“Media-wale wahi keh rahen jo sarkar unse kehlwana chah rahi hai, sach nahi dikha rahen wo”—The media is saying what the government wants them to say, they are not showing the truth, Sharafat Ali, the president of the Khajoori Khas market association, said. Khajoori Khas was one of the worst affected areas during the communal violence that swept northeast Delhi in the last week of February. All of its neighbouring areas—Bhajanpura, Shiv Vihar, Chand Bagh, Chandu Nagar, Karawal Nagar and Mustafabad—were isolated from the rest of the national capital for around forty-eight hours between 24 and 25 February. For those two days, mobs reigned the streets and the Delhi Police either silently watched or aided the violence, residents told me.
The residents of Khajoori Khas, a Muslim-majority locality, said that they were extremely disappointed with and distrustful of the media because of its fixation on two issues: the killing of Ankit Sharma, a 23-year-old Intelligence Bureau staffer whose body was recovered from a drain in Chand Bagh on 26 February; and Tahir Hussain, a local Aam Aadmi Party councillor who was booked for Sharma’s murder two days later. Hussain’s house is on the main road of Khajoori Khas, known as the Karawal Nagar road, and Sharma’s house is around five hundred metres away, in the neighbourhood’s by-lanes. The residents said that the media was deliberately maligning Hussain and that its reportage on the two subjects was distorted with the intent to project the Muslims of Khajoori Khas as “aggressors” and portray the Hindus as “victims.”
Every Muslim resident, even those whom I met in other neighbouring areas, believed journalists were demonising Muslims even while the evidence on the ground, of targeted destruction of Muslim houses and shops, was proof of their losses. They felt that the media’s focus on Hussain and Sharma had wiped out the common Muslim resident’s loss of life and property from the national narrative.
Khajoori Khas falls within the Karawal Nagar assembly constituency, though its neighbouring areas come under the Mustafabad constituency. Most of these areas that fall within Mustafabad used to be a part of the Karawal Nagar assembly constituency till 2008, when the former was carved out as a separate assembly seat after a delimitation exercise. While each individual locality has a different name, each of them melds into the other as the area is a labyrinth of chaotic lanes and by-lanes in a densely populated area. The communal violence was mostly concentrated in the Mustafabad constituency.
According to the 2011 census, Mustafabad has a 78 percent Muslim population, while 22 percent are Hindus. In contrast, Karawal Nagar is Hindu-dominated constituency with 88 percent Hindus and 10 percent Muslims. Khajoori Khas is one of the few Muslim-majority areas in Karawal Nagar and one of the worst affected in the constituency. Karawal Nagar has been a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party since 1993. Mustafabad, though, has had representatives from the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and now, the AAP. In 2015, Kapil Mishra won the Karawal Nagar seat as a member of the AAP. He was disqualified from the party in 2019 for anti-party activities, following which he joined the BJP. Mishra has come under fire following the northeast Delhi violence, for a provocative speech that he delivered on 23 February, in the nearby area of Babarpur. Several Muslim residents of Khajoori Khas said they had voted for Mishra in 2015 and did not expect him to turn against the community just because he changed his political affiliation.