Delhi riots: A week on, fear continues to grip survivors

Poornima Joshi Shiv Vihar/GTB Hospital (New Delhi) | Updated on March 02, 2020

A worker salvages furniture at a school in Shiv Vihar which was razed during the riots in North-East Delhi on Monday   -  Sandeep Saxena

Terrified residents refuse to go back home; police receive 3,000 distress calls on Sunday

Delhi is on a short fuse even a week after violence erupted in the north eastern parts where residents have fled some localities and are too terrified to return home. Panic in West- and South-Delhi, especially around Shaheen Bagh where anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests are still going on, resulted in the police receiving over 3,000 distress calls on Sunday and the Delhi Metro had to temporarily shutdown seven stations.

Anxious vigil

In GTB hospital morgue where people waited for the bodies of their family members to be handed over after post-mortem, there are a set of anxious relatives waiting for news of those who are missing. With pictures of their loved ones, they stand watch outside the mortuary of the biggest hospital in North-East Delhi. One body was fished out of an open sewage drain in Gokulpuri and three more had been discovered from another drain on Sunday. So far, 42 deaths have been reported in the riots.



“My brother-in-law Firaz Ahmad has been missing since February 25. He was passing through Shahid Bhagat Singh Colony, Gali Number 12, Karawal Nagar on February 24 night when he was surrounded by a mob. But he was rescued by some people. I spoke to him that night; he had taken shelter in someone’s home. We spoke again on the 25th morning but his phone battery was dying. He told me where he was. When we went to look for him, the house where he said he was hiding had been burnt down. I have lodged an FIR but there is no trace of him. One of us come here everyday to see if he has also been killed and dumped in a drain,” said Ahmad Ali, holding up a picture of his brother-in-law. Ahmad Ali was waiting outside the GTB hospital mortuary on Monday.

Sixty-five-year old Mohammad Iqbal sells balloons for a living. For the past four days since they learnt that his nephew Mohammad Anwar has been shot and burnt alive, his draught family is waiting outside the GTB hospital mortuary to claim his body. “They have not conducted the post-mortem yet. He was burnt. We are waiting for his body. He has a married daughter. Her husband is blind. We are all just wondering when they will let us bury him. It has been almost a week now,” said Iqbal.

Livelihood lost

In localities such as Shiv Vihar, one of the worst affected in the riots that have thus far claimed 42 lives and left over 350 injured, people have just begun to assess the extent of damage that rioting mobs inflicted on their homes, shops and vehicles on the night of February 25 when the colony was attacked by people armed with petrol bombs, gas cylinders and weapons.

“The mob came from three sides at 7 pm on Tuesday last. We all ran. I sold kitchen provisions on a cart by the side of the road. They burnt it down. Two mosques were burnt,” said Mohammad Aswan in Phase 7, Shiv Vihar. “We are staying in someone else’s house. We want to come home. There should be security. We don’t want anything else from the Government. But how can we come back when we still fear the mobs will return,” he said.

Outside burnt shops are bold graffiti of Jai Shri Ram and charred remains of household items, burnt vehicles still litter the streets.

Targeted attack?

According to Babita Shrivastava, one of the few Hindu families who live in the largely Muslim-dominated Phase 6 and 7 of Shiv Vihar, this was a targeted attack.

“They looted our home but they did not burn it down. They stole jeweller and told us to keep quiet or they’ll burn us down too. My neighbour works with the police. His house has been burnt down. It was a huge mob. Hindu households have been spared. We have been living together for so long. Now they have shattered the peace,” said Shrivastava.

PTI adds: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on March 4 a plea seeking lodging of FIRs against politicians and others for their purported hate speeches which allegedly led to recent violence in Delhi.

The plea filed by some riot victims was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde.

Published on March 02, 2020

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