Pre-Poll Communal Violence in Delhi, Part I—How Trilokpuri was set back by three decades

02 February 2015
Riots broke out in Trilokpuri on 30th October 2014, the eve of Diwali. Even now, there is a palpable sense of unease in the air.
AP Photo/Saurabh Das

A striking feature of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ascent to power in various states and at the centre over the past year has been the regularity with which communal disturbances have occurred in areas going to the polls. In some cases, such as in Western Uttar Pradesh, this has led to widespread sectarian violence.Delhi, too, saw sporadic instances of violence in the past few months. Three months later, in Trilokpuri, the echoes of the violence seem to be heard primarily among those who are combating the BJP.

Both Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal have spoken in a similar manner about the religious tensions that arose in several parts of the city in the months leading to the elections. On 29 January, Gandhi addressed a rally in Seelampur and claimed, “We were in power in Delhi for fifteen years but not a single incident of riot took place. Wherever elections are due, BJP’s people incite riots. … When riots took place in Trilokpuri, you didn’t see (Arvind) Kejriwal or anybody else. There were people from Congress who helped the victims.”

A couple of weeks earlier, on 16 January, I had heard Arvind Kejriwal speak not too far from the site where Gandhi would hold his rally. In his speech, Kejriwal said that, “The BJP claimed development, development, development before elections. What are they saying after elections? We won’t bring development, we’ll bring religious conversions. We won’t bring development; we’ll build temples for Nathuram Godse. ... Not a single riot had occurred in Delhi in the last thirty-five years. People from BJP are inciting riots at various places before elections.”

In its nearly forty-year history, Trilokpuri—a resettlement colony consisting of former slum dwellers in East Delhi—has made national news twice, thirty years apart. In 1984, in the Congress-backed violence against Sikhs after Indira Gandhi's assassination, it was one of the sites of the bloodiest massacres. A fact of which, judging from his statements, Gandhi seems to be blissfully unaware. Last year, Trilokpuri made headlines once again. This time, it was for the outbreak of religious violence between Hindus and Muslims that led to a curfew being imposed in the area for over a week.

Prior to this incident, the area, which has over forty blocks, only four of them predominantly Muslim, did not have a history of Hindu–Muslim clashes.

Krishn Kaushik  was formerly a staff writer at The Caravan.