For many victims, Idgah relief camp feels safer than home

Riot-hit victims at the Idgah relief camp in Mustafabad.

Riot-hit victims at the Idgah relief camp in Mustafabad.

Abubakar, a 24-year-old resident of Shiv Vihar currently staying at the Idgah relief camp in Mustafabad, was allegedly picked up by the Crime Branch last week, interrogated and thrashed for over five hours before being released.

Three weeks since the communal violence in north-east Delhi, for Mr. Abubakar and other youths his age, the relief camp has become their “safe place”.

On March 10, Mr. Abubakar had gone to Shiv Vihar to take stock of his house when Crime Branch officers came looking for him. “They asked the neighbours for my name and then held me. They took me to their office and kept me there for six-seven hours. They slapped and punched me and showed me videos. They asked me to identify at least five people or they won’t let me go,” he alleged, adding that he wasn’t there in any of the videos the officers showed him.

“They beat me up especially after reading a chat with my girlfriend on the night of February 24 wherein I had written that I was standing with 40-50 people as a precautionary measure,” he said.

The Crime Branch officers told him they will release him after inquiring with the local police, Mr. Abubakar said. Senior Crime Branch officers remained unavailable for comment on the matter.

Standing a little ahead was a 20-year-old youth who said he had been told by his neighbours that policemen had come looking for him, his brother and father at their house. “They are picking up people from anywhere. We are scared and this camp is safe for us,” he said.

Wait for compensation

For many at the relief camp, fear is not the only reason for not returning home. They haven’t received any compensation to rebuild their houses and are unable to arrange funds on their own.

Nawab Khan, 45, said he fled his Shiv Vihar residence on February 24. His house was looted and set ablaze the next day. He still hasn’t received the emergency relief fund, let alone the final compensation. “The primary reason we are not going back is because we don’t have money and I haven’t received compensation from the government. I was called to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s office today and they said I’ll receive the money, but I don’t know when,” said Mr. Khan, a street vendor. He said he hid in an under-construction building near his house for three days before Rapid Action Force officers rescued him on February 27.

“House owners from Shiv Vihar are meeting Waqf Board officials today. We will share our problems regarding safety, security and rebuilding our houses. We’ll go back only if a concrete decision is taken,” said Mr. Khan.

For most women at the camp, the decision to return home is the men’s call to make. “We are not scared to go back, but people look at us in a certain way… the environment doesn’t feel right, but I’ll go when my husband says it’s safe,” said Shabana, a resident of Shiv Vihar.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2022 11:57:56 pm |