Gaurav Kumar & Babu
Shahid, a Biryani vendor at Batla House toils hard from sunrise to sunset. He is happy with whatever he earns but doesn’t like to talk about what happened a year ago. He still remembers that evening of Ramadan, when his thela got shattered in an anti-police violence triggered at Batla House, Okhla. The incident took an ugly turn when a group of localites from the minority community alleged that a Beat Constable dishonored a copy of the Quran. The local police chowki was set on fire by a mob of 600 to 700 people. To control the situation, heavy police and Para military forces were deployed.

Now after one year, Shahid is not happy with the changes that have taken place since then. “Police is more strict and don’t allow us to setup thelas on the main road. I park my thela inside the market and this has brought down sales”. Shahid is not the only one who is suffering. It is a common problem for hundreds of vendors like him.

On one side, that violent incident has had a bearing on these small vendors. But on the other side, there is section of people who hold both the Police and locals responsible for whatever happened last year. Tehzeeb Aalam, salesman at Makia Book Depot at Okhla says, “The situation has changed now. Earlier we felt isolated and marginalized as far as development is concerned. The frequency of Police patrolling has increased and we feel more secure.”

The clergy is also happy with the change that has taken place. Maulana Mohammad Rafi, Imam of Jama Masjid, Okhla Main Bazaar says, “Traffic conditions have improved a lot as there are no vendors on main roads. Police is also more vigilant and effectively monitors the traffic to ensure smooth flow of vehicles during evening prayer.”

But even now, there are people like Pandit Manmohan Sharma of Lakshmi Narayan mandir at Okhla, who consider this issue too sensitive to talk about. “NO Comments” was the only answer he had in reply to numerous questions asked about the year old incident.

Learning from their past experiences, Police is also extra cautious this time. Mahinder Singh, Additional SHO Law and Order, Jamia Nagar Police Station said “Last year’s occurrence of violence was the result of miscommunication between the Police and public. This year we have sorted out this problem.” Police has organized Resident Welfare Association meetings to discuss measures to avoid such reoccurrence. They have also deployed a company to ensure the safe movement of women and children.

Meanwhile, the residents keep their fingers crossed- nobody wants a repetition of 2007 Ramadan.