Delhi was in throes of violent anti-Hindu riots in the last week of February last year. The communal flare-up was most evident in the city’s northeastern region, including Shiv Vihar, where Rajdhani Public Senior Secondary School was repurposed by a rabid Islamic mob as a hub to direct violence against Hindus.
A big catapult was found on the roof of this school, from where an attempt was also made to target the nearby Shiva temple. A large heap of stones, petrol bombs and slingshots were recovered from there. The DRP public school next door was burnt down. Although classes have been going on in both the schools since January, one year since the riots, people in the region claim there is still an atmosphere of fear and tension, especially on Fridays, the holiest day of the week as per Muslims and on which special congregational prayers are offered.
As life is slowing limping back to normal, the vivid memories of the macabre riots that swept the area last February are still fresh in the minds of the residents. At the time of the riots, roads in the neighbourhood were strewn with debris and stones. A parking area located next to the DRP school, where dozens of cars were parked was first ransacked and then set on fire by the vandals. A heavy loss was reported from the parking. Now, a year after the incident, Gajendra Parihar, the owner of the parking area, spoke to OpIndia.
While speaking to us, Parihar said he has so far received any only Rs 50,000 in compensation as against the colossal loss that he had endured during the riots. Parihar has no hopes of receiving additional aid to compensate for his losses. On the contrary, he burned out his own savings to make up for the losses. He even added that those whose cars were ransacked and later burnt did not receive any compensation for their losses. Gajendra had, in all, borne a loss of Rs 13 lakhs.
Gajendra said he no longer runs parking services because of the prevailing fear of riots. Instead, he rents out the place for conducting small programs. According to Gajendra, giving out the place for functions such as marriages significantly reduces the risks and provides him with an opportunity to earn money and restore normalcy in his life. Gajendra also confirmed that tensions in the region soar on Fridays. He was even afraid by the storming of the Red Fort on Republic Day by a legion of rampaging demonstrators, stating that he felt fearful that the hoodlums would visit the neighbourhood and create a ruckus.
Though Gajendra has not received any threats from the rioters, he has still refused to identify those who were responsible for burning down his parking. In his defence, Gajendra claims that the number of rioters then was 2000-2500 and it was impossible to identify them because they had worn masks. Gajendra further added that the rioters carried many weapons, including swords and batons. The violence started at around 5 PM on 24 February 2021 and the robbery in cars parked in the parking area happened on February 23.
Recalling the scene, he said that the glass panes were broken and valuables in the car were robbed a day before the violence broke out. He said that petrol bombs were also hurled, along with stones and slingshots were used to target people from Rajdhani School. The owner of the parking area also confided that he has not mentioned many things in the FIR out of fear and because he has to spend the rest of his life living in the area.
It is for this reason, Gajendra has only spoken about the damages done to his property in the FIR filed against the rioters. He still has no answers for who should be blamed for the riots that rocked Shiv Vihar. Speaking to OpIndia, Gajendra revealed that he barely managed to save himself during the riots and returned to his place only after 3-4 days. It took him a year to recover from the losses he had to borne due to the riots.
Besides Gajendra, OpIndia also spoke to the caretaker of the aforementioned parking area. The man said the stone-pelting had started an hour after the midnight of 23 February 2020, adding that a large number of petrol bombs were hurled from the terrace of the Rajdhani School to set the cars on fire. The caretaker stated that children playing marbles were also among the casualties of those killed due to slingshots. About 250 to 300 people had barged inside the parking area, he said.
“Some of them robbed car batteries, others took with them expensive music systems installed in the cars. On February 25, the car parking was set on fire. I was also badly hurt. I have not received any compensation so far. My son was also with me at that time. Somehow we escaped,” the caretaker recalled.
The caretaker further added that the pain and grief of the incident are still fresh in his memory, and, therefore, he refrains from speaking about them in media. The man also highlighted that though the atmosphere in the neighbourhood has improved considerably, confidence and trust among people is still lacking. He pointed out police presence and the overriding concern of people to make up for their losses as primary reasons for the peace and tranquillity in the region.
During ground reporting of Opindia a year ago, local people said that the parking area was destroyed by the same set of people who used the Rajdhani Public School as their ‘attack base’. It was a well-known fact that the school was used by an Islamist mob to foment unrest in the neighbourhood. Even the door of the school was inscribed with: “No CAA, No NPR”.
According to news reports, a total of 170 vehicles were set on fire in two-three parking areas located nearby. Many vehicles were junk. Stones and bombs were found lying on the roof of the parking lot. Not just cars, even houses and shops of Hindus located in the area were set ablaze. Police officers were also injured. In a bylane next to a Hindu temple, people fought to save the honour of their daughters.