Updated: March 2, 2020 7:18:19 am
The frenzied mob knew the owner of the four-storey house on the edge of the nullah was Gulzar Ahmed. In the dark of the night, as they broke open the gates of the building, ransacked its rooms and set it ablaze, up in flames were not just Ahmed’s valuables, but a remarkable tale of syncretic existence.
The shop on the ground floor, which Ahmed had rented out, was run by the family of “Panditji”, Ahmed’s friend Rajiv Sharma who passed away a few years ago.
“Arthi ki dukaan thi. Saamne samshan ghat hai. Puja samagri idhar hi se kharidte the log,” Ahmed, a retired employee of Uttar Pradesh Roadways, told The Indian Express Sunday. Less than 50 metres away, at Shiv Vihar’s Sankar Shamshan Ghat, mortal remains of a person had just been consigned to the flames.
Ahmed’s building occupies a corner plot in Gali Number 20 of Shiv Vihar Phase Seven. On Sunday, all he could salvage from the heaps of burnt debris were some documents, which he stood clutching, having wrapped them in a piece of plastic. He is now staying at his younger brother’s place in Yamuna Vihar.
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Inside the same lane, Mohammed Zakir rummaged through rubble of what used to be his home. “Idhar ek kagaz bhi nahi bacha,” said Zakir, a scrap dealer, his hands and feet blackened by soot. He has now moved to his in-laws’ house.
In the adjoining lane, Sanjeev Dikshit, employed with the Directorate of Prosecution of Delhi government, returned home to find the safe of his almirah broken and jewellery missing. In the same colony, Rahul Giri, a class 10 student, was under a thin blanket, the burn injuries on his face crying out for urgent medical intervention.
Five days after it came under the sweep of Northeast Delhi’s communal violence, Shiv Vihar resembles a war zone, its traumatised populace, narrow lanes lined with charred cars, motorbikes, strewn with shards of glass, pieces of bricks and stone, buildings with gaping cracks and fallen walls, reflecting the ferocity of the violence.
Homeowners The Indian Express spoke to pointed to the involvement of groups of men who had come wearing helmets, wielding swords and other sharp weapons.
“On Monday, even as neighbouring areas burnt, Shiv Vihar was relatively calm. On Tuesday, there was stone pelting between members of the two communities around 12 pm. A little later, we were told that cars with men carrying swords had entered the area. I did not believe that. However, things spiralled out of control gradually as stone pelting escalated. After we made distress calls, police came and took around 100-150 residents away around 1 am in the night. The arsonists then went on a rampage and torched nearly every Muslim house in the area,” said Ahmed.
The account of Naren Sharma, a neighbour, differed slightly: “Yes, there was stone pelting, but the other side started it. They hurled stones at a rally of Bajrang Dal passing through the Hindu-dominated Johripur area, on the other side of the nullah. That was the spark. After that, hordes of men wearing helmets came and indulged in vandalism. We don’t know who they were. In fact, we protected our Muslim neighbours from them. Ek haath se taali nahi bajti. Aandhi aayi, Hindu-Muslim sabko lapet mein le gayi (storm didn’t spare anyone),” Sharma.
Residents in the locality said that outsiders, including many from the nearby “Murgi Farm area”, were the perpetrators of violence.
The Indian Express also reviewed some video clips which captured a large mob on the Johripur end of the nullah, across a bridge near the cremation ground.
SDM Pradeep Tayal, who was out surveying the damage in the area with his team, said he estimates that around 50 houses have been damaged in the arson. The East MCD also deployed cranes and recovery vans to clear the area of rubble, debris and mounting piles of garbage.
“In many cases, we are not being able to even identify the house owners as most of them have left and in some cases, the buildings are burnt. Even electricity meter boxes are charred,” said Tayal, who is in charge of Shiv Vihar and Johri Nagar.
Residents present in the area filled damage claim forms handed out by the administration. Many including Zakir and Sharma submitted the forms where they had to fill in a host of details, including name, address, extent of damage and “if available”, Aadhaar card or voter ID numbers.
In his complaint to the SHO of the Kamal Vihar extension police station, Zakir wrote: “A mob of more than 500 people were attacking my neighbourhood, throwing petrol bombs. The mob threw petrol bombs inside my house and exploded gas cylinders. When I returned on March 1, I found out that the mob had looted my house, stolen money and property worth many lakhs and completely burned down my house.”
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