Delhi communal clashes: City's past shows Hindu-Muslim enmity predates Modi, Congress and even Partition
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Delhi communal clashes: City's past shows Hindu-Muslim enmity predates Modi, Congress and even Partition

By Firstpost calender  03-Jul-2019

Delhi communal clashes: City's past shows Hindu-Muslim enmity predates Modi, Congress and even Partition

Perhaps, it's possible, the boy from Gali Anarkali, was up to no good. Then again, perhaps Vishwakarma, their neighbour from Gali Milwali, was just imagining that Nasim Ahmed — 'Babbu' to his friends, had been eyeing up his sisters. Either way, Ibrahim Ismail, there with his family that evening, stepped in to stop the escalating brawl — and then, everyone waiting for the 9 pm movie at Palace Talkies, the pride of Mohalla Kishanganj, turned away and forgot about the unscheduled pre-show entertainment.
The next morning, Nasim showed up with a street posse at the home of a friend of Vishwakarma, demanding an apology. The friend, Khalil Ahmed, failed to extract one, and a battle erupted on the street.
Within hours, home-made bombs were being thrown from the roofs of the Imliwali mosque, and snipers opened fire from inside homes along Bahadurgarh Road and Fhoota Road.
***
Eleven people were killed — eight Hindus, two Muslims, one Sikh — before the Delhi communal riot of May, 1974, ended. Precisely why did the people decide to kill each other, multiple police investigations and a high-level government inquiry could not establish.
This week, as Delhi struggles with the fallout from weekend violence which ended in a temple in the city's Chawri Bazaar area being vandalised, the 1974 riots — one of the deadliest Hindu-Muslim clashes in post-Independence Delhi — are a useful prism to inspect what happened, and why.  Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power, there's been growing, global concern about the apparently-inexorable rise in communal violence across India. The Delhi riot tells us the story isn't about Prime Minister Modi — nor as simple as the headlines might lead us to believe.

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