Memo from Jama Masjid – Shoot Out at Gate No. 3
Anatomy of an attack and its aftermath.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
On the late Sunday morning of September 19, Haji Mian Faiyaz Uddin was watching the rain on Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid when two Taiwanese tourists coming out of the Mughal-era monument were shot at by unidentified gunmen. The attackers escaped. The injured tourists were taken to Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, Daryaganj. They are out of danger.
Mr Uddin was not a witness. He was sitting on the first floor balcony of his Haji Hotel, which looks to gate no. 1 of Jama Masjid. The attack took place on the other side, at gate no. 3, where tourist buses arrive. Talking to The Delhi Walla, three hours later, he said, “Please sit comfortably. I’ll tell you all.”
After ordering the steward to bring me tea and biscuits, Mr Uddin paused for a few moments and then said, “At 11.15 am, a tourist van was parked outside Bagh e Abdul Gafoor, which is more famous as Jama Masjid’s gate no. 3. Six Taiwanese tourists, after touring the mosque, were climbing down the stairs. A police van is always parked at the side but today it wasn’t there. When four tourists were already inside the van and the remaining were preparing to enter, two men appeared on a bike and started shooting. One Taiwanese was hit near the ear. The other was shot at the abdomen. The bikers rode away. The injured tourists were driven to the hospital in the same van.”
Here, the waiter interrupted us. I looked down at Jama Masjid. It was open to visitors. People were walking unhurriedly up the stone steps. The road in front of the mosque was as boisterous as it always is, though there were more then the usual numbers of Khaki-clad cops. Mr Uddin again started. “I can’t say who is behind the attack. It is possible that somebody wants to sabotage the Delhi Commonwealth Games (to be held in October 2010). By targeting tourists, foreigners are being warned not to come to Delhi during the Games.”
I then went to the mosque. A Spanish visitor Josep Brucw was at the entrance. Not aware of the attack, he said, “Foreigners were attacked? I see… well, I’m a little scared but it can happen in any country. I know there are tensions in India.”
It was time for the afternoon prayer. Inside, men were cleaning themselves at the pool, which is at the center of the mosque’s courtyard. On the far end, a few boys were watching the media crowd at gate no. 3. “I was sleeping when the attack happened,” said Mr Rashid, a shop assistant who lives in Chitli Qabar. “I’m not worried. These things keep happening.”
While leaving, I saw a large family entering the mosque’s gateway.
My next destination was the nearby Karim’s restaurant in Matia Mahal bazaar. It is a popular eatery where tourists come for Mughlai food after exhausting themselves in Jama Masjid. Life appeared unaffected here too. Two tables were occupied with white people.
Not far away in Hauz Kazi, half a dozen cops were having aloo tikkis from a street vendor A rickshaw-walla shouted at them, saying, “You people just show off rifles but do nothing. Sisterfuckers.”
Not so serene as it looks
Haji Mian Faiyaz Uddin at his hotel terrace
Spanish visitor Josep Brucw outside Jama Masjid’s gate no. 1
Rashid watching the action at gate no. 3
Street life appears unaffected
The scene inside Karim’s
The world is not safe