An all-girls facility at Jamia Nagar has given a new life to child victims of riot-hit families

When violence broke out in Gujarat in 2002, Najma was barely four-year-old. Her electrician father, home-maker mother, three sisters and a brother had to run for their lives when their house was attacked. While her relatives were killed, her family somehow found its way into a relief camp.

Now nearly 17, Najma is one of the four children who have completed their school education and appeared for the Class XII examination while staying at a care facility, Happy Home, in Jamia Nagar.

Najma, who was brought to New Delhi through an NGO and handed over to Zakat Foundation of India, now stays with other children of riot-hit families. She plans to graduate in history. Her three other friends are planning to appear for medical, mass-communication and engineering entrances.

Initially these children were kept in an empty house and later shifted to Happy Home – a three-storeyed building on a 200 square yard plot on Khajuri Road.

The facility was later turned into a girls-only accommodation and the boys were shifted Madanpur Khadar.

Najma lives with 50 other girls in Happy Home. Since several of her friends have gone back to their relatives/ guardians, she has made some new friends among children who came just last year from different parts of Assam that were hit by riots in 2011-2012. Najma doesn’t remember much about the 2002 violence but the eight-year-old twins Nisha and Isha who were recently brought from Assam do. A little goading and they narrate how their grandparents took them along and ran to the police station to lodge a complaint when rioters hit their area, Rampal Ber.

“We ran to police station and behind our back they burnt our house. They fired shots at the police personnel, so they too ran away. We were shot at, but we managed to escape...” said the sisters.

Since several children have been handed over to their guardians “on demand” in the last few years, the Home has been accommodating other children whose parents have died or abandoned them. These children belong to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Delhi.

Firdaus, a 10-year-old who keeps to herself, is one of them. Her aunt had left her eight years ago, never to come back. The children here lead a happy life. “They do not want to go back,” says Home Director S.M. Amanullah Khan. Not only because the riot-affected areas, both in Gujarat and Assam, have seen no development but also because their guardians are still doing odd jobs, and hence cannot give them the facility they enjoy here.”

For instance, all children go to English medium schools, have a nutritious breakfast with eggs and milk. They also carry their lunch boxes to schools and get evening snacks and dinner. Entertainment is taken care of through television and indoor games as well as spiritual courses.

Happy Home has a tie-up with Hamdard, which treats almost all inmates for free and several local doctors provide concessions to them. Mallika Siddiqui, a teacher and care-taker and an ANHAD member, adds: “I have seen almost all government-run orphanages in Delhi. They are in a bad shape. Girls are safest here.”

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