Markets of east Delhi such as Laxmi Nagar and Gandhi Nagar were deserted on Wednesday following rumours the previous day that riots had spread to these areas from the northeast parts of the city.
A stampede-like situation happened when people started running helter-skelter at the Laxmi Nagar market around 5 pm Tuesday after rumours spread that a “mob with torches was approaching from the Khureji side”. Many women, who had gone to shop for groceries at the weekly Mangal Bazaar, ran for safety and fell down.
“First, the people ran and tumbled over each in the narrow bylanes of the market; then the vegetable sellers ran their rerhis (carts) into them while fleeing. Many elderly women were injured on their knees. We had to bring them into our shops, serve them water and soft drinks, and then arranged for them to reach home safely,” said Pradyuman Jain, President of the Laxmi Nagar Traders Welfare Association.
A similar incident occurred in the Gandhi Nagar market on Tuesday when news spread on a WhatsApp group that all traders must down their shutters as rioters were coming here from nearby Seelampur. Within 10 minutes, all shops had closed down.
“Even when we discovered that it was all false, we couldn’t reopen the market as the labourers and salesmen/saleswomen had all left. We lost crores in business in a single day,” said Rakesh Yadav, vice-president of the Gandhi Nagar Market Association.
This market is known as Asia’s largest wholesale textile market and gets a footfall of at least 10,000 visitors a day.
“Today (Wednesday) also, our shops have very few customers. They are probably scared to step into any crowded areas, especially markets, where arson is very easy to carry out. The traders, too, have kept their goods packed and the shutters ready to be downed in a moment’s notice if anything untoward happens. It’s a loss for both the hundreds of Muslim tailors who work and earn a living here, and the Hindu owners of the shops,” said Neeraj Shastri, another shopkeeper at the Gandhi Nagar Market.
Sumati Thakur, who had come to shop at the Jheel Market, said she was also apprehensive about getting out of home but had to. “It’s my daughter’s wedding in March. We have so many things still to arrange for like clothes and wedding cards. Riots or not, we have to be out daily.”