Delhi riot refugees live on prayers as coronavirus lockdown forces them to leave relief camps

Another family of five, which came here from the relief camp at Al-Hind hospital, has a similar story. They would rather die of corona than by the rioters.

Published: 30th March 2020 08:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th March 2020 08:27 AM   |  A+A-

Naeem Akhtar and Imran Khan say their families were forced out of relief camps. (Photo | Parveen Negi, EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The suffering for the riot-hit victims of the communal violence that took place in the Northeast Delhi is far from over. First the riots destroyed their houses and now the lockdown due to outbreak of novel coronavirus is forcing them to leave the refugee camps. One of these twice-displaced people is 56-year-old Shama Parween who shares a room with 13 other women and children.

As of now, officials say that the relief camps were to be continued for some time more but with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the removal of camps became inevitable. “We did try going back four days ago but people there threatened us of dire consequences. They say they won’t let Muslims return. What do we do? We have no money. No one can go to work,” Parween says. Parween’s younger sister Zarina has a similar story to tell. Zarina said, “We do not know how we will survive if we’re forced out of this small space too. My husband can’t earn anything during the lockdown. So we can’t afford a new place...”

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Another family of five, which came here from the relief camp at Al-Hind hospital, has a similar story. They would rather die of corona than by the rioters. “How do they expect us to go back? Will the government and the police protect us if the rioters attack us again? No, they will save the rioters and let us die,” says 18-year-old Arshi (name changed), whose family has a house in Shiv Vihar, one of the worst affected areas in the recent riots. In another corner of the hall, men of the families sit in a huddle.

The relief work for riot victims has come to a halt since March 21 because of a bureaucratic hurdle as the Delhi Wakf Board, coordinating the relief work, doesn’t have a chairperson after Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan vacated the chair. The compensation package announced by Wakf Board hasn’t been distributed yet. Officials say that cheques were prepared and were to be handed over soon but the work got halted due to Khan’s exit. Meanwhile, Mohammad Saqib Qazmi, who runs a madrassa, is in a dilemma on how to handle the situation.

The administration and the police, he says, is pressurising him to evict these people because of the social distancing measures. Qazmi says he has so far allowed the people live in the madrassa at the request of Delhi Wakf board which gave him a meagre amount of Rs 22,000 for the welfare of 54 riot survivors, of which some have since left. Qazmi adds that he has been getting regular calls from activists to accommodate more people.


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