Charred vehicles at a petrol pump torched by rioters in Chand Bagh. (Express photo: Gajendra Yadav)
Until recently, the Yamuna Vihar and Chand Bagh neighbourhoods were one wide road apart — the National Highway 9, which cuts through North East Delhi.
The distance gradually grew as an anti-CAA protest raged in the area. Over Monday and Tuesday, the gulf widened further, leaving a gaping hole in the middle — one that cannot be seen, but felt.
On Wednesday, it could be felt in the words of Sumit Rohilla, whose private coaching academy in Yamuna Vihar was targeted by rioters “from Chand Bagh”.
“The protests had crossed over 40 days. We didn’t say a word. We are working professionals and have little time to care about these things. Monday marked a rupture. The way they came for us sent shivers down our spine. Our students were inside when the mob came,” said Rohilla, pointing at the shattered window panes of his institute.
A few buildings away stood the Horizon Engineering and Medical Entrances Coaching Institute, owned and run by Navneet Gupta. “The howling mob continuously tried to break open our gates, which the CCTVs installed on the entrance relayed to us inside. Then they smashed the CCTVs. We are fortunate as the police arrived on time and rescued the students,” Gupta said.
Charred remains of many cars and bikes lined the road, on which also stood a burnt-down restaurant, owned by a Hindu resident.
The gap could also be felt in cold stares that young men from both sides, separated by a iron grill on the middle of the highway, threw at each other. On the Yamuna Vihar side stood a torched Indian Oil petrol pump and on the Chand Bagh side a car showroom, owned by a Muslim but being run in partnership with Hindus.
Inside the narrow lanes and bylanes of Chand Bagh, a predominantly Muslim locality, men in the Hindu pockets maintained vigil. “We have not been attacked by anyone. But we are taking all precautions. We are having sleepless nights,” said a Hindu youth, wishing to remain anonymous, in Block D of Chand Bagh.
Mohammed Shahid, a resident of Munge Nagar inside Chand Bagh, who was huddled with the Hindu men, insisted the Hindus of the area were not targeted and the temples were also protected from any act of desecration.
Shahid denied involvement of the local Muslims in the torching of the shops and the petrol pump, but the Hindus on the other side said they have documented evidence to prove their “active participation”.
In neighbouring Brijpuri, where a mosque and a madrasa were set afire Wednesday, at least four Hindu households were also torched and ransacked. The four houses, standing next to each other close to the private school that was also attacked, were emptied Wednesday.
Outside Arun Modern Public Senior Secondary school, Jyoti Rani was trying to pick up the pieces. “There is nothing left to call this a school anymore,” she said. The school is owned by former Ghonda MLA Bhisham Sharma. He said, “The mobs broke into the school and targeted the administration block. They, however, could not target the classrooms. I will file an FIR into the incident.”