‘I Avoid Eye Contact with My Attackers’: Year On, Delhi Riots Survivor Grapples With Harsh Realities

Khurshid Saifi was brutally thrashed by Hindu mob during the February 2020 communal riots. Photo: Clarion India

A year has passed but the police are yet to file the first information report in Khurshid’s complaint despite the fact that he has named his attackers

Zafar Aafaq| Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Khurshid Saifi snuck into Faruqui Masjid and ran to its roof top when he saw a mob, aided with rods and guns, molotov cocktails, shouting Jai Shree Ram, Hail Lord Ram. But seven members of the mob jumped in from the roof of a nearby school building and tried to get hold of him. He jumped 40 feet down into the prayer hall for safety but hurt his knees.

The mob was vicious and unforgiving; they barged inside the mosque and started beating him with rods.

Khurshid  knew three of them and in fact asked them why they were beating him. “They did not listen to me even and said you Muslims are all the same.” He says he saw them setting fire to the copies of the Quran.

One of them put a rifle on his head. “ He was going to shoot me,” Khurshid says. “I knew I was about to die and there was no point in seeking mercy.” He chose to put up a fight and pushed them and attempt to escape but they ran after him and bashed his head which left him unconscious. They thought, Khurshid speculated retrospectively, he was dead and left him there on the road.

When he woke up in a hospital after four days, he felt that he was unable to see with one eye. When I stood up in front of the mirror,  “my left eye was missing.” But he doesn’t remember how he damaged his eye in the attack. His face was also disfigured, forcing his mouth shut for months

“I am alive today in front of you, it is a miracle,” he says, “It is some body’s prayer that worked,” he says.  He later came to know how he was picked from the road by a friend of his brother and taken to multiple hospitals. At one hospital , Khurshid says, doctors had told my family to prepare for his last rituals.

Khurshid,  father of three, including a daughter,  who would make a living doing  interior designing. But the injury has left him unable to take up that work again. Instead he is now dependent on his brothers. “I would travel to different cities like  Chandigarh, Amritsar and Lucknow when I was doing interior designing but not any more,” he says, “I miss that.”

Though Khurshid survived the attack, his life had changed forever. “How can I forget those dark days,” Khurshid Saifi, 39, a resident of Mustafabad, recounts this day last year when Hindu mobs rampaged through the Muslim neighbourhoods of north east Delhi for four days kiliing by shooting, arson and lynching at least 53 people, majority of them Muslims, besides setting fire to Muslim homes, shopes and mosques.

A year has passed but the police are yet to file the first report in Khurshid’s complaint despite having named his attackers even as one year has passed.

“I should get justice but the police are not doing their job,” says Khurshid. “My attackers are enjoying their lives.”

Mazar vandalized in Delhi riots

There have been numerous other Muslim victims who have made similar allegation against police of refusing to registers cases in their complaints. The behaviour of the police has shattered their  trust in the system and their hopes for justice are fading. “The system is corrupt. The police are after money,” Khurshid says, recounting the days of lockdown when policemen would show up at his door frequently while he was at his home in bed nursing his wounds. “They would tell my father to come to the police station for a settlement with my attackers,” says Khurshid. “They even threatened me that if we did not agree they knew their ways to deal with us.”

Delhi Police, which comes under the Union Home Ministry,  has been accused by Muslims and rights groups of siding with Hindu mobs during the riots and subsequent investigations into the cases.

On February 19, Human Rights Watch released a damning report on the human rights situation in India in which it said that the prejudices of Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have infiltrated the institutions like police and judiciary.

In August a note by a senior police official surfaced in the media which instructed the interrogators to go easy on Hindus arrested in the rioting cases. The advisory was heavily criticised by retired police officers who said that such orders ran against law and tradition.

The police have denied the allegations of bias and say they have made arrests in both the communities.

However, Khurshid questions police claims. “If they were sincere they (his attackers) would be behind bars right now.”

Since the riots the Hindus and Muslims have grown apart and hardly mix at social gatherings. “We used to share our joys and sorrows together but nothing is the same now,” bemoans Nasser Ahmad, Khurshid’s father.

These days whenever Khurshid comes across his attackers, who run a shop outside his neighbourhood, he says, he “avoids making eye contact” with them.  He feels disappointed and puzzled how the people he knew for 20 years and would go to their shop for grocery “lost all their humanity that day just because I was from a different religion.”


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