Days after a parking feud spiralled into a communal confrontation in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, the area has already calmed down. When Newslaundry visited on July 3, the lanes surrounding the vandalised Durga mandir are bustling. The markets are open and the only reminder of the recent violence is CRPF personnel patrolling at a distance of every 10 metres.
Just when everything seemed to be under control, a flurry of news reports in OpIndia, Organiser, Sudarshan News and Swarajya pointed to the “abduction” of a 17-year-old Hindu boy during the violence that broke out on June 30. According to the reports, the Muslim mob that vandalised the Durga temple went on to kidnap the boy.
OpIndia’s report said “the Muslim mob kidnapped him and dragged him away without a trace” and included a copy of an FIR filed by the boy’s mother. Organiser’s headline read: “Major twist in Chandni Chowk temple vandalism case: Muslim mob abducts 17-year-old Hindu boy from the spot after desecrating idols and attacking Hindu households!” Swarajya reported the boy had been “kidnapped” by the mob from his home at 11.30 pm. The publications later added an update that the boy had returned on July 2.
Newslaundry looked into the veracity of these claims.
On July 3, Newslaundry contacted Sunil Kumar, the station house officer of Hauz Qazi police station. Kumar said the boy had been in his uncle’s house and was now back home. When asked about reports that the boy had been “abducted by a Muslim mob,” Kumar said: “Those [reports] are not correct. I can’t say much but the boy is back with his family.”
Newslaundry then visited the boy’s house in Durga Mandir Gali. The house is on the third floor of a dingy apartment with barely enough space for four people to sit together. Two police constables, Ashwini Kumar and Narender Singh, arrive at the same time as this reporter: they’ve come to check that the boy is safe, hand over their contact numbers to the family, and tell them to call whenever required. The constables then depart.
The boy is 17. He quit his studies to help his family and currently works at a hardware store. His story, as told to Newslaundry, is significantly different from the media reports cited above.
On the evening of Sunday, June 30, the boy went out of his house, “which I usually do”, he says. He was having supari when four or five boys with cigarettes came up to him and asked for a matchstick. The boy said he didn’t have one, since he doesn’t smoke.
“They started asking me questions like ‘are you from this gali’. I said yes. Then they asked if I’m a Hindu or a Muslim. The moment I said Hindu, they slapped me four or five times. A Muslim cleric saw this and took me away to Fatehpur Chowk. He suggested I use the back lanes to go back home. I was returning home when I saw Sanjiv Gupta and Aas Mohammed fighting.”
This would be the scuffle over parking that broke out when Aas parked his motorcycle outside Gupta’s house. The boy says a crowd was building up. “Some of the boys started hitting me. I ran away.”
He tells Newslaundry he left on his own, sensing the situation would worsen. He confirms he left the area before the temple got vandalised—in direct contradiction to his mother’s claim. The FIR she filed states, “On the night of June 30, a few Muslim guys barged into my house chanting Allahu Akbar, and took away my son at around 11:30.” Meanwhile, Sudarshan News had interviewed the boy who said he went home, the violent mob came at night and began beating him up—so he ran away. But this isn’t what he told Newslaundry.
So where did he go and why did it take him two days to return?
“I switched off my mobile, I didn’t want anyone to know where I am. I went to Sadar Bazaar railway station and got into a train. I got down a stop before Haridwar. It was quite late at night. So I slept at the railway station. When I was getting a bus to Haridwar, I coincidentally met my uncle. He took me to his house: Ghanta Ghar at Ghaziabad. I lost my phone while I was travelling to Ghaziabad. I don’t remember exactly where I lost my phone.”
The Delhi police traced him to his uncle’s house, SHO Sunil Kumar says. At midnight on July 2, he was brought to Kamla Nagar police station and went home at 3 am. He’s been at home ever since. His father is a sweeper at New Delhi railway station and hasn’t gone to work ever since his son went missing. His mother is worried about the family’s financial situation as a result.
The boy’s story raises a lot of questions. When his uncle ran into him on the way to Haridwar, why didn’t the uncle inform the boy’s family? The boy’s mother Mona says, “His aunt has been unwell, so the uncle was preoccupied. He took my son to the hospital first where his aunt has been hospitalised and then to his house.”
Why did Mona claim a Muslim mob had abducted her son? She stated that in the FIR and in interviews to media outlets. Mona says she may have “interpreted” it incorrectly: “There was so much confusion and chaos, I thought a Muslim mob abducted my son.”
The FIR clearly states the mob vandalised the temple and “abducted” the boy at 11.30 am. According to the police and eye-witnesses, the temple was vandalised after midnight. The boy says he left the lane of his own accord at 10.30 pm. None of the media platforms focused on these discrepancies.
As a result, representatives from the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Aman Biradiri and Karwaan-e Mohabbat filed a complaint at Hauz Qazi police station against media houses spreading misinformation. The complaint specifically lists the Organiser report, accusing it of promoting “disharmony and feelings of enmity and ill-will between Hindus and Muslims”. The complaint mentions platforms like Times Now, Business Standard and Hindustan Times, stating they’ve “exaggerated” the number of people involved in the vandalising of the temple.
The complaint was submitted to DCP (Central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa, who assures them that everything is under control. “I don’t know about the communal angles, all I know is there is truth on one side and lies on the other. I am here to find out the truth, which we will,” he says.