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Friday, July 20, 2018

For Rohingya, all too familiar challenge: Rising from ashes

A day before a fire broke out at 3.30 am on Sunday, The Indian Express had visited the camp to assess amenities provided by the Centre to the refugees. On Monday afternoon, college students sat with the two “zimmedars” of Kanchan Kunj, and discussed the way forward.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Published: April 17, 2018 2:19:13 am
At the temporary shelter where Rohingya refugees have been put up. (Abhinav Saha) At the temporary shelter where Rohingya refugees have been put up. (Abhinav Saha)

Standing atop ashes in a white men’s shirt and a tattered floral skirt, Sanjeeda Begum (25) scans through what’s left of her house in Kanchan Kunj Rohingya refugee camp — a day after a fire ravaged through 40 homes, burning everything in its way.

“All I could grab were my two children and my phone. My parchun ki dukaan is gutted, along with all the food, clothes, children’s books, documents, the refugee card, and photos of my parents, siblings and husband taken in Rakhine State and Bangladesh years ago… Can you even tell this was my home?” she asked. With memories of the past burnt to the ground, Begum went through what was left of her home to sell to scrap dealers for some money.

In the last 36 hours, help has poured in from various corners: the Delhi government has built a temporary shelter for the 230 residents, with blankets separating one family from the other; students of Jamia Millia Islamia have brought in packaged food, drinking water, clothes, sanitary napkins and feeding bottles; Holy Family and Apollo hospitals have sent medicines; and people have donated lungis for the men along with prayer beads.

“But where do we keep these things? There is no place… we need help in rebuilding the homes and shops we’ve lost. We are grateful for the help with clothes and grains, but we also need construction material. We are not beggars; we earn a living,” said Mohd Haroon (45).

AAP MLA from Okhla, Amanatullah Khan, who was present at the site, said, “A JCB crane will level the ground and in a few days, the homes should be ready. It’s private land, but we will help as much as we can. For now, we’ve installed a mobile toilet across the road, and food is also being provided. I have sent a request to the government about giving Rs 25,000 to each family… it should happen in two-three days.”

A day before a fire broke out at 3.30 am on Sunday, The Indian Express had visited the camp to assess amenities provided by the Centre to the refugees.

On Monday afternoon, college students sat with the two “zimmedars” of Kanchan Kunj, and discussed the way forward.

“We provided interim help but now we want to plan homes on this land itself. We will get in touch with our engineering and architecture department and raise money,” said Ehtmam Khan (20), a second-year Jamia student.

Inside the makeshift shelter, Sura (19) tried to put her five-month-old baby to sleep: “It’s very hot, she won’t stop crying. There are so many flies, and no clothes for the baby.”

Apart from college students, a group of six residents of Okhla village walked in with cash to help the residents. “I’ve never been here before but I read about it and wanted to help. We are here to identify the head of the settlement so we can donate money. They fled from genocide, they deserve our help,” said Mushir Ahmed (43), who runs an electronics shop in Okhla.

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