After riots, now virus: N-E Delhi residents struggle to put life back together

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Published on Mar 25, 2020 06:35 PM IST
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ByRisha Chitlangia, New Delhi

On February 25, 75-year-old Sanjay Kaushik’s three-storey home in north-east Delhi’s Brijpuri was gutted in the worst-ever communal clashes that Capital had seen in decades.

Last week, he had restarted his business of supplying cooking oil and other essentials to nearby grocery stores. But then the Covid-19 pandemic demanded the government take stern measures.

The Delhi government responded with the announcement of a lockdown that sealed the city’s borders and requested citizens to avoid non-essential travel. The Union government stopped the Railways as many started to leave for their homes in other states.

Kaushik had to stop work.

“There is no labour available due to the lockdown. I don’t know where to start from,” he said.

After staying at his relative’s place for over two weeks, the family recently shifted to a small flat in Ganga Vihar. With no business, Kaushki finds it difficult to support his staff of 10 people. The 2.5-lakh compensation he got from the Delhi government is almost spent.

“After the riots, I gave them money so that they can support their families. But now due to coronavirus scare, I’m not able to restart my business. I don’t know how to pay my staff,” he said.

Five-kilometers away in Shiv Vihar, one of the worst affected areas in the riots, 42-year-old Shehzad Ahmed, who supplied waste paper for recycling to mills, is struggling to start afresh too.

His godown that also served as his office, and the trucks parked outside were gutted along with several shops, schools, houses in the lower-income group locality.

“Thankfully, I have enough to sustain my family during this time. But I have a staff of 30 people. Now with the city under lockdown due to the contagious infection, I have told my staff to stay at home and gave them some money. But I don’t know how long can I help them,” said Shehzad. He is yet to restart his business or get compensation.

A month after the riots, many are scared to return home. Ali Hasan (40), a resident of Gali number 12 in Shiv Vihar, a Hindu-dominated neighbourhood, and his family were rescued by paramilitary forces and taken to safe locations during the riots.

Hasan ran a firewood supplier business and said his shop was vandalised. It was the 25,000 compensation given by the Delhi government to riot victims which helped him sustain his family of eight.

After the riots, Hasan and his family stayed with their relative in neighbouring Babu Nagar. But last week, they rented a house owned by his relative in Loni in Uttar Pradesh. He is yet to re-start his business. “My family is too scared to go back to Shiv Vihar. How long can I stay with relatives? This is why I took up accommodation in Loni. But with Delhi borders sealed, I can’t go to Delhi to earn my livelihood . The financial help given by the government is almost over,” said Hassan.

On March 20, Husnain Ali left the relief camp at Eidgarh in Mustafabad to start afresh. “Riots and now this infectious disease, we don’t know when will our tough time end. I have lost everything,” said Ali, who had an electronic repair shop in Roshan Vihar. He says that he along with his family of five left the place fearing for their lives when the riots broke out.

With police investigation still on, he says he can’t go back to his shop. He has sent his family to Badaiyun in Uttar Pradesh. “At least, they are safe now,” he said.

With the government taking extreme measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, Haji Ajmeri Malik, whose shoe shop in Brijpuri was set afire in last month’s riots, said, “It’s been a month, we haven’t slept peacefully. We can only pray for normalcy.”

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