A fight over parking a scooter snowballed into communal tension at Lal Kuan near Chawri Bazar in Old Delhi on Monday as groups of Hindu and Muslim residents accused each other of stone pelting and violence on Sunday night.
The two men involved in the parking row — Aas Mohammad and Sanjeev Kumar Gupta — sustained injuries, as did a photojournalist from a Hindi daily who was clicking pictures at the spot, police said.
There was heavy security as narrow alleys of the Walled City resembled a militarised zone with more than 1,000 Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel armed with anti-riot gear deployed through the day on Monday. Police barricades were put on the main road at Lal Kuan , a popular market of hardware goods in central Delhi. All the shops were shut, and residents were asked to remain indoors until the situation was brought under control.
Police said that around 12.30am on Monday, word spread in the locality that a 20-year-old Muslim man was dead after being thrashed by a Hindu family. This, police said, led to people vandalising a temple in the vicinity and desecrating the idols. This led to another group assembling to chase away and attack the group that was allegedly vandalising the temple.
A CCTV camera installed near the temple captured a video of some men throwing bricks and stones at the temple. According to deputy commissioner of police (central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa, the footage is being analysed to ascertain the identities of those involved in the skirmish. “Cross-FIRs [first information reports] have been registered at the Hauz Qazi police station in connection with the fight between two families over the parking row. A separate FIR has been registered regarding the temple’s vandalism and the violence it triggered,” Randhawa said. Residents said that tensions flared up at around 10pm, when Mohammad, 20, was stopped by Gupta, 45, from parking a scooter outside his house near the temple. Gupta’s family members and the neighbours of Mohammad offer different versions of the sequence of events.
Gupta’s wife Babita said that her husband was standing outside the house when Mohammad parked his scooter there. When her husband objected, Mohammad allegedly abused him and insisted on parking his twowheeler in the spot. “Mohammad left saying he would return to teach my husband a lesson. A few minutes later, 20-25 men carrying sticks barged into our first floor house and began thrashing him. When my three children and I intervened, they assaulted us as well. They did not spare my 80-year-old mother-in-law who is a heart patient,” said Babita.
However, according to Mohammad’s neighbour, Irshad Ali, Gupta’s family members and some other residents thrashed Mohammad and fractured his hand despite him telling them that he would remove his scooter within 10 minutes. “Some people from our area went to intervene when they learnt about the fight. The issue was resolved at the police station itself. But vandalism of the temple by some outsiders triggered the communal tension. We want this issue to end at the earliest,” said Ali, who is a member of the area’s Residents’ Welfare Association.