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In Delhi's Riot-hit Areas, Hindus Invoke Mahadev, Not 'Jai Shri Ram' During Vigil to Keep Miscreants at Bay

Group of men in Shiv Vihar getting ready for night vigil (Rounak Kumar Gunjan/News18)

Group of men in Shiv Vihar getting ready for night vigil (Rounak Kumar Gunjan/News18)

Ever since the riots, locals in North-East Delhi’s Shiv Vihar have given up on the ''Jai Shri Ram' slogan and now evoke Mahadev and Bajrangi.

New Delhi: Hindu residents of North-East Delhi’s Shiv Vihar have decided to discard the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chant. They are now using ‘Har Har Mahadev, Veer Bajrangi’ on night vigils, in an effort to guard their colonies against rioters.

After three days of violence that was unleashed in North-East Delhi, colonies in Shiv Vihar have turned into ghost towns. Most Muslim families have left the area for safer places in the city and beyond. Residents who have stayed back have not slept since Sunday.

Locals in the area assemble after dinner, light a small fire and guard their colonies against rioters till sunrise. During one such assembly of close to 100 men on Thursday night, it was decided to discard the Jai Shri Ram chant.

“We walk around the entire area shouting slogans to make sure that women, children and senior members in the area feel safe. We now use Har Har Mahadev, Veer Bajrangi as our slogan. This is because, during riots, there were many groups that shouted Jai Shri Ram, entered our colonies and burnt houses and shops. In order to differentiate between miscreants and rioters, we decided to change our slogan,” said Ashutosh Prakash Rana, a local resident of East Kamal Vihar.

What had begun in the area as confrontations over anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest sit-ins, blew up on Sunday into violent clashes, panning across three days, rattling the capital city. Rioters spread havoc across all of North-East Delhi resulting in 42 reported deaths and more than 250 injured.

Houses were burnt, religious places were torched and scores of vehicles were also gutted. Several videos surfaced soon after in which mobs were seen shouting religious slogans while inflicting violence. Locals in the area also informed that groups chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ barged in, on the pretext of being saviors and then caused havoc.

“There were rioters who chanted Jai Shri Ram and entered our colonies. They torched houses, shops and fled. They knew that if they chant religious slogans people won’t stop them but we later realised that they were here to spread violence,” added Rana.

Ever since the riots, locals in the area have given up on the slogan. Even temples in Shiv Vihar now evoke Mahadev and Bajrangi.

Locals informed that even on Thursday, when they expected the violence to be over, there was a group of young men that chanted the “dreaded slogan”, broke into shops and looted valuables.

“We have not been to work for the last one week. We stay up the entire night and sleep for some time in the morning. We then need to worry about our daily household groceries. Shops have not opened due to fear and procuring supplies is also a problem,” said Kailash Chandra, another local resident.

Shiv Vihar is at the border of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. “There were people who came from across the border, spread violence and left. Most men wore helmets and scarfs on their faces but we could not even recognize any of the faces we saw,” he added.

With rows of locked Muslim houses and nobody stepping out, the area looks like an abandoned town during the day. At night, men roam around in groups with small packets of chili powder in their pockets for protection.

“Women in the area take turns to provide tea and biscuits to those guarding outside. We are scared but we cannot afford to let rioters have their way,” said Kailash Chandra as he prepared for Friday’s night vigil.

first published:February 29, 2020, 14:59 IST