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'Everything gone in seconds: Despair from Delhi's relief camps

By Saloni Bhatia
March 03, 2020 22:21 IST
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The Delhi riots forced many to take refuge at East Delhi Municipal Corporation's community centre relief camp in Shri Ram Colony. These are their painful stories.

IMAGE: Displaced riot victim takes shelter at eidgah relief camp in Mustafabad area of northeast Delhi. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

Mohammad Izrael, a 55-year-old e-rickshaw driver, took refuge on Delhi's iconic Signature Bridge as he witnessed smoke billowing from a locality which had been run over by rioters.

Up in flames was his own house in the Garhi Mendu village, where rioters looted jewellery and other valuables before setting the houses on fire.

"When the situation grew tense, I sent my children, including my daughter, who will get married next year, to my brother-in-law's house in Khajuri area. I had asked them to lock me from outside," he said.


The rioters broke open the door and started loading the household items -- even things such as TV and fridge -- in a vehicle they had brought, he said. All this while, he was standing on the terrace watching all his savings being stolen, including jewellery worth Rs 4 lakh.

"My daughter's jewellery was kept and even my daughters-in-law had kept their jewellery with me for safekeep. All of that was taken away. After the rioters left, I managed to run away and later saw smoke billowing from my house while I stood at the Signature Bridge," he said.

Izrael's story finds echo in the tales of despair of several people who have been reduced to the status of being inmates of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation community centre relief camp in Shri Ram Colony from being the residents of the Garhi Mendu village.

With their houses looted and burnt during the communal violence in northeast Delhi, three families, who were looking forward to the weddings of their daughters, have been left in deep sorrow as all the jewellery bought over years were stolen in a matter of few seconds.

The inmates at the relief camp also said the rioters were all locals and not outsiders. They also said they will only return when authorities assure them of safety.

IMAGE: Displaced riot victims take shelter at the camp in Mustafabad. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

Noor Bano is worried as jewellery worth over Rs 2 lakh was stolen and a bed she had bought for her daughter's wedding had been burnt by rioters at the Garhi Mendu village when the violence erupted in the area.

"The violence started on Monday last week but reached our area the next day. The rioters, who were locals, first torched a mosque and then houses next to it. We had kept the jewellery, which was worth lakhs of rupees, in the bed box. We had bought the bed for her marriage.

"The items had been kept at a neighbour's house. They broke open the lock, looted the valuables and then torched that room where the valuables were kept," Bano said, as she broke down.

Her daughter's wedding was scheduled two years later, but she said that they had been saving for the wedding every year.

"Even my married daughter, whose husband is abroad, was staying with us. She has two children. All her things were also stolen. We had gone to check and found that even tawa has been stolen," she said.

Bano was also hurt in stone-pelting on February 23 when she stepped out to see the situation. However, unlike others, her documents were saved.

"After the new citizenship law was enacted, I had started keeping my documents with me all the time. My documents were saved," she said.

IMAGE: Over 160 homeless residents of the Garhi Mendu village are staying in the relief camp. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo

Another woman's daughter wedding was fixed for May, but now it will have to be postponed as the rioters stole all the jewellery the family had saved for their daughter's wedding and even the documents.

"Everything is gone. Our house has been burnt down and all the valuables taken away. Where will we go now?" she asked.

Over 160 homeless residents of the Garhi Mendu village are staying in the relief camp set up by the Delhi government. Mohammad Shafi, from the same village, said he had shifted to a new house a few days before the violence, and everything is burnt now.

Shakeel Ahmed and his wife were at home when rioters kicked their door open and dragged him out of home and hit him with lathis.

"They told me, 'Yahan se chale jao. Tumhara ghar kabza kar lenge' (leave this place, we will capture your house). They hit me on my head. They poured a chemical on my home and set it afire. My wife, somehow, managed to save the house from being totally gutted by pouring water. We will only return when the officials will guarantee our safety," he said.

His wife, Chand Bibi, said, "The attackers were locals from the area. Many of the Hindu families stood as mute spectators when the rioters were going on a rampage. After they left, we spent the night in the house. We were getting phone calls from our relatives but did not take them for the fear of alerting rioters and even turned off the lights." 

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Saloni Bhatia
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