NEW DELHI: As communal violence spiked in north east Delhi earlier this week, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh residents of a colony came together and stood guard against frenzied mobs which ran riot in nearby areas vandalising homes, shops and torching cars.
They have not let their guard down even as the situation is limping back to normalcy following four days of violence that has claimed at least 42 lives and left over 200 injured.
The B-Block colony in Yamuna Vihar has a Hindu-dominated Bahjanpura on one side and Muslim populated Ghonda on the other.
People from all faiths in the locality sit outside their homes at night and deal with any suspected outsider, Arib, a dentist in his 30s, said.
"It is the sloganeering by mobs that causes panic in the dead of night. Such slogans are from both sides and we hear groups of people moving forward towards our area.
"This is where we let the Muslim locals deal with Muslim groups and Hindu residents deal with Hindu groups coming from outside," he said.
Businessmen, doctors and people working at government offices stuck together as violence reached its crest on Monday and Tuesday, and have been guarding the locality round the clock.
Earlier, the locals had claimed inadequate police deployment in the area, but were satisfied as patrolling by security personnel increased in the last two days.
Charanjeet Singh, a Sikh who owns a transport firm, said residents have ensured that not too many people gather to guard the colony at night.
It has been decided not use sticks or rods, an idea which seems to have worked in maintaining peace, he said.
"I was 10 years old when we came to this locality from Uttar Pradesh's Meerut in 1982. There were riots in 1984 and tension in 2002, but even then our area remained peaceful. We have always been united and that is the way we have helped each other," Singh, who is now in his 50s, told PTI.
Faisal, a businessman in his 30s, said after two days of major violence, there was palpable tension in the area.
"Nobody could sleep in the neighbourhood even on Wednesday and Thursday when the situation was brought under control," he said.
Faisal said around 4 am on Wednesday, three to four miscreants had torched a car, but were chased away by vigilant residents.
They raised an alarm and others gathered, saving other vehicles parked nearby from being damaged, he added.
On the idea of not keeping sticks while guarding B-Block, Singh said, "Violence begets violence, crowd begets crowd. We thought if somebody would see sticks or rods in our hands from a distance and large crowds standing guard, it is likely they would want to come prepared. This could fuel violence."
"Now, if there is some young man returning late in the night, we identify if he belongs to our area. If not, we normally inform him about the situation and guide him to his destination, if required," he added.
Seventy-year-old V K Sharma said people in his colony never had any trouble with each other, as he blamed "outside elements" for the violence in north east Delhi.
Some people have some problem with symbols. If they find a particular religion's symbol on a shop, home or a car, they vandalise it.
"This is on both sides, Hindus as well as Muslims. But not all people in all religion are like that. There are good people who outnumber these handful people involved in violence," he said.
The violence happened for two days but it would take months for fear to subside, Sharma said, as he took out his two granddaughters, aged nine and two, out for ice cream.
"I cannot reduce the tension outside my home, but at least I can make these kids feel good by reducing their craving for ice cream," he added.
Colony resident Shiv Kumar, a property consultant, and Wasim, a government official, said they too were members of this voluntary guards' team of the colony which stays up at night to fend off miscreants.