New Delhi: Over the last three years, residents of several parts of northeast Delhi have gone about repairing their lives following the riots that had left 53 dead – two-thirds of them Muslims – and hundreds injured and led to the loss of property worth thousands of crores. As people battled the Covid-19 pandemic and tried to piece their lives together following the economic upheaval it caused, the hope was that things would improve.
The riots also bred a sense of insecurity among several residents of the area, as they moved out of their homes to places which they perceived as safer localities.
But now posters have emerged in some parts of Brahmpuri in Shahdara asking Hindus not to sell their properties to Muslims and threatening that any registration of such a property would be opposed.
Issued in the name of an advocate, Pradeep Sharma of Lane No. 13, Brahmpuri, these posters also direct that all future transactions in the Brahmpuri area would be between Hindus alone.
The tweetreports a hateful notice that reads:
“Hindu house owners in the Brahmapuri area are notified not to sell their house to Muslims. Sell at your own risk, for street residents shall not allow such sales to be registered. All future transactions must be between Hindus.” https://t.co/PcdqJJ5CPF
— @firstname.lastname@example.org (@tarunkhaitan) January 12, 2023
‘Brahmpuri saw no violence as Muslims protected properties of Hindus’
It is ironic that these posters have come up in an area that was spared the spectre of violence, largely due to the approach of the majority of Muslims. Paediatrician Nafees Ahmed, who runs a clinic, on Lane No. 13, Brahmpuri, told The Wire that three years ago when there were riots in some parts of northeast Delhi, the Brahmpuri area remained untouched by the violence due to the efforts of the people here.
“This road, Lane No. 13, has a majority of shops owned by Muslims on one side while on the other side, most of the shops are owned by Hindus. However, if you would look at the overall population, the majority are Muslims. During the riots of 2020, the Muslims saved the shops of Hindus here. They supported them wholeheartedly. Many of the Muslim residents openly assured their Hindu brothers that they need not fear anything. At night, they even patrolled the area to ensure that miscreants did not cause any harm,” he elaborated.
“So,” Dr. Ahmed said, “we have never had any kind of such communal tension in this area. As such, these posters only seek to communalise the atmosphere. Some people are engaged in such work. There is also a feeling that the ruling party may be behind this to increase the vote percentage in their favour. Whoever is putting these up is sending a clear message that he is a radical Hindu and will not let anyone sell their property to Muslims. But overall, there is not much tension in the area right now.”
The practicing pediatrician said in their locality they also have several peace committees that work with various communities to ensure that differences of any kind are resolved at the earliest.
“Our former MLA, Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed, is a prominent Congress leader. Despite being a Muslim, he used to get a lot of support from the Hindus. He used to also organise various events, like the largest Kanwar camp, for the Hindus. So when he was the legislator, there never used to be this kind of tension. Also, there is a large Hindu population on the other side of Brahmpuri and they used to support ‘Chaudhary sahab’ a great deal.”
But ever since Mateen Ahmed was defeated and got replaced, the situation appears to have changed a bit, he said, adding that “it is wrong”.
‘Muslims barred from buying properties’
As for the properties being sold in the area now, Dr. Ahmed said it is mostly the Muslims who are buying them. “The non-Muslims are gradually moving out. This is the reason why some people have now started saying that do not sell your properties to Muslims.”
Dr. Ahmed added that this was happening not only in Brahmpuri but also in several parts of North East Delhi. “This is an unauthorised area, but if you would go to even authorised areas like Yamuna Vihar, where I reside, there too you will observe this trend and mentality. Barring some blocks, Muslims are not allowed to make purchases elsewhere. I also wanted to purchase a property but was refused outright. Also, in Hindu areas, houses are not given on rent to Muslims.”
The doctor added that while posters have been put up to the effect in Brahmpuri, in several other areas, there is an unwritten diktat under which Hindus are not allowed to sell their properties to Muslims. “This has been happening a lot for the last four to five years and the situation took a turn for the worse post the February 2020 riots.”
‘Riots deepened the sense of insecurity’
“After the riots,” Dr. Ahmed said, “the few Muslims remaining in Hindu majority areas have also started their properties and so is the case with Hindus living in Muslim majority areas. There is a sense of unease and insecurity among many such residents.”
He added that the divisions and the mentality to stay away from Muslims appear to be increasing. Also, he said, a large number of people are now preferring moving to more developed and well-planned areas like Noida.
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party leader from Brahmpuri, Gaurav Sharma – whose wife Chhaya, became the Councillor from the ward on the party ticket this time – said the posters have come up in an area which is part of the Gautam Puri ward.
“Since the 2020 riots people from both sides have been working to improve the situation and build confidence among the communities. But in between you find some such people come in who again create tension. They just want to spoil the atmosphere.”
Sharma said there was no need for anyone to put up such posters and in case, he had any grievance he should have consulted the resident welfare association (RWA) or other people in the neighbourhood.
“What happens because of such actions like putting up posters is that people who are working towards mediation or towards bringing people from both sides together, so that once again there is pyaar mohabbat between the two sides, they end up losing face.”
“When I learnt that posters have been put up in Brahmpuri, I checked up with the area residents. It was then I realised that the posters have been put up in the Gautam Puri area. I asked the local residents to ensure that we do not return to the situation which existed three years ago. It was time which we still find difficult to forget and come out of,” he said, explaining how attempts are being made to normalise the situation again.
“Some area residents have also tried to diffuse the situation, but all kinds of people exist in the society. Many listen and understand, while others don’t. They are the ones who harm everyone. People are struggling to find employment, and earn a livelihood, who has time for such non-sense. It is confirmed that Pradeep Sharma, who is an advocate, got these posters put up,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pradeep Sharma said he has not published or put out the posters. He told The Wire, “I have not taken action against those who have circulated these posters. However, if I get attacked I’ll complain against those people. I know them…I have found out who are the people behind this. I am going to sell my house but because there’s a temple in my house some people circulated this message so that Muslims don’t buy my property.”
While Sharma doesn’t have issues with the content of the posters, he feels that those who circulated this poster should not have added his name to it. Sharma further added that he would prefer to sell the house to Hindus but he has no issues about removing the temple so that Muslims can buy it.
No one has so far come forward to claim they have put up the posters. The local police, contacted over the phone, declined to make any comment.
Note: This copy was updated at 11:32 pm on January 14, 2023, with the reaction of Pradeep Sharma. The story was first published at 10:35 pm on January 13, 2023.
(With inputs from Alishan Jafri)