Visibly shaken, a 34-year-old resident of Nikhil Vihar stands in front of her house with the nameplate that she was forced to tear out after around 50 men went around the locality — spread across Haryana and Delhi — threatening two dozen Muslim families to vacate their houses before Holi.
After receiving a complaint, the Haryana Police deployed personnel in the colony to maintain law and order.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (Badli) Ashok Kumar said that an FIR had been registered but the accused were yet to be identified.
“It was around 1 p.m. on February 29. Most of the men were out working. Only the women, children and the elderly were in their homes. They knocked violently on our door. When I stepped out they told me to leave with my family before Holi,” said Baby, holding up the nameplate that bears green crescent moons and the name of her husband Israr Saifi. The family has been staying at their present address for over seven years and claimed that they never faced any issues before because of their religion.
She said that the men, though not armed, were not willing to take no for an answer. “I was too scared to ask who they were. When they tried to pull out the nameplate, I offered to remove it on my own. I also painted over the religious chants that were inscribed in marble above the entrance,” said Baby.
Her neighbour, Sadia said she and her carpenter husband were out when the men, aged between 20-40 years, had come. “My in-laws and the children at home climbed up the terrace. The men kept banging violently at the door and pulled off a talisman tied at the entrance... but they did not barge into the house,” added the 30-year-old resident.
Noor Begum, who stays behind a temple, said the men told them to go back to their village. “After they left, I called up the Delhi Police control room, but was told that the area falls under Haryana. I then called up the Haryana Police. More than two dozen police vehicles and senior officers soon arrived. The Haryana Police personnel are now deployed round-the-clock,” said Noor.
She added that despite the riots in Delhi, they expected to be safe in Haryana.
A large chunk of the unauthorised colony falls in Haryana’s Jhajjar district, but a few houses are in Delhi.
“Of around 20 houses of Muslims in the colony, most of them fall in Haryana. Only 4-5 houses are in Delhi’s Najafgarh. While the Haryana Police stationed its personnel round-the-clock, the Delhi Police rider comes occasionally to take a round,” said Baby.
Despite heavy police presence, the Muslim families, mostly migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, said they were living under constant fear of being attacked. Najma Khatoon, 46, a widow, said that she has not been able to sleep properly since Saturday.
“Half-a-dozen families have already fled saying they will not return before Holi. The others too have sent young women and children in the house to safer places. We have invested all our savings to buy these houses, we cannot afford to go. My husband suggested that we should go, but the dealer is offering only ₹2 lakh for the house which we bought for ₹4.50 lakh,” said a tearful Shahnaz, a resident.
The families claimed they had support from Hindu neighbours, also migrants, but little help from the locals.