A harsh road to recovery

- February 27, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Shop owners in Gokalpuri and Shiv Vihar, who suffered heavily during the February 2020 riots, are limping back to life but amid great struggles

TARGETTED: Gokalpuri market was one of the worst-hit markets during the Delhi riots.

Exactly three years have passed since riots in north-east Delhi took place, but many businessmen who suffered losses following arson and looting during the February, 2020 carnage, are still struggling to recover their money.

Nadeem Ahmad, a 34-year-old who sells two-wheeler accessories in his small shop in the Gokalpuri tyre market, says his shop was looted by the mob but the compensation released by the government unfortunately couldn’t come his way.

“I suffered a loss of around Rs 2.5 to 3 lakh. The government helped, but I couldn’t get a single penny, because my shop was on rent. When the government asked for documents for compensation, my shop owner submitted the documents, so compensation was transferred to his account and he didn’t share it with me,” says Ahmad.

“With my savings I restarted my business. Now, it’s going on by the grace of Allah. Bas daal-roti chal rahi hai (I am barely making ends meet),” he said.

The Gokalpuri tyre market, where Ahmad’s shop is located, was severely affected with 55 shops burned and around 50 looted. There are 224 shops there — 32 of them are big while 192 are small.

Nazar Mohammed, 43, who has been selling tyres and rims of cars and bikes for over 20 years now, also suffered.

“We had made a mark over the years and established clientele. It was a period of reaping the rewards of the hard work but we lost everything in the riots and our years of work went waste. Around half the market suffered badly due to arson,” Nazar told Patriot.

“The livelihood of around a thousand families depends on this market. Some NGOs came forward, the Delhi government also chipped in. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind made a big contribution, including repairing shops and boosting our morale.”

Nazar said that they are struggling to get their business back on track partly due to recession.

“We had to sell our household belongings to cover the loss and also took some debt from relatives. We are recovering slowly but still haven’t. Compared to the period prior to riots, there is only 40% work now. One major reason is the recession. The other reason is that the old vehicles have been banned. Now, the government should create a good environment and promote our business,” Nazar concluded.

Qayamuddin, a resident of old Delhi, also suffered in the riots.

“I had two shops of accessories before the riots here. One was burnt while the other was looted. I lost earnings of around 15 years, which I have not been able to recover yet,” Qayamuddin, sitting on a chair and awaiting customers at his shop, told Patriot.

AT LOSS: Two shops of Qayamuddin were looted and burnt during the riots.

Patriot tracked down the survivors and found that though compensation has reached most people, it is still well short of what they need.

“The Delhi government helped us but it was not enough. We lost goods worth around Rs 3-4 lakh, but got only Rs 55,000. Now, I work here half-heartedly and am also trying to set up work elsewhere. My sons work other jobs, which supports us. Man bhar gaya (I’ve had my fill here),” said Kamaluddin, a shop owner, with a heavy heart.

Most of the shop-owners are not willing to open up due to fear of insecurity among other reasons.

Mohammad Arif, a 38-year-old resident of Jaffrabad, was initially reluctant to speak but then revealed after a while.

“I had lost around Rs 2 lakh in the riots. We restarted our work with some debt and got Rs 50,000 in compensation but we haven’t been able to recover the loss. Some shopkeepers have even left this place out of fear,” he said.

Bakeries struggle too

Shiv Vihar was another place to suffer where several bakeries were attacked, burnt and looted.

Mohammad Islamuddin, who used to work in a bakery and is currently teaching in an NGO, says that almost half of the bakeries in Shiv Vihar have been shut down or gone to other areas.

Gulsher Bakery, which sells wholesale products, is located in lane No. 8.

The ground floor is allotted to bakery work while the upper floor is the family residence. The bakery and the house were looted by the mob.

The bakery has been running for the last 20 years. Gufran Mansoori, 25, looks after it along with his father.

Mansoori, a graduate from Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut, recalls the horror-filled story, “On February 25 [2020], we had to escape. We couldn’t take away our galla (day’s earnings) and fled with a single lock at home. When we returned three days later, the house was open and all cash and other important belongings had been stolen. The mob had looted all bakery items, raw materials, CCTV camera, oven, jewellery and good clothes, which was collected for my marriage. They (mob) looted our house to their heart’s content. During the loot, they even made and drank tea in the kitchen. We only returned after force was deployed in the area after a week.”

ON HIS FEET: Gufran Mansoori at his bakery

He says that they had take a loan from the bank to restart.

“We faced different kinds of problems to restart our business. We took a loan from the bank, which is not paid (cleared) yet. All our labourers also didn’t return to work out of fear. So, we had to look for new labourers and had to pay them in advance. Ek-ek cheez ekdam shuru se ki hai (We had to restart everything from scratch). The situation is not the same as before. We are not able to save. When we calculated our loss, it was around Rs 20 lakh. We also haven’t got a single penny as compensation. Bahut bura jhatka laga hai (It was a big jolt). We are suffering till now,” he says.

Mohammad Javed and his older brother Salim also own bakeries in the area. While Javed’s bakery was spared, Salim’s bakery in lane No. 7 was looted.

Salim had to return to his ancestral home in Uttar Pradesh for a few days after the riots.

“We have been in this business since 1994. My bakery was spared. They targeted mostly the big bakeries like Salim’s. We all fled to Chaman Park on the evening of February 24 out of fear and saving our lives. When we returned, my brother’s bakery shop was looted completely, they didn’t even spare the raw and ready materials. Salim suffered loss of around Rs 2.5 to 3 lakh. Some NGOs helped him out but that didn’t help him recover his loss. Even today, he is struggling.”

Kamaluddin Mansoori, whose large bakery is located front of lane no. 25, suffered massive losses.

“They (goons) broke the shutters of my shop and took away all the valuable goods. We had to restart our business. We took loans and borrowed from our relatives. We lost around Rs 40 lakh,” he said.