At GTB Hospital, many hope to find ‘missing’, even among dead
Salim Qasser identified his elder brother’s body by his foot — the only part that was not burnt.
“My brother had a rough heel as he was not in the habit of wearing slippers. Only the heel and a bit of the calf was left,” Salim, 55, said. His brother, 58-year-old Anwar Qasser, was killed on Tuesday. “His family lived three houses away from mine in Shiv Vihar. He was killed near his house by a mob that had entered our colony. He was first shot and then burnt,” Salim said.
Anwar went “missing” before the family found him in the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital mortuary in Dilshad Garden. “I am yet to get the body, or you may say, body parts. The police had submitted the leg to the hospital for a DNA test. Only after that will they give him to us, which they say will take 2-3 more days,” said Salim, his eyes brimming with tears.
For the first time since the stone-pelting last Sunday escalated into full-scale riots that lasted four days, the death toll remained at 42 on Saturday.
At GTB Hospital, a sense of gloom, despair and restlessness prevailed. The relatives of riot victims, who lost their lives, waited restlessly for over five days as they were yet to get the bodies.
Ram Sugarat, 48, had been waiting outside the mortuary for the last three days for his 15-year-old son Nitin Kumar. Sugarat is a rickshaw puller and lives in Gokalpuri.
“He was a class 8 student at Gokalpuri government school. On February 26, he had gone to buy some groceries when the violence erupted. He had suffered head injuries. I am not certain if it was a bullet wound or whether he was beaten, but what I do know is that my innocent son is no more. I am yet to get his body,” a sobbing Sugarat said.
Ali Sher, father of 22-year-old Monis, said he had been waiting for five days. “Monis’s body is in the mortuary since Tuesday. I have already lost my son, and now they are testing our patience by making us wait. This is ridiculous and unfair,” he said.
A native of Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh, Monis, a daily wager, used to live with his uncle in Mustafabad and was going to visit his parents in Samaypur Badli on February 25 when he was caught in the riots.
There were some families who had been making rounds of the hospitals everyday searching for missing family members. Many were told to go to GTB Hospital after having searched everywhere else.
Twenty-three-year old Mohammad Qadir’s younger brother Mohammad Aftab was missing since Tuesday afternoon from Shiv Vihar. Aftab is a class 11 student in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnaur.
“He had come to Delhi on February 19 for skill training, along with three-four more boys from our city. He was working at a manufacturing unit in Shiv Vihar. His friends told me a mob had set the factory on fire on February 25. Aftab went to get help from police but was attacked by a mob. He is missing since then,” an inconsolable Qadir said.
Twenty three-year-old Nargis, wife of Mohammad Salim, 33, had been waiting outside the GTB mortuary since Tuesday in search for her missing husband.
“He has not returned home in Mustafabad since Tuesday. He is a scrap dealer and was going to Gokalpuri from Muradnagar. His phone is switched off. We have searched him in local hospitals but did not get his whereabouts,” a grief-stricken Nargis said.
Doctors at GTB Hospital said that the autopsies of six more bodies were to be done. Out of the six, three are unidentified.
They also said doctors from Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) were roped in by GTB for post-trauma counselling for riot victims. “The doctors have done baseline assessment of those admitted to the orthopedic ward. The assessment of those in surgery and neurosurgery departments will be done on Sunday,” a doctor said.
Even in despair, there were stories of gratitude.
Salim, whose brother was shot and burnt, said his family was saved by his Hindu neighbours. “One of my Hindu neighbour gave us shelter and immediately applied a tilak (vermilion mark) on my forehead. He also gave me a saffron cloth to tie around my head so that the mob, in which most were outsiders, did not attack me and my family,” Salim said.