Delhi riots: Damage assessment officials sift through wreckage, ashes
Mohammad Zakir sprinted from one lane to another, occasionally jumping over debris, to reach his house in a narrow lane in Shiv Vihar after he heard that government officials had arrived for a “damage assessment” survey.
Zakir lost a 25 square yard house he shared with his wife Imrana and four children aged between three and 12 years, and pretty much everything in it. The house was gutted when a mob set it on fire on Tuesday, when several districts in north-east Delhi witnessed communal violence that claimed at least 42 lives and injured over 350.
In the next lane, a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and his team carefully tread the alleys — shattered glass, sharp metal objects, rods, nails, broken furniture and charred wreckage of cars and motorcycles scattered all over the place.
They noted details of damage to properties they came across, often navigating about with the help of neighbours whose houses were not affected in the violence.
They were surrounded by soot on the walls of buildings, broken grills, shattered windows and the stench of the debris, which served as a remnant and reminder of the horror of the past week.
As many as 18 SDMs and their teams surveyed the riot-hit localities in north-east Delhi on Sunday. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said the assessment was aimed at bringing out a better picture of the scale of damage to property – both private and public.
The assessment was a challenge, as there were pockets where most residents had left their homes during the attacks.
Other than taking stock of the damage, the officers are also entrusted with informing riot victims about the government having set up temporary shelters for them.
“We have adequate strength to ensure that the exercise is finished at the earliest,” said Pradeep Tayal, SDM Civil Lines, who is currently in charge of the damage assessment exercise, rehabilitation relief exercise in Shiv Vihar — a locality that is believed to have suffered the most damage in terms of property during the riots.
On Sunday, HT tracked the team’s journey.
Zakir, who is a scrap dealer, was in close proximity to his charred house when the SDM and his team arrived. As he went inside with the team, a group of social workers and journalists followed. He pointed towards his gutted bicycle and clothes of his daughter and the youngest son.
“I had sent my wife and children to my in-laws’ residence in Mustafabad – located in a relatively safe pocket in the riot-hit assembly constituency. But I stayed back at a friend’s residence a few lanes away,” he said.
On Sunday, he carried a few documents – just in case the SDM asked for it.
As the word spread about the SDM’s visit, more people hurried back to what remained of their homes.
Gulzar Ahmed stood close to his burnt building near a crematorium. Pointing towards a deep crack on the wall, Ahmed recalled how a mob had tried set fire to a cooking gas cylinder inside his house. He also recalled how he had saved the life of his tenant, Sonu Sharma, son of the priest at the crematorium.
The violence in north-east Delhi began from a stretch connecting Jafrabad and Maujpur localities last Sunday and later spread to adjoining areas. It began as a stand-off between groups against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those supporting the law, and later transformed into a full-blown communal riot.