• October 1, 2020 1:24 am

Reporting From Delhi

Disfigured, dislocated…riots have left victims bereft

BySashikala VP

Feb 29, 2020

Acid has been used in the Delhi riots. The exodus has begun as people of the minority community are now planning to move out of their localities, convinced that their lives are not secure 

HUMNE SOCH liya hai, ab hum yahan nahin reh sakte’ (We have decided we cannot live here), family members of those waiting to claim their loved ones’ bodies outside GTB hospital told Patriot. So, did a woman waiting for her husband to recover at LNJP hospital.

At LNJP, there have been two cases of death, which includes a minor, Aman. The number of injured was 41 as of February 26.

The hospital has seen four cases of acid burn victims, according to their official documents.

With North East Delhi being a major industrial area, procuring acid would be no major task. And rumours of acid being used in the offensive are now proven true by official hospital records. These victims were all brought in on the evening of the 25th to LNJP.

While media persons were not allowed inside the ward, we met Mufti Abdul Raziq, the Delhi State Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind who had just stepped out after meeting the victims inside, on the 26th. He showed us photos of victims who had been attacked inside Faroqiya Masjid in Brijpuri Puliya.

“The attackers broke open the doors to the mosque. There are seven still admitted here, others have been discharged”, Raziq says. Photos shared with us show victims of acid attack, and many with head injuries.

Raziq says one of the victims with acid burns was Mohammad Waqil, whose face had been splashed with acid resulting in the loss of both eyes. The hospital records call the cause of injury as “injury by protest” with him being referred to the ENT department. There were further six cases but have been discharged quickly, he alleges.

Bloody violence which erupted in North East Delhi since February 23 in opposition to the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, had left 32 dead at the time of filing this report on February 27. And shaken the confidence of common citizens in the law and order arrangements in Delhi.

The violence in Mustafabad, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Seelampur, Jafrabad, Kardampuri, Babarpur, Gokulpuri and Shivpuri has also left at least 188 people injured, some in critical condition. And this casualty, as has been reported, is not just confined to the minority Muslims. Hindus too suffered loss of lives in this violent communal unrest.

Many Hindus have packed a few belongings and moved to safer locations, and so have Muslims. But how many would go back to living within the same community?

We met Majid Ali and Feroz outside the LNJP hospital as they sat on the pavement of the hospital, distraught. Majid’s elder brother Mahroof Ali died on Tuesday, February 25, as he along with others, including Majid stood guarding their street in Bhajanpura around 10:30 at night.

Till that night, Majid says, the Hindus and Muslims who lived in the area, were together, protecting their lane from mobs. “We were standing with our Hindu neighbours to see that no outsiders come inside. Then people in police uniform came and started firing. I told my brother to come to the side, he kept saying I am behind. I don’t know how he got shot”, he says tearing up, remembering the last words exchanged between him and his brother. “I don’t know how many bullets hit him,” he points to the corner of his right eye and says, “He was shot here, I know that”.

Mahroof became unconscious, “there was blood everywhere” says Majid. Feroz, their brother-in-law says that while mobs had started sloganeering and throwing stones in the area since Sunday, on Tuesday the violence escalated as they started burning shops.

Majid and Mahroof both hadhome appliances shops in the area, where Majid says about 50 belong to Hindus and 25 belong to Muslims. “My brother had gone to his shop and taken a few things out and even told me, ‘Bhai, remove a few of your things’, so I did”.

The mob came that day and destroyed all their shops. Majid believes “There were people of the Mohalla instigating them, telling them which shop belongs to Muslims”. They also claim, as have many others in reports, and videos circulating too show, that police personnel were with the mobs,“That’s how they work. They have full police support and protection”.

That night when the mobs’ bullets hit Mahroof, along with three other men in that area, they received no help from their neighbours, says Feroz.

“We brought him to the hospital on a scooter. There was violence still raging on, but we somehow got him”. Mahroof, 32, was declared brought dead at 12:10 am at LNJP hospital. He leaves behind his wife and two children, a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

“In 40 years of living there, we never experienced this. If we would have known such a thing could ever happen, we would have sold our homes and left. But we thought we want to live here, together with them”, says Feroz adding, “There was love first, but now everything is over. Now we cannot be together. We have decided we will leave”.

Majid says even in this time of grief they have not been able to get any sort of peace, “Violence is still prevailing and we have asked our family to move to Subhash Mohalla in Bhajanpura, where my father lived by himself.”

WOUNDED AND IN GRIEF

On the evening of the 26th we met Sanjida outside the emergency and casualty ward of LNJP hospital. The sound of the Azan (Islamic call to prayer) that evening reminded her of the previous day, when around the same time she was frantically calling her husband who had stepped out of their home in Mustafabad to help people who had been attacked by a mob.

It’s only been a year since she, her husband Feroze Akbar along with their two children 20-year-old Danish and a 5-year-old son, moved to Mustafabad. Here Akbar works as a tailor and is the only breadwinner of the family.

On the 25th while women had sat on a protest, she says, a mob attacked them. “People from the locality all rushed to the spot to help them out.”

But there, they encountered men dressed in police uniform, “I don’t know if they were affiliated with a Hindutva group or they were really police personnel but they were wearing uniforms”.

The first attack came with a heavy bombardment of stones and then sticks, Sanjida alleges.“Then they started firing arms, which is when everyone started running”. But Akbar couldn’t run. Injured five years ago, “He has disability… he couldn’t run away from there”.

“My husband rung me and said call Danish home. I told him you come home as well, you will not be able to walk, he said he would”, says Sanjida. But Akbar was caught in the crowd of people running. He was pushed into the safety of a mosque which alas turned out to be no place to take cover as armed men went in to beat those inside.

          

“My son came back home and asked about his father. He hadn’t returned while everyone else had, wounded but safe at home,” Sanjida says.

Despite numerous calls, she could not get through to Akbar, “I kept calling him but his phone was switched off by then. They had started firing tear gas so we couldn’t even venture out to look for him. It became dark by then…my son started crying and said ‘I will go and search for him’, but I didn’t allow him to leave.”

Then around 8 in the evening, she got a call from an unknown number who asked her who Akbar was to her. “I told him he is my husband”, Sanjida was then informed that Akbar had been brutally beaten “by the police”. “We have brought him to our home, but you need to come immediately and take him to a hospital”, said the good Samaritan who had called a doctor to his home to administer Akbar with first aid, told Sanjida.

With a violent mob still raging outside, it was impossible for the family to go to Akbar. Two hours later she was informed that her husband is being taken to Al Hind hospital.

“I went outside and saw many people sitting on the street, I asked them to drop my son to the hospital and they agreed.” At the hospital, Danish was shocked to see the serious injuries his father had received. He rung his mother, crying, begging her to come there and help arrange an ambulance to transport him to another hospital.

She ran with her 5-year-old son. “I didn’t lock my home or anything. I went downstairs and told the men to drop me to the hospital”. They did.

They then took Akbar to LNJP hospital by 2:30 am, after a series of calls begging for help. The action was finally taken as the Delhi High Court gave a midnight order to the Delhi Police to ensure the safe evacuation of injured people to government hospitals.

The next morning, however, the hospital informed Sanjida they would be discharging Akbar. “He is in no condition to be moved, I told them”, Sanjida tells us that the administration again informed her that he needs to be taken home. “Where will I take him? Look at his condition”, she says, showing us his photos in the ward and videos that she has made.

She hasn’t gone back home since the attack on the 26th and does not know how she will go there again, even if it’s just to pack and move out, never to return.

ONE IN GRIEF

At the GTB hospital, 22 were brought dead to its premises from 24th to 26th February, according to its official records. Out of this nine were killed by gunshot wounds and a 10th Ashfaque who was killed by gunshot and stab wounds.

   

The communal violence has been blamed on BJP’s Kapil Mishra’s inflammatory speech on 23rd during a pro-CAA rally he had organized in Northeast Delhi’s Jaffrabad. He had given an ultimatum to the police to clear the roads of anti-CAA protesters in three days. Later he issued a call through Twitter calling people to gather and “prevent another Shaheen Bagh” near the Jaffarabad metro station. And a few hours later the mayhem began.

The Delhi High Court on the 26th directed the police to take a “conscious decision” on lodging of FIRs against Kapil Mishra, and also BJP MPs Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Singh Verma. The latter two during the election campaign for Delhi’s Assembly elections, held on February 8th, had made communal speeches.

While Thakur started the inflammatory chant to shoot at people, saying “Desh ke gaddaron ko, Goli maaron salo ko”, Verma had claimed on stage at an election rally that protestors of Shaheen Bagh— a women-led protest against the CAA — would come to their homes and kill and rape women.

The recently concluded elections thus were seen as one of the worst campaigns, where hate speeches against the minority community were pushed. Our visit to areas where the BJP did win, where we spoke to the voters, made the fact known that its hateful rhetoric had worked.

Muslims have been the worst affected in these past few days, their businesses and homes burnt, attacked on streets, mosques’ desecrated, and more. But there have also been Hindus who have been attacked. At least seven from the 22 brought dead to GTB hospital were Hindu men.

One of them was Rahul Solanki, a 26-year-old from Babu Nagar who died from gunshot wounds. His family members have been at GTB since Monday when the engineer was shot by a mob as he stepped out to buy milk.

Just a few meters away from home, he was found by a mob who shot him dead. But there was no relief for the family which had to wait till Wednesday early evening when the body of Solanki was finally released to them. His family and friends all waiting outside the mortuary were distraught as his body was brought out.

Solanki’s father, Hari Singh Solanki, like other victim’s families have blamed Kapil Mishra and his speech for ruining their home.

Another young life lost to the violence is Ashfaque, a 22-year-old whose elder brother Mudassir we met outside the GTB mortuary. As we sat down on the pavement outside, Mudassir told us his brother had gotten married less than two weeks back, “on February 14th and now he’s gone”.

        

We asked Mudassir if he could show us photos of his brother, he looked away, and said, “if my phone hadn’t run out of battery, I would have shown you all of my brothers’ photos, not just the wedding ones… we spent all our time together”.

On the evening of the 25th, Ashfaque was walking home from work in Mustafabad — he worked as an electrician — where he encountered a mob which shot him at least three times (photo shown to us of the corpse show three bullet injuries).

At the time he was just about half a kilometre away from home, says Hasan Raza, a family member, “people rushed him to a private hospital. We were informed around 8 pm that he had died but couldn’t leave because of the violence prevailing. It was too dangerous”.

They left home in the wee hours of the morning, bringing Ashfaque’s mortal remains to GTB hospital. His brother says they had never felt any different from the Hindus living there, showing us the wedding photos which Raza had on his phone. Mudassir points to all of Ashfaque’s friends saying “They are Hindus”.

They now plan on moving away, as ‘everything had been lost’, he said with tears in his eyes, “Be it Hindus or Muslims, for everyone there’s trouble. Both have lost people in their lives”.