NEW DELHI: Two years have passed since the communal riots took place in north-east Delhi in February 2020 but the fear of being looted, seeing their houses being burnt, witnessing mobs killing fellow men has not spared the residents yet.
Though the burnt houses have been rebuilt and its occupants now struggle to survive by opening up small shops, no such complaint has come up in recent days. The New Indian Express spoke to a few victims and witnesses of the riots at Shiv Vihar on Wednesday, one of the worst-hit, where most houses of Muslim families were looted and burned.
Haji Hashim Ali, secretary of the Madina masjid management committee said that the mosque was blasted by using the LPG cylinder on February 25 by local men as well as outsiders. "In those days of terror, many had taken to the masjid to hide their families away considering it the safest place. But on February 25, the families managed to escape fearing even the masjid would be reduced to ashes, which they did," said Haji.
"Sixty houses, including two of mine, were burned down. By then, we had managed to send our children elsewhere to other societies. When my house was being burned, a Hindu family we know had helped me and my wife to get out of the colony. Until then, we had to settle for reading the kalma assuming that we will die," he said.
On the court case and FIRs filed, Ali said, "It has been two years since the case has been in the court, while nothing has been done on the FIRs against some locals. Not even a single person whose names are clearly written in the FIR has been arrested."
"I am a witness to all those attacks thus I had submitted details of the names of those who were involved in the crimes along with video proof from my phone showing those accused people setting the masjid and houses ablaze. However, it was very unfortunate that in one of the cases, police made me a complainant also and an accused as well alleging that I was misguiding the residents during the riots. I was behind bars for no reason for over a month," he added.
There was a hearing on Wednesday, but Ali said that the court has deferred the case yet again. The mosque and the houses which were burned down have now been rebuilt with all facilities by the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind.
Rehaan Khan, one of the auto rickshaw drivers at the Shiv Vihar Metro Station who was among the ones who managed to escape the brunt of the rioters, said, "I was in one of the lanes near the metro station when all of a sudden four men with flags came running towards me. I had to run like a speeding car that day. Two years have gone by but I thank my Allah every day without fail for saving me from those monsters."
Mohammad Muqim, another resident of Shiv Vihar whose home opposite to the Madina masjid was burnt completely, said, "Not even a plate was left at my home that day. I used to work in a factory before the riots, but afterwards the factory was shut and I was jobless."
Muqim now runs a small confectionery and a tea shop near his home to make ends meet. "Those screams of Jai Shri Ram still haunt me. I have not been able to overcome the anxiety yet. We have become extremely weak financially, emotionally and mentally," said Muqim.
Muqim’s spouse, fighting back tears, said, "Qayamat ka sa din tha vo (it felt like a judgement day)." Eleven-year-old Ilma was another young witness to the riots in Shiv Vihar.
Shying away and looking down in despair, Ilma said, "I had returned home from school that day when my mother was in a hurry gathering articles from here and there in the room. She took me and two of my brothers elsewhere telling us that our house is not safe and that we need to run!"
Ilma said, “My grandfather had himself seen our house burning down. As he entered the home, he told us, he had seen a stranger sitting on his now-charred bed and smoking. We came back home after a long time when my grandfather rebuilt it and got it painted.”