Residents of Muslim area in Subhash Mohalla recount attack by mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram”

11 March 2020
People walk past burnt houses and shops after Delhi violence in northeast Delhi on 28 February 2020.
Sanjeev Verma / Hindustan Times / Getty Images
People walk past burnt houses and shops after Delhi violence in northeast Delhi on 28 February 2020.
Sanjeev Verma / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

On 24 and 25 February, mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram” travelled through a road that runs from Bhajanpura to Ghonda Chowk in northeast Delhi, on foot and on motorbikes. Located in north Ghonda, the road borders B Block of Subhash Vihar, popularly known as Subhash Mohalla among its residents. The Muslim population of Subhash Mohalla is primarily concentrated in that block. According to its residents, on 25 February, the mob tried to enter the block, and burnt shops and homes belonging to Muslims in other parts of Subhash Mohalla. The residents said they called the Delhi Police for help, but to no avail.

On 23 February, Kapil Mishra, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, gave an incendiary speech in northeast Delhi, following which communal violence swept the area, with multiple accounts of Hindu mobs attacking Muslim neighbourhoods. When I visited Subhash Mohalla in 29 February, the residents described how the mob had attacked the locality on 25 February by firing charras—pellets, shot from country-made guns—in their lanes. They said that the rioters shot one man dead and left three men injured in B Block. While Subhash Mohalla has a sizable number of both Hindus and Muslims, the rioters seemed to only target areas with a significant Muslim population.  

According to the residents of B Block, at around 9 pm on the night of 25 February, a mob armed with guns and chanting “Jai Shri Ram” tried to enter Subhash Mohalla’s B block via one of its lanes, Gali Number 3. Residents of the block tried to fend off the mob by blocking the lanes. The mob started firing pellets into their lane—multiple residents said that the firing continued for an hour to two hours. The residents resorted to stone pelting to keep the rioters at bay.

By around 10 pm, the mob had gathered at a spot near Auliya Masjid, around twenty five metres away from Gali Number 3. Maroof Ali, a 32-year-old owner of an electrical shop, who was among the group guarding their lane, was hit by five or six pellets. Umar Ali, Maroof’s father, told me, “The pellets entered his eye and got lodged in the head. When we took him to urban”—referring to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital at Delhi Gate—“he was declared brought dead.”

Umar showed me the spot where Maroof collapsed after being hit—faint blood spots were still visible on the concrete road. Umar had received Maroof’s medico-legal certificate from LNJP, but had deposited it with the police for the purpose of filing a first-information report. “I’ve lived in Subhash Mohalla for the past forty seven years, but have never seen such violence,” Umar said. “Maroof has a wife and two small kids, what will happen to them?”

At around 10.30 pm on 25 February, the mob also shot Rehan Hameed, a 31-year-old shop owner, around the same spot where Maroof was hit. “I had gone to my friend’s place at K block that night, but I wanted to come back to B block to be with my family,” Hameed said. “When I reached the spot where the firing was going on, I was hit in the leg by four pellets.” He hobbled home, a few meters away and tied a tourniquet to stem the blood flow. “I then called my friends, Ankit Sharma and Dharmendra Giri, they rushed me to urban and then to the GTB hospital,” Hameed added. His right ankle was still bandaged when I met him.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Delhi Violence northeast Delhi