By David Asta Alares
New Delhi, Apr 20 (EFE).- Municipal authorities in the Indian capital on Wednesday demolished dozens of shops and structures in a northern neighborhood of the city, which witnessed an outbreak of interfaith violence last week during a Hindu festival.
The demolition was launched despite outrage and dismay among the residents of the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Jahangirpuri, who watched helplessly as dozens of allegedly illegal structures were razed by the New Delhi authorities, including the gateway to a mosque.
The drive was carried out amid the presence of hundreds of police officers and members of other security forces.
“It is happening only around the mosque area and nowhere else. They are saying that they will do it on both sides but it’s not like that. They just want to send across a message and want to trouble the Muslims,” local resident Mohammad Ismail told EFE.
The area had on Saturday witnessed violence between members of the majority Hindu community and the minority Muslims, as a procession to honor the Hindu god Hanuman passed in front of the Jahangirpuri mosque.
The police said on Sunday that nine people were injured in the clash, while dozens have been arrested on charges of provoking or indulging in violence.
Local broadcasters had aired footage of dozens of men participating in the procession, held to celebrate the birthday of the monkey god, with some of them seen carrying swords and sticks and waving religious saffron-colored flags in front of the mosque.
Other videos circulated on social media showed a man, allegedly a Muslim suspect later arrested by the police, brandishing a pistol during the clashes, while others pelted stones.
Jahangirpuri local Mohammad Rahman blamed the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party for the violence as he watched structures being destroyed by bulldozers.
“I have been living here in Jahangirpuri for 46 years now. There has no instance of any danger or enmity between Hindus and Muslims. It’s the BJP and the RSS people who took out the procession with naked swords and now they are putting the blame on the Muslims,” he said, referring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and the Hindu extremist group (RSS) considered its ideological mentor.
Meanwhile the BJP lashed out against “rioters” of the area for pelting stones against the Hindu procession, in a controversy which has been quickly politicized in a region ruled by the opposition Aam Aadmi Party.
“The rioters who pelted stones on the procession taken out in Jahangirpuri are protected by the AAP MLA (lawmaker),” Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta tweeted.
Gupta said he had written a letter to the mayor of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation – controlled by the BJP – to “identify the illegal construction and encroachment by the rioters immediately and demolish them.”
The bulldozers continued to demolish structures for many hours even after the Supreme Court issued an order to stay the drive, before finally being stopped by the authorities.
The demolitions come amid rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims across India, after clashes were reported in several states such as Gujarat (west) and Madhya Pradesh (center) during another Hindu festival Ram Navami, the birthday of the Hindu god Ram, earlier this month.
Nonprofit Human Rights Watch has flagged “systematic discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims, in India through laws and other actions. EFE