Late on Tuesday afternoon, a mosque in East Delhi’s Ashok Nagar was set on fire. A saffron Hanuman flag was placed on the minaret of the mosque, called Badi Masjid. A mob shouting “Jai Shri Ram” and “Hinduon ka Hindustan (India for Hindustan)” paraded around the burning mosque. A huge Indian flag can also be seen mounted on the mosque just below that of Hanuman.
In a video doing rounds on the Internet, a few people can be seen climbing the top of the mosque, vandalising it and placing the flags, all the while shouting inflammatory slogans. Thick black smoke from the bottom of the mosque can be seen billowing in the video. This comes amidst unabated violence that has gripped East Delhi over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.
Around three houses, and several shops that sold leather footwear, situated within and around the mosque compound, were also looted and then set on fire by the rioters. The residents of the houses that were set on fire told The Print that the police told them to leave their homes for their own safety after the mosque was torched. They were then taken to the police station. Many of them have lost important government documents, money and valuables in this arson.
It was a predominantly Hindu locality, with only a few muslim households. According to locals, the area has 95 percent of Hindu families, and the only four Muslim houses, which were behind the mosque adjecent to its wall, were looted and gutted. Residents believe it was the work of outsiders, who appeared young and unfamiliar to the locals.
The online video of the mosque getting vandalized was shared by many, including several prominent journalists like Rana Ayyub. They were however targeted after many claimed for the video to be fake, saying it was from ‘Samastipur in Bihar’ and that it was old or doctored. The Delhi Police added fuel to the fire by issuing a clarification, saying that no mosque was vandalized in Ashok Vihat (an initial confusion caused due to the similar names of both places, the other being Ashok Nagar). They have however said nothing about this incident.
The DCP of North-West said, “Some false information/news item has been circulating regarding damage to a mosque in the Ashok Vihar area. It is to clarify that no such incident has taken place in the area of Ashok Vihar. Please do not spread false information.” Soon after the Delhi Police’s statement, Soon after the Delhi police’s tweet, many demanded the arrest of Ayyub and others who shared the video for spreading fake information. No clarification for the mix-up has been given by the police as of now.
Recurring pictures of the minaret still donning the saffron flag, and recent videos of journalists on the ground near the mosque have proven that the vandalization has in fact taken place. Alt News and The Quint have also fact checked the same by comparing different videos that are showing the same incident and also talking to people near the area. While several families have lost their lives, belongings and savings in the violence that has gripped Delhi, fake news continues to be a major hindrance in allowing peace to prevail.