At around 11 pm on 24 February, close to two hundred men, wielding sticks and waving saffron flags, blocked all traffic at the Babarpur junction on the Maujpur road of northeast Delhi. Many of them wore saffron scarves and had tilaks on their foreheads. The Hindu right-wing mob was chanting slogans like “Ek hi naam, Jai Shri Ram”—There is just one name, Jai Shri Ram—and “Har Har Mahadev.” It was an assertion of a muscular form of Hinduism. Around a dozen women were sitting in the middle of the junction and chanting the Hanuman Chalisa—a sixteenth century hymn in praise of the eponymous Hindu god. The few placards dotting the crowd proclaimed support for the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which was signed into law in December last year.
Over the last 48 hours, armed Hindu mobs have targeted the Muslim neighbourhoods in Babarpur, Maujpur, Kardam Puri, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Bhajanpura, Yamuna Vihar, Vijay Park and Jaffrabad. All of these areas fall in the North East district of Delhi which is represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha. Nearly every locality which has been attacked falls in assembly constituencies which were won by the BJP in the recently concluded Delhi state elections. As per the Indian Express, seven people have been killed in the violence so far but there is no clarity on the identities of all the deceased or how they died. At least half a dozen Muslim residents of Maujpur told me CAA supporters attacked them on 23 February while on their way back home from work. Following the violence, by the night of 24 February, the Delhi Police had locked down the localities of Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Bhajanpura and Yamuna Vihar and were inaccessible. That night, I could visit only Jaffrabad, Babarpur, Maujpur and Vijay Park—all within a radius of five kilometres. The residents of the Muslim clusters within these areas told me that there had been aggressive stone-pelting by CAA supporters in their colonies. A Muslim resident of Jaffrabad told me that in the Dharmapuri gali, near Maujpur, Hindu households had put saffron flags outside their houses on the morning of 24 February to ensure that their houses were spared the attacks by CAA supporters.
The Hindu right-wing mob at the Babarpur junction on the night of 24 February came from the Hindu localities of the neighbouring areas—Yamuna Vihar to the north, Seelampur to the south, Maujpur to the west and Chhajjupur to the east. Several members of the Hindu right-wing mob had their upper-caste pride on display. Many men among them wore t-shirts that had “Brahman,” “Jat” and “Jai Shri Ram” written on them and from my conversation with them I gleaned that many of them belonged to other upper castes such as Rajputs and Baniyas. The crowd had ostensibly gathered to oppose the occupation of the Maujpur road leading to the Jaffrabad metro station, which is less than a kilometre down the road, by a group of local Muslim women the previous day. Babarpur, Maujpur, Jaffrabad and the surrounding areas of Seelampur and Yamuna Vihar have a sizeable Muslim population of around thirty percent. The Muslim women of Jaffrabad and Seelampur have been protesting against the CAA, by the roadside in Seelampur, for the last two months.
Kabir Khan, a student of Delhi University and a resident of Jaffrabad, told me that on 23 February, a faction of the protest group at Seelampur decided to occupy the road as they were frustrated with the central government’s indifference to their demands. Khan said just one side of the two-way road near the metro station had been occupied so as to draw the attention of the government and the judiciary. The protest at Seelampur had begun at the same time as the sit-in protest on a long stretch of road in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area. While the Shaheen Bagh protesters have been negotiating with the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors, the Jaffrabad and Seelampur protests have been largely invisible and ignored by the media, the government as well as the judiciary.
The protest by the Hindus at Babarpur appeared to be reactionary and lacked any objective goal barring the demonisation of the Muslim community. This was in sharp contrast to the protesters I spoke to at Jaffrabad and Seelampur, who had a clear agenda of fighting the CAA, which many of them defined as an “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory” law which “excluded Muslims.” As I spoke to the stick-wielding CAA supporters at Babarpur, they had no idea about the law and said they were out on the street because they did not like the “Muslim” anti-CAA protesters of Jaffrabad and Shaheen Bagh who had occupied the roads. Most of the slogans raised by the Hindu crowd were filled with communal slurs. The CAA supporters told me that those who protested against the law were “traitors” and “ghuspaithiye”—infiltrators. In the two hours I spent with them, not one of them talked about why the CAA was necessary or how it was discriminatory—in fact there was barely any conversation surrounding the law. They were content with raising chants of “Jai Shri Ram,” posturing with their sticks and dancing on Bollywood tunes like “mera karma tu, mera dharma tu”—You are my karma, you are my dharma. These reactions, though, were not limited to the Babarpur road occupation—it was the same narrative in every area I visited.