In Delhi, floating graveyards chart course of violence

A drain near Bhagirathi Vihar in Gokulpuri from where two bodies have been recovered.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The four major drains that run through north-east Delhi flow past areas that were the worst hit by the riots that broke out in the last week of February.

The drains have turned into floating graveyards with nine bodies recovered so far.

Three of the drains meet at Gokulpuri, where earth-moving machines and cranes have been removing black muck from the drain.

They have mostly dredged up remains of gutted vehicles. The area saw heavy stone pelting, and several shops were burned during the violence that killed over 50 people.

Afrooz Malik and his brother — whose house was burned down during the riots — were at the site examining the burned vehicles in an attempt to spot the remains of their motorbike. “The insurance company will not reimburse us unless we find the chassis number,” said Afrooz as his brother sifted through the mangled remains of a bike that was recently removed from the drain.


Scores of such vehicles lie along the drain. Many of them are surrounded by ragpickers trying to find reusable material.

While these drains are typically cleaned prior to monsoon, an official of the Flood and Irrigation Department said that efforts had been intensified to dredge the drains to recover any more bodies.

On March 1, at least two bodies were recovered from the drain flowing from Khajoori Khas to this area, where garbage is removed from the water at a filtration facility and then sent through pipelines to a sewage treatment plant. “It was the day after the rains [February 29],” said Alok*, a shop owner in the area.

“When it rains, parts of the drain that are clogged become free and start moving,” he explained.

A total of five bodies were recovered from the drains after rain lashed the city — about a week after the riots began. The bodies were decomposed and were in an unrecognisable state, said employees of RML Hospital mortuary.

One of the bodies was identified as that of 20-year-old Aftab. “His body was burned. He had no hair on his head and his fingers were hanging by shreds of skin... his stomach was also bloated,” said his brother Mohammad Qadir.


The two bodies found in Gokulpuri were reportedly spotted stuck near the bund created right before the filtration plant. “The whole area was blocked off by the police, everyone was asked to remain indoors... the police were standing on the banks of the drain to block off the view,” said Alok.

“There is no way to tell where the bodies came from, whether it was Mustafabad, Khajoori Khas or Brijpuri,” said Ajau Kumar, a mechanic.

The drain flows from Khajoori Khas to Gokulpuri, and parts of Chand Bagh, where the body of Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma was found. It also flows past Arun Modern School, which was burned down by a mob.

Hafiz* [who is he?] said that it was unlikely that any bodies had been dumped in the network of smaller drains inside the colonies. “There is too much garbage. The water barely moves. The bodies that have been found would have been dumped in the big drain directly,” he added.


Apart from the drain that flows from Karawal Nagar to Shiv Vihar (the worst-hit area during the riots), a third drain flows from Shiv Vihar towards Gokulpuri. “There is a kachha road that goes past this drain. That is where most of the bodies were dumped,” said Nadeem*, a resident of Mustafabad.

“In the middle of the night, when no one was seeing, the bodies were cut up and dumped,” he said, adding: “They [rioters] must have thrown them in because if they were left lying around on the streets it would have led to more riots.”

The fourth drain travels from the Uttar Pradesh to Gokulpuri where the three drains meet, and flows beside the metro line towards Seelampur and beyond. Along its course lie Kardam Puri, Maujpur, Babarpur and Jaffrabad, where violence had initially erupted.

(*name changed)

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 4:16:27 PM |

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