New Delhi: This story is all about how things have been spiralling out of control in northeast Delhi and how misguided youths have decided to take the law in their hands by unleashing violence based on religious identity.
My horrifying experience began when I reached Maujpur Metro Station around 12.15pm. I was taken by surprise when a Hindu Sena member suddenly approached me offering to put tilak on my forehead saying it would make my work “easier”. He could see me with cameras, which identified me as a photojournalist. However, he was insistent. “You are also a Hindu, bhaiya. What is the harm?”
Around 15 minutes later, stone-pelting began between two groups in the area. Amidst slogans of “Modi, Modi”, I spotted black smoke billowing in the sky. As I rushed towards the building on fire, a few men near a Shiv Mandir stopped me. When I told them I was going to take photographs, they told me not to go there. “Bhai, aap bhi to Hindu ho? Kyun jaa rahe ho? Aaj Hindu jaag gaya hai. (Brother, you are also a Hindu. Why are you going there? Hindus have woken up today,” said one of them.
I stepped aside and after a short while navigated along the barricades to reach the spot. As soon as I started taking photos, a few men wielding bamboo sticks and rods surrounded me. They tried to snatch my camera, but my reporter colleague, Sakshi Chand, stepped in front of me and dared them to touch me. The men decided to slink away.
A short while later I realised they were following me. A youth accosted me and asked, “Bhai, tu zyada uchhal raha hai. Tu Hindu hai ya Musalman? (Brother, you are acting very smart. Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?)” They threatened to take off my pants to confirm my religion. I then folded my hands and said I was just a lowly photographer. They then gave me a few threats, but let me go.
Desperate to leave the area, I started looking for my office vehicle, but it was nowhere to be found. I then walked a few hundred metres towards Jafrabad when I spotted an autorickshaw. The driver agreed to take me to ITO.
I later realised that the name embossed on the auto could land us in trouble with the mob around. As fate would have it, we were soon stopped by four men. They caught hold of our collars to drag us out of the auto. I pleaded with them to let us go, saying I was a press member and the auto driver was innocent.
When the driver dropped me off, I realised he was shaken to the core. “I have never been questioned about my religion in this grotesque manner in my life,” he said before parting ways.