56 shanties gutted in fire at Rohingya camp in southeast Delhi

Updated on Jun 14, 2021 04:07 AM IST
New Delhi Around 56 shanties housing Rohingya refugees in Madanpur Khadar were gutted in a fire late on Saturday night
Rohingya refugees look for their belongings amid the charred remains of their camp following a fire incident that broke out earlier today in New Delhi.(AFP)
Rohingya refugees look for their belongings amid the charred remains of their camp following a fire incident that broke out earlier today in New Delhi.(AFP)
BySadia Akhtar and Karn Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Around 56 shanties housing Rohingya refugees in Madanpur Khadar were gutted in a fire late on Saturday night. No casualties were reported in the incident.

“It has been revealed that around 56 jhuggis of Rohingyas having a total population of around 270 people were burnt to ashes in the fire. The cause of the fire is not known yet and appropriate legal action is being taken,” said DCP (southeast) RP Meena.

Delhi Fire Services (DFS) chief Atul Garg said that the fire department had received a call about the fire at around 11.54 pm on Saturday. “Five fire tenders were rushed there to control the blaze. The fire was brought under control around 3 am on Saturday,” he added.

Rohingya refugees have been living on a plot of land in Madanpur Khadar near Kalindi Kunj since 2012 when the land for setting up the camp was given by a non-governmental organisation.

Around midnight on Saturday, Minara Begum (24), a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar’s Rakhine region, said she woke up to frenzied screams of people. “We were sleeping when I heard some commotion around 12 am. People were shouting ‘fire, fire’. We ran out without our slippers. There was no time to think or salvage anything. Everything that we had has been destroyed,” said Minara, who has been living in the refugee camp along with her seven-member family since 2012.

Refugees living in this camp are no strangers to tragedy. Over the past several years, the camp has witnessed a number of conflagrations, including three so far this year. While residents claimed they diffused the previous two blazes before it went out of control, they recall a massive blaze had gutted the entire camp on April 15, 2018.

Abdullah (37) is among those who saw his home turned into a smouldering ruin for the second time​in three years. “Incidents like these are not uncommon. Three years ago, we lost our house and everything that we had earned over the years in a similar fire. We had to start all over again then. Once again, we are back to nothing,” he said, adding that the fire had started from an empty hutment and spread rapidly to other houses in the camp.

“In the past three years, I had saved around 30,000-40,000 rupees. We lost it all last night. Rice, pulses and grains also got destroyed in the fire along with all our clothes and the cooler that we had,” said Abdullah, who drives an e-rickshaw but has been without work since the lockdown was imposed.

Noor Begum (35), another resident, said that while she was thankful to God for saving her family, their lives had been upended once again. “Our clothes, food, utensils, whatever we had accumulated over the past few years were destroyed. Around 2,000 that I had saved for my husband’s medicines was also lost. We don’t know how we will rebuild our lives again,” said Begum, whose husband recently got operated on for kidney stones and is unemployed.

Ali Johar (26), a Rohingya youth leader, said the community had faced multiple fire tragedies but there was no solution in sight. “This year alone, we have seen three fire incidents. Every time a tragedy unfolds, people talk about this issue for some time but no permanent solution is proposed. This time too, we will be left to fend for ourselves. In the absence of a solution, we will end up waiting for another tragedy,” he said.

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