As community rebuilds itself, wounds turn into scars

Residents of north-east Delhi are slowly repairing their lives and property that were destroyed during riots that broke out three months ago

Three months after violence ripped through north-east Delhi, residents of the area are managing to survive thanks to the charity of outsiders and sustained efforts of the locals.

Riots had engulfed Shiv Vihar, Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Jafrabad, Mustafabad and Karawal Nagar on February 23 and lasted for over 48 hours. The communal clashes claimed over 50 lives and injured hundreds more in some of the most brutal acts of violence ever witnessed in the city.

When The Hindu visited the area on May 22, the soot from the fires that had burned during the riots was faintly visible on road signages as well as on the walls of Mosques, shops, schools and homes. Steel shutters and windows that had been shattered during the violence have been replaced.

Affected families

While the soot will eventually fade and damaged property repaired, families that lost members in the riots will forever be broken.

“This will be the first Id we spend without him,” said Naseeruddin, whose father-in-law Anwar Kassar was allegedly pulled out of his Shiv Vihar home, assaulted, thrown into a fire, and shot multiple times as his body burnt on February 25.

“We used to travel to Shiv Vihar on both Id and Diwali. He used to insist on seeing his grandchildren and buying sweets and firecrackers for them,” he added.

The mortal remains of Mr. Kassar, a single foot, was finally buried near their residence in Pilkhuwa, Uttar Pradesh, on May 17 — after waiting almost three months due to procedural delays.

The burial has given the family some closure.

For others, however, the wait continues.

Karawal Nagar resident Maltub Alam said he has still not received the mortal remains of his younger brother Shahbaz. “I have been told that I will get the remains after the lockdown ends,” he said. Both Mr. Kassar and Mr. Alam’s remains were fished out of drains in the area.

On May 22, as locals observed the day of Jamat-Ul-Vida — when the holy month of Ramzan is bid farewell, paramilitary personnel marched silently down the main road adjacent to Brijpuri and Old Mustafabad.

Vegetable, sweets and fruit vendors are back on the streets but complained that business has not returned to the levels seen before the riots. The lockdown has made the situation worse.

Shops selling dry fruits and groceries operated with their shutters half-drawn and there were hardly any customers.

Praying at home

The palpable silence in the area was broken by a call to prayers from neighbourhood Mosques, some that still bear scars from the clashes.

“We have been offering prayers at home and will do the same on Id too. Clerics across the world, not just in India, have asked that Muslims do so,” said Mohammad Qasim, a resident of Shiv Vihar, preparing to offer prayers after a call to Azaan from Madeena Masjid, which was almost destroyed during the riots.

“I used to drive for a living but my car was burned during the violence. I will see what job I can get after the lockdown ends,” he said.

Restrictions may have been eased but work is still hard to come by. “We pray at home like the law says. Most of us try to stay at home as much as possible. It is not like there is any work anyway. Things are peaceful now, but it is not like we have forgotten what happened or ever will,” said Mohammad Sahabuddin, a welder at Shiv Vihar.

“The restrictions and lack of labour has affected all businesses. If there had been no lockdown then mosques like Madeena Masjid would have been renovated by now,” he added.

Down the road towards the Shiv Vihar tiraha (intersection) the Auliya Masjid, which was set ablaze, now has an iron gate.

A group of local social workers said Korans will be distributed at the site on Id.

“There is one Muezzin who stays at the mosque and gives the call to prayers and that is it. Some had tried to go to the mosques but we persuaded them not to,” said Sultan Mirza, a resident of Old Mustafabad and a local social worker.

“The market remains shut and only a few shops open after 4 p.m.; 90% of the residents are not in favour of opening the shops. We have been distributing dry ration to families – both Hindu and Muslim – who were affected by the riots,” he added.

Food for the needy

On a bylane in Mustafabad, Mohammad Abbas, a local restaurateur, was busy supervising the preparation of chicken korma when his attention was required by one of his employees pounding green chillies. “Only some of this food is for sale,” he said, after attending to the employee. “Most of it will be distributed among the widows and children of those who were affected by the riots,” he added.

“The people who came here to unleash the violence three months ago did what they could to the area and left. But we stay here. It is our job to get it back up on its feet,” he said.

A few minutes later, a serpentine queue formed at a street corner in Chaman Park. All eyes were on a small non-descript house located between two temples.

Inside, the family members and staff of a scrap dealer are hurriedly packing chicken biryani and korma in disposable packets. They have been distributing packed food to the needy for the past two month, especially during Ramzan.

“We have been doing this for the last two months. We have a committee of 25 people and we pool the money for these arrangements. Ours is probably the only community kitchen where roti is being provided to the destitute,” said Rahees Malik, a scrap dealer and president of the Chaman Park RWA.

“We distribute 500 packets every day. Sometimes we serve chicken biryani and korma, and on other days its poori-subzi. This is for everyone, there is no religious divide. Only someone who is destitute will get in line after all. We give tokens and then distribute the food. The only requirement is a separate line for men and women,” he added.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:00:09 PM |

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