Widows of Delhi riots continue fighting stigmas and hardships alone

The women, who were widowed after the riots, are struggling to become self-sufficient and take care of their children.

Published: 23rd February 2021 09:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd February 2021 09:42 PM   |  A+A-

Firdaus with her six-year-old daughter Wania and three-year-old Moosa. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Firdaus, her husband and her two children had a ‘normal’ life a year back -- the couple would spend most of their time attending to the needs of their children and pampering them. But when her husband Furqan was killed in the north-east Delhi riots last year, life for 27-year-old Firdaus turned upside down. 

Apart from dealing with economic hardships and uncertainties, she had to deal with many personal setbacks. 

Suffering a miscarriage was one of them. She is among several women, who after losing the sole breadwinners in their families, have been pushed to the brink.

The women, who were widowed after the riots, are struggling to become self-sufficient and take care of their children.

Firdaus lives in a two-room house, owned by her in-laws in New Kardam Puri, along with her two children-- six-year-old Wania and three-year-old Moosa, who ask for their father regularly. 

Firdaus, whose only source of income is the rent that is paid to her by her tenants, says she lives in the fear of losing her house and with that the only source of sustenance for children and for herself.

“My brother-in-law is supportive but my father-in-law wants me to vacate their house and return to my parents in Bhajanpura. I run the house with Rs 10,000 that I get as rent from the floors above,” Firdaus says, while breaking down. 

Her face turns pale as she talks about her struggles to make ends meet. Since her husband’s death she has been diagnosed with low blood pressure and severe anaemia.

In addition to battling her health issues and running errands for her children, she has to live with the taunts that are frequently hurled at her by her relatives, she adds. Firdaus finds refuge only in her prayers now.

“I am running the house alone. I cannot carry my little children along everywhere. So, I leave them with the neighbours but relatives question me and my ability as a mother. What have I done to deserve this? Children insist on seeing their father’s pictures and that makes me sadder still. I feel like erasing all his pictures from my phone but I cannot do that. I miss him every day. We loved each other a lot,” she says.

Like Firdaus, 28-year-old Sarita Devi too has a lot to worry about with hardly any support from her family or the family of her husband Deepak Kumar who was bludgeoned  to death during the riots. 

Left with no money or assistance, Sarita was forced to leave Delhi and move to Salempur village in Bihar with her three children. 

“I feel terrible for my brother and his family. Sarita is working as a farmer there to support herself and her children in our village. She cannot even  afford a phone.  We are labourers  who hardly earn enough to support one family. I want to help her but I cannot,” Deepak’s brother said.

The family of 26 year-old businessman, Ishteyaque Khan, who was shot in his stomach during the riots, close to his home in Kabir Nagar, are doing all that they can to help his wife and their children - three-year-old Zaid and six-year-old Zainab.

Ishteyaque’s wife, Zeba says that Zaid has already begin talk and behave in a manner that reminds her of her deceased husband. 

“He used to take them out for a stroll in the evenings. Even a year later the children insist on being taken out at the same time,” Zeba says.

Ishteyaque’s father, 63-year-old Mohammad Ashfaque, says, “We haven't slept peacefully for a year. Everybody has started keeping unwell. We only want his children to grow up well. I had retired from work when my son was alive. Now I’m back to work. I’ll work for them for as long as I can,” Ashfaque says sitting in his hardware workshop.

Imrana, the wife of Mudassir Khan who was shot close to his home in Kardampuri, says that she finds the monthly amount of Rs 15,000 insufficient to support herself along with eight of their children.

With the support of some activists, Imrana has recently opened a shop of cosmetics to bring in more money for the family household, apart from the Rs 15,000 that her brother-in-law helps her with every month.

She has also enrolled her second eldest daughter in a beautician’s course and hopes that would get Fiza the sort of job, which she would be able to manage with her studies. 
“15,000 is not enough. I am hoping that Fiza and I would be able to earn enough to afford decent lives for ourselves. I opened my shop about two months ago but the business is yet to pick up,” Imrana says.


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