By Cheena Kapoor
NEW DELHI (AA) - A 32-year-old activist from the Vijay Park area of northeast New Delhi, was helping residents Friday, irrespective of religion, since riots erupted there last week.
“These riots are not between Hindus and Muslims. We are all brothers and have been living in the area since birth,” said Shanu Siddiqui.
“We have a Hindu priest living next door, and another Hindu family just across and we have made sure they are comfortable too.
Because when the mob attacks a Muslim-dominated area, they end up attacking everyone. We need to make sure that we stick around each other as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Riots began when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government introduced in December a citizenship law that provides a path to Indian citizenship for groups from neighboring countries - but not Muslims.
Critics say the law is discriminatory and is compounded by the withdrawal in August of autonomy status for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.
Protests have turned into sectarian violence with clashed between Hindu and Muslim groups.
When riots peaked in Vijay Park on Monday, he was injured when a tear-gas canister hit him in his chest while someone else near him was shot dead by Hindu mobs.
Despite the clashes, Siddiqui worked to make sure everyone near him was safe. He assured a Hindu priests’ family living next door not to worry. And made sure the temple and other buildings remained guarded.
“It is God’s home,” he said. “Does not matter which religion. Our duty, as humans, is to continue to fight for what is right,” he added as he applied ointment to the wound on his chest.
Siddiqui had food prepared at his home Friday and had it distributed in his area, confirming his interfaith solidarity.
A few feet from his home, the mob fired bullets, burnt Muslim shops and even a mosque, less than a mile away.
In Shiv Vihar in northeast New Delhi, more than 22 Muslims were saved by Hindu neighbors after a mob entered the neighborhood Tuesday, according to residents. Most moved to relatives or friends homes in the aftermath.
“We have seen these families for over three decades. How could we let them die by insane people who are just bloodthirsty? Their houses were completely burnt down though,” said a neighborhood resident who did not want to be identified.
In the Indira Vihar area, Muslim men have been providing around-the-clock protection at a Hindu temple.