Delhi

Delhi Violence | Garhi Mendu residents ‘agree to forget past’, return to village

Decision taken at a peace meeting, but questions about the incident remain

Members of the Muslim community of Garhi Mendu village, who fled after locals (in some cases their neighbours) allegedly started attacking them on February 24 when riots engulfed north-east Delhi, agreed to return to the village after a peace meeting between village elders from both communities on Wednesday. The meeting was facilitated by the local administration.

On the street opposite the village pradhan’s house, where the meeting took place, only one building was gutted and it reportedly belonged to a Muslim family. The same pattern could be witnessed at buildings throughout the village. Houses of Muslims were gutted, many with their doors broke open and looted.

List of perpetrators

Most members of the Muslim community here maintained that the violence was carried out by locals. At a relief camp in nearby Shri Ram Colony where hundreds fled to, many with nothing but only clothes, residents had even made a list of at least 40 people from the village who were allegedly involved in the violence.

“But no one wants to take names. They know that things won’t get spoilt now, so what’s the point?” said Mohammed Farzan, whose family had returned to the village after a week.

There was, however, counter-claims about the incident. “A majority of us rented out our old homes – many to Muslim families – after moving to the new village. Why would we want the atmosphere to be vitiated and make our rental income a thing of the past?” asked Jai Gurjar, a local resident.

Located across the main road from the New Garhi Mendu village — which came into existence to compensate mostly Gurjars of the Old Garhi Mendu village for their flood-prone properties — the village chief, Bikhari Pradhan, said a few of the 15-odd Muslim homes in the village happened to be among the oldest ones in the area.

“There are around 15 Muslim homes in the village – some which are owned by those who live in them and others which were rented to other Muslim families– which have been damaged. We were living like one family earlier and will do so in the future,” he said.

Outsider claim

“It was around midnight of February 25 when I witnessed a mob enter the village from the main road and later set houses on fire. I couldn’t recognise anyone...which means that they were outsiders...they did what they wanted to do and then left. They seem to have come with adequate planning. They knew which homes belonged to Muslims,” he claimed.

However, according to many Muslim families who had fled the area, the worst incidents happened on February 24.

Meanwhile, a vehicle with some of the Muslim elders from the village pulled up outside the residence as preparations for the peace meeting gathered steam. At the meeting, overseen by Seelampur SDM Ajay Arora, the official encouraged the formation of “Aman Committee” which could meet regularly to ensure that the situation in the village remained calm and any rumours were quickly quelled.

Accordingly, a committee of 18 people with members from both communities was formed. However, no date for their next meeting was set.

With regard to catching the perpetrators of violence, who the displaced Muslim residents said were locals, Mr. Arora said that inquiries would be conducted and they would be arrested.

He also informed that boards would be put up across the village with contact information of the area SHO as well as the beat constable. He also assured that street lights which were reportedly broken during the riots would be fixed at the earliest.

Members of the Hindu community said that they would help the Muslim residents rehabilitate and would provide extra beds and other materials if needed. In an odd turn of talks, village elders of both the communities agreed that the women of their communities “had to be kept in check” if peace were to be maintained.

“If there are any problems, we are there and we can sort them out,” said one of them.

“Whatever happened has happened. We all have to live together after all,” said another member at the meeting.

Asked whether matters could be settled quickly, standing outside his two-storey house which was brunt and looted, Talib, a resident said: “What else are we going to do? It is our land..We are helpless. At least if we can come back, then the poor people in the neighbourhood might get some confidence to come as well.”

With walls of the houses brunt from inside and ash from furniture all over the place, he and his family are unlikely to reside here anytime soon.

With regard to bringing the perpetrators of violence, Farzan said “Insaf ka toh dekho.. ummed hai [About justice, there’s only hope].”

“There are many Muslim families here; let them stay or make them go – we don’t care. But as long as they stay here, they must put up with the peace that we are willing to offer, not the kind they demand,” a resident said.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 2:01:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/garhi-mendu-residents-agree-to-forget-past-return-to-village/article30985960.ece

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