The walls blackened due to smoke after the riots narrate the story of the horror witnessed by the survivors whose lives have been toppled upside down
Mohd Aasif | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — The pungent smell of the burning remnants of the riot-hit area of the North-East Delhi still irritates the nose even five months after the planned pogrom in February that left 53 people dead and 200 others injured.
It was only my second visit in the riot-hit area due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, three days ahead of Bakrid, where the bright yellow walls of a corner house in the street have lost the shine.
The walls blackened due to smoke narrate the story of the horror witnessed by the survivors whose lives have been toppled upside down and their economic backbone is splintered. The families are ruined emotionally and spiritually. The Bakrid festival brings cheers to the face of the members of the Muslim community but in worst-hit Shiv Vihar, the streets are saddened by the sorrows of destitution followed by the riots.
The festival of Eid-ul-fitr and Bakrid are the most meaningful festivals for Muslims. Yet, this year riot-affected people have no special appearances as they cannot afford to buy goats for sacrificial rites. Salma, a widow and a vegetable vendor in the local market, told Clarion India that she used to buy two goats for sacrifice every year but the family is so badly affected by the bloody riots that she could not afford even a single goat this year.
The destitution brought on by the anti-Muslim pogrom has broken the morale of the victims in the area. Most of them are unable to gather courage even to continue living in the area. The fear of insecurity still looms in the community. The people of the area have now erected heavy-weight iron gates at the entrance to protect the streets.
Salma said that she lost everything and the newly-constructed (one year ago) house was ransacked. Along with her two daughters and a teenage son, she has started living in the Mustafabad area, 1 km away from her house, on rent. “I have to visit ‘Sabzi Mandi’ daily early in the morning. I cannot leave my daughters behind in such a situation”, she said.
Even if someone is brave enough to live at the same place, their houses are in no condition for living. Jamaluddin, whose house was set afire and the workshop was burnt to ashes, has rebuild the same. The three-storey building needs a proper re-construction. The roof of the two floors has been severely damaged. Shan Mohammad, son of Jamaluddin, said that they were being punished for being a Muslim. “Otherwise what was our fault”, he wonders. “It is a sin to be a Muslim here”, he added.
Apart from the robbery of cash, jewellery and other articles from the house, some survivors have lost their sources of income. The shops and workshops were burnt down. Mehraj Bano, 32, who lives with her mother, told Clarion India that her brother was taken into police custody, a case was registered and later he was sent to Mandoli Jail in connection with the riots. Shahnawaz, brother of Mehraj Bano, lost his confectionery shop that used to serve school kids during recess. He was seriously injured during the violence. The family also lost another paan stall owned by the Shahnawaz’s father.
Shahnawaz, whose is the only Muslim family in the street, will remain in jail during Bakrid as he was during Eid-ul-fitr. Mehraj told Clarion India that her father could not meet her brother even on the day of the festival. Later, a rumour of Shahnawaz’s encounter caused his father’s heart attack and took his life. Shahnawaz’s mother is now sitting for iddat (a ritual bestowed upon Muslim widows) and will continue it during Bakrid.
Bakrid being the festival of sacrifice, those who could not sacrifice an animal individually used to contribute and perform the rites collectively. Sadly, this time, riot victims don’t find themselves economically strong enough to do sacrifice collectively.