Hindus and Muslims lived cheek by jowl in New Delhi for generations until a minor quarrel over parking led to a communal clash and newspaper headlines. But within weeks, thanks to saner elements in both communities and a little nudging from Delhi Police, social harmony has been restored in the Hauz Qazi area of the old city and locals of both communities are resolute in upholding the long-cherished spirit of amity and good neighbourliness.
Many in the area were shocked when religious clashes broke out over a mere parking issue on June 30. After tension prevailed for over 10 days with the police registering three FIRs, a peace procession on July 9 reinstalled the idols in the vandalised Durga temple in the area. Chants of "Jai Shri Ram" echoed through the streets, while music filled the air and hearts. For each Muslim musician playing shehnai in the march, a Hindu counterpart matched it with the beats of the dhol (drum).
"The musicians from both the communities depicted the unity among the generations-old communities living in old Delhi", the Peace Committee that comprises both Hindus and Muslims told IANS. The committee organised the procession.
During the procession, several communities and locals from both religions came forward to provide a helping hand to renovate the temple and show respect and love for the other faith. People from both the communities were also seen offering support by serving food in the public feast.
Anil Kumar Pandey, the priest of Durga Mandir, tags the residents as "brothers and sisters" who respect each other.
Hauz Qazi's residents, many members of the working class community, not just live together but also work alongside in nearby markets.
"For several days after the incident, the area was on high alert and labelled as sensitive. Delhi Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were deployed to ensure peace in the area. There was a huge loss of business as well which was never seen in the area for ages especially due to such communal clashes. Life has come back to its normal pace," Agrim Mishra, a local shopkeeper, told IANS.
The daily-wages workers who faced financial difficulties due to paucity of work in the area, known for its maze of shops and commercial establishments alongside centuries-old homes, since the incident are now happy to have found work again.
"I have been working here from the past eight years as a rickshaw puller but have never seen anything of this sort. I had to live empty stomach for a couple of days. We hardly make Rs 200-250 per day. In that we have to eat, pay the rent and look after our other needs as well. Now, we have work again. I can go home peacefully and sleep after working the entire day," Wasim Tahseen, a rickshaw puller, said.
Locals in the area believe that the area is a paragon of communal harmony as both the communities have traditionally lived here as "brothers and sisters" and blame outsiders for stoking the trouble.
Mohammad Hussain, a resident of Hauz Qazi, said that the area believes in social unity and not divisions on the basis of religion or caste. "The area is very peaceful and some outsiders try to harm its peace," Hussain told IANS.
"Our generations have lived here for years and years. Even when the Babri Masjid case happened, there was no clash, only police officials were deployed as a preventive measure but there was no violence," said Mohammad Waqaar, a resident of Hauz Qazi.
Efforts are on to avoid future clashes in the area. As per members of the Peace Committee, senior citizens of the area and members themselves, are holding regular meetings in order to ensure that no such incidents happen again to spoil the social peace and the reputation of the neighbourhood.