will be taken against culprits. Markets should open from tomorrow' #olddelhi4peace via @ANI pic.twitter.com/at4WH1rrtb
— Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein (@PDWKB) July 2, 2019
AAP MLA and Delhi Minister Imran Hussain told mediapersons that ‘Muslim and Hindu brothers sat down together that night at the police station and hugged’.
AAP MLA & Delhi Minister Imran Hussain on temple in Hauz Qazi area which was vandalised on 30 June opened today: Muslim & Hindu brothers sat down together that night at the police station & hugged, I was also present there. Neither Hindus nor Muslims want riots here. pic.twitter.com/MtDFqVwXeW
— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2019
Delhi BJP vice-president Jai Prakash too went to the area and appealed for peace. “Whoever vandalised the temple should be arrested and whoever tried to break communal harmony should also be arrested. I went to the area and I appealed to people to maintain peace,” he was quoted as saying.
At a time when fights over the smallest of issues are snowballing into communal crimes, the residents of Purani Dilli, both Hindus and Muslims, have shown that level-headedness and common sense can always win over divisive rhetoric.
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