At Zakir Malik’s burnt godown in Chand Bagh, puddles of roohafza syrup look disturbing. Zakir is aware of it. “Yeh khoon nahi hai! (It’s not blood),” he says.
But it could very well have been.
On February 25, when a raging mob plundered and torched his Roohafza godown, he wasn’t at the spot. “I don’t know what they would have done to me,” says Zakir. The godown was stocked with goods worth almost Rs 23 lakh, he claims. “I had taken a loan of Rs 16 lakh. I don’t know how I will repay that,” says Zakir, who started this business just a few months ago.
He was asked to not visit the godown by his wife that morning. She was unsettled by rumours of unrest in the area. “A neighbouring shopkeeper called me to inform that a crowd was trying to break into my shop. I dialed 100 immediately. To no avail. I kept calling the Khajauri Khas police station. I called the DCP also. They kept telling me they will send someone, but nothing happened,” says Zakir.
Zakir says he is not sure he will be able to rebuild his life now. “How do I repay my loan? The Kejriwal government is saying it will give us a compensation of Rs 5 lakh. How will this help us? I have five dependants on me. How will I feed them?”
‘Many Hindus too lost livelihood’
Ganesh Pandey’s fruit shop at Wazirabad main road was flanked by two other fruit shops, both owned by Muslims. For years, he would joke with his neighbours that he brought some variety to that area. But on the fateful afternoon of February 25, his shop met the same fate as the neighbours’ — it was torched.
“They didn’t care about the fact that I am Hindu. They just wanted blood,” says Pandey (45), who has incurred losses worth lakhs. His Muslim friends helped him salvaged some stock, he claims. “We were trying to save whatever we could after our shops were torched. We all helped each other,” says Pandey.
He hopes the Kejriwal government delivers on the promise of a compensation. “I have a family of seven dependants. How will I survive?” he asks.
‘We had a wedding at our house, they looted all valuables’
Dilshad Ahmed’s gutted shop stands right next to Pandey’s. The only difference is that Dilshad’s shop still has heaps of charred oranges in front of it.
The 50-year-old is trying to salvage some undamaged fruits. “They are all rotten now,” he says helplessly. This is the first day he has dared to come back, after almost a week.
“I lived right above the shop with my family of eight. But when the mob came charging, we ran away. My daughter was about to get married. We had jewelry in the house. They came and took everything away,” says Dilshad, whose family is living with distant relatives in nearby Maujpur. His home is now a charred two-room cave. “I don’t think we can live here anymore,” he says almost to himself.
When asked about his losses, he seems impassive. “Which losses are you talking about? My shop had goods worth Rs 50,000. My house had all my belongings. Now we are complete beggars,” he says.
What will he do now? “We can’t lose hope. We will have to rebuild our lives. Those of us who have lost their shops have decided to pool in money to buy fresh stock of fruits,” he says.
‘We will rebuild lives if government helps us’
Mohammad Riyaz, 33, is unwilling to give up hope. That is evident by the small heap of dried chikoos on his cart. “They look sad, I know. But I am sure they will find some takers,” says Riyaz, who runs a fruit cart on the Wazirabad road.
He has taken out his fruit cart after five days. On February 25, when his cart was torched by a rampaging mob, he didn’t have time to salvage anything.
“I just ran for my life. Thankfully, I live nearby,” says Riyaz, who used to earn around Rs 500 every day. He has five mouths to feed. “I haven’t earned anything in the past few days. We have no ration in our house. Which is why I am selling whatever little fruit I have in stock. Today, the police has given us a reprieve of 10 hours from the curfew At the end of the day, I hope to earn enough to take home a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs,” he says.
He hopes the Delhi government’s promise of compensation comes through. “But more than anything else, I hope we are assured of our safety. We will rebuild our lives if the government helps us,” he sums up.
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