Two years later, families of those killed in the 2020 riots struggle to get by

  • Hundreds of people who lost their kin are struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives. They struggle financially and emotionally, unaware of the pace of the case proceedings
Mudassir Khan was among the 53 people who were killed in the violence that was sparked after pro- and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters clashed. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO) PREMIUM
Mudassir Khan was among the 53 people who were killed in the violence that was sparked after pro- and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters clashed. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Published on Feb 25, 2022 11:49 AM IST
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BySadia Akhtar

New Delhi: Shifa Khan, 16, was a student of Class 9 when communal riots broke out in northeast Delhi two years ago on February 23. Her father, Mudassir Khan, was among the 53 people who were killed in the violence that was sparked after pro- and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters clashed with each other near Jafrabad. Khan, a scrap dealer, was shot at by a mob when he was returning after paying the school fee of his second daughter, Bushra.

With the family’s sole breadwinner gone, Shifa and her family are struggling financially and emotionally. Unable to pay the school fee, Shifa dropped out of school last year. While she continues to harbour dreams of becoming a doctor, she finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the hardships that her family is going through.

“Since my father’s death, our world has turned upside down. There are many issues ranging from financial problems to personal issues with extended family members. Our relatives have cut us off and we cannot afford the school fee. I just want to move to another city because living here constantly reminds me of the painful memories of the riots,” said Shifa.

Imrana Khan, Shifa’s mother, shared that her daughter was unable to get over the trauma of losing her father. “I was on a video call with him. He told me that there was a riot-like situation outside and he was trying to return. That was my last conversation with him. Later, our neighbours told us that he had been shot. Since his death, life has been full of difficulties for us. We don’t know what the future holds for my daughters,” said Imrana, 35, mother of eight girls.

Like Imrana, hundreds of people who lost their kin during the riots are struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives. The loss of lives and devastation caused by the riots, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic that followed soon after, has exacerbated the struggles of these families.

Nargis, a resident of Shiv Vihar, is yet to get over the trauma of her husband Mursalin’s death. A scrap dealer, Mursalin went missing on February 25. His body was taken out from the Shiv Vihar drain after three days. The trauma sustained during this period would last a lifetime, said Nargis. “It’s difficult to forget those days. We went from one hospital to another to look for him, without having any idea about the torture that had been inflicted on him,” said Nargis.

A mother of three children, she lives with Mursalin’s family but is unsure about her children’s future in the absence of any financial support. Two of her children study in the neighbourhood government school. “People keep asking me how I am coping. What should I tell them? The pillar of my family is gone. My little children have been deprived of a father while the youngest one did not even get to meet him,” said Nargis.

Like many other riot-affected families, she is not aware of the status of any court proceedings and police complaints.

A few kilometres from Nargis’s house, Kamaludin Mansoori continues to mourn the loss of his elder brother Jamaluddin, who was killed by a mob during the riots. Everyone in the Mansoori family was away for a family wedding in UP’s Farrukhabad when news about the looting of their Shiv Vihar house reached them. Jamaluddin along with another brother reached Shiv Vihar on February 27, but was apprehended by a mob right outside their house. Jamaluddin succumbed to his injuries at GTB hospital, and his brother suffered serious injuries.

“We know the people who are involved. They are from the neighbourhood and continue to roam around freely. However, we are scared and will not name them since they live here and have made attempts to intimidate us before,” said Mansoori, who runs a small bakery setup from the family’s house. While cash and valuables were stolen from the house during the riots, Mansoori and his second brother revived the bakery set up last year. “One has to survive and get by somehow. Since our house was looted, we had to start afresh and revive the bakery,” he said.

The Delhi government said it has disbursed compensation to more than 2,000 families who have lost a member to the violence. Revenue minister Kailash Gahlot said, “The northeast district administration had taken various measures in reaching out to the communities through regular patrolling, setting up of relief camps, relief distribution and disbursement of ex gratia amount. The government has disbursed a total of 26.37 crore to 2,232 eligible applicants.”

Most of the riot-affected families said that they were unaware of the pace of case proceedings and were not hopeful of receiving any justice. Babu Khan, lost his two sons, Aamir (28) and Hashim Ali (18), in the riots. Khan is now looking after the daughters of his elder son. “No one can return our sons now. Two years have passed and we don’t know if there will be any justice. For the past two years, we are trying to stay afloat and ensure that my granddaughters and daughters can complete their education despite the absence of their brothers,” said Khan.

Rohit Jat, 24, lost his father Vir Bhan Singh during the riots. Since Singh’s death, Rohit’s family had been struggling financially. Since Singh’s garment business has shut, Rohit now works at a grocery shop. The meagre earnings of 10,000-15,000 barely covered the expenses of the family, Rohit said.

Due to financial adversities, his sisters had to drop out of the private school they studied in. “It was becoming difficult to pay the fee in a private school. I will get them admitted to a government school this year,” said Rohit. He said that four people had been arrested for his father’s death but the court proceedings were continuing at a slow pace.

“My family members are trying to cope but after my father’s death, our lives have been altered. There are many financial difficulties and we are barely surviving,” he said.

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Monday, June 27, 2022