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One year after Northeast Delhi riots | The 53 killed: the lives in their wake

Northeast Delhi riots: A year on, The Indian Express tracked down their families and discovered that wounds from the violence are still fresh.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 2, 2021 1:17:23 pm
A building which suffered damage during the riots, still undergoing renovation, Wednesday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

From a 15-year-old who had gone out to buy chowmein to a 90-year-old sitting inside the safety of his home, from an Intelligence Bureau staffer killed metres from his residence to two brothers lynched not far from their doorstep — last year’s riots in Northeast Delhi left 53 dead. A year on, The Indian Express tracked down their families and discovered that wounds from the violence are still fresh, compensation has reached most but is well short of what they need and, in many cases, there’s little awareness of where the murder case stands. First of a series

Ankit Sharma (26), Intelligence Bureau staffer

He was stabbed multiple times and his body was discovered from a drain on February 26.

He is survived by his parents, brother and sister. They have now moved from their home in Khajuri Khas to a rented accommodation in Ghaziabad.

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“We couldn’t bear to stay there any longer. There were too many memories attached with bhai. The drain from where he was pulled out is just 100 metres from our home. It was giving us a lot of anxiety and my parents already have high blood pressure and sugar,” said his brother Ankur Sharma.

Ten people have been arrested. While the family got Rs 1 crore compensation from the Delhi government, a government job promised and announced by the Chief Minister has still not been given to his brother, they said.

“One year later, we are being told the job is still in process. They have said it will take 2-3 months. We want the case to be fast tracked. We also expected help from the Central government since Ankit was their employee. They just said they will name a road in Muzaffarnagar district in his name and install his statue near our ancestral village,” said Ankur.

Brothers Hashim Ali (17) and Amir (30), a labourer

On February 26. Hashim called his family on the phone and said he and his brother were five minutes away from home, when the two were targeted by a mob, which allegedly asked about their religion and beat them to death with stones, cudgel and iron rods.

Police have chargesheeted nine persons in the case and a trial is underway.

Their father, Babu Khan (57), is looking after Amir’s three daughters, the youngest born just five months ago. The family is Rs 6.5 lakh in debt, though they got Rs 10 lakh compensation.

“We did not see such communal hate in our village in Bulandshahr, where perhaps one might have expected it, but we saw it in this city,” Khan said.

Ratan Lal (42), Head constable with Delhi Police

He died on February 24 in a clash between a mob and police personnel. Seven people have been arrested for his murder.

His wife Poonam and three children aged 14, 11 and 9 continue to live in their home in Burari. “I used to hardly leave the house before, and my husband used to look after our children’s studies and our family. I had a very sheltered life. Now, even while I have to handle everything, I get very tense about leaving the home, especially leaving the children behind,” said Poonam.

The Delhi government had announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore for Lal’s family. Poonam has received 60 lakh, while his family in Rajasthan received Rs 40 lakh. However, Poonam said she has not yet received a job as a government school teacher which she had been promised by the Delhi government, and has been supporting the family with the compensation amount. She has also been demanding a certificate to declare Lal a martyr.

Akbari Begum (85), Homemaker

Begum died on February 25 inside her family’s home in Gamri when a mob set it on fire. The sole woman to have died in the riots, her charred body was found inside the family home. Six people were arrested for her death.

She used to live with her son Mohammad Saeed Salmani, his wife and three children. With their four-storey property burned down, the family of five now live on rent in a one-room flat in Kachi Khajuri paying Rs 5,000 per month. One of his daughters is in class X and the other in XI. Last March itself, he removed them from the private school in which they studied and enrolled them in a government school. He said that while his family received the Rs 10 lakh compensation, distributed among his seven siblings, from the Delhi government, they were found ineligible for the 5 lakh compensation per floor of his house due to a loan insurance with his bank.

“I used to run a garments factory from my house and when it burned down, I suffered a loss of around Rs 5.75 crore. Since I have lost that, I have been unable to restart my business and am losing hope that I’ll ever be able to,” he said.

Parvez (48), Businessman

He died on February 25 from a gunshot injury to the chest. He is survived by his wife and three sons, and the eldest, Sahil (26), said that he is now the sole earner for the family with a “showpiece” business. The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government and they continue to live in their home in Ghonda, near which Parvez had been shot dead.

“My mother does not want to live here but I’ve been pushing for us to continue staying here because this is our home, we were born here and have always been here… Lots of things got disrupted last year, including my plans to get married,” said Sahil.

Yusuf (52), Carpenter

He was attacked on February 25 while returning to his home in Mustafabad from Noida, where he had gone for work. He left behind seven children, his wife and mother. His family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.

“Our brother Suleiman had also been badly assaulted by the mob which had killed our father. We thought we would get some additional compensation due to that but we haven’t… Now two of us brothers are working to support the family, including my own family with a son. I do welding work in Paharganj,” said Azruddin (29), Yusuf’s son.

The family continues to live in their home in Mustafabad. “Where else would we go? What happened was about five kilometres away from our home. We feel our immediate neighbourhod is safe because all the families here are Muslim,” he said.

Sharif Khan (90)

He choked to death when his family home in Shiv Vihar was set ablaze. The rest of the family ran out but he was too old to do so. The family, comprising his wife, son Mohammad Azeez, and Azeez’s five children, continue to live in the home which they have renovated. They have received the compensation of Rs 10 lakh from the Delhi government. “I support my family by working as an autorickshaw driver,” said Azeez.

Anwar Kassar (58), animal caretaker

He died in a blaze on February 25, and his family initially had difficulty in identifying his charred body. He lived in Shiv Vihar near his brother Saleem’s home, and looked after some goats at an adjacent plot. He left behind two daughters who have received the Delhi government’s compensation amount.

Saleem and his family, including five children, no longer live in their Shiv Vihar home and live on rent in Mustafabad. “My home had been set ablaze, as well as two autorickshaws, a rickshaw, two cars and a workshop I had. I have received Rs 2.25 lakh as compensation for that while my losses amounted to about Rs 80 lakh. Since I lost everything with which I earned my livelihood, I now do whatever odd job comes my way,” he said.

Suleiman (22), Blacksmith

He went missing on February 25 and his brother identified his body three days later in GTB Hospital. While the rest of his family, comprising his mother, two brothers and two sisters, lived in their village in Hapur, Suleiman travelled to Delhi when work was available and stayed in Karawal Nagar. The family has received Rs 10 lakh.

“He was the primary breadwinner since he earned in Delhi. They don’t have any land and the other brothers are earning by working on other people’s lands,” said Mohammad Javed, their neighbour.

Naresh Saini (32), vegetable vendor

The father of two, a five-year-old son and a daughter aged seven, succumbed to bullet injuries on March 4 at GTB Hospital. He was shot in front of his residence at Brahmapuri during the early hours of February 25. “A large mob had attacked our locality. Many people had come out to defend the area otherwise we would have been killed. During the violence, he received gunshot injuries,” Rajiv Saini, Naresh’s elder brother, said.

The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation, but that is too little to compensate for the loss, Rajiv said. “How long will the family be able to sustain with that amount? They have their entire lives before them. He had even taken a loan to construct a house. The wife should be at least provided with a job,” the brother, employed with a private firm, said.

Many streets in Northeast Delhi are now gated after the riots in February last year. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Ayub Ansari (60), Scrap collector

He died on February 28, with his son Salman saying he had been beaten to death in Shiv Vihar when they had ventured out to work. The family lives in Loni, Ghaziabad. Rizwan, a friend, is currently caretaker to 19-year-old Salman who continues to work as a scrap collector. Salman has not yet received compensation.

“There have been paperwork issues because Salman did not have documents. There have also been issues with establishing relations in the family. Ayub and Salman’s mother had divorced many years ago. Then Ayub had lived with another woman, with whom he had also separated. Neither of them have been in touch with the boy since the incident,” said Rizwan.

Maruf Ali (32), electrician

He was shot dead near his residence on the night of February 25, leaving behind a wife, a son aged eight and a 10-year-old daughter. He had gone out to check on his shop, said Haroon Ali, 42, his elder brother.

The family has received Rs 10 lakh. However, they said, the police investigation into Maroof’s death was riddled with gaps. “I named six to seven men while filing the FIR. But the chargesheet has six names, including that of four Muslims, that I did not mention in my complaint at all. The real culprits are in our neighbourhood and they have not been acted against. We were last called by the SIT in May and since then we have not heard from them,” Haroon alleged.

Dinesh Kumar Khatik (34), Private job

A resident of Karawal Nagar, he was killed in the violence on February 26. His elder brother Suresh said Dinesh, who left behind a wife, two sons aged eight and two, and parents, succumbed to bullet injuries. The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

“He was out to fetch milk for his children. As shops were closed in the area, he walked up till Mustafabad, where he was caught in the violence. We have no update on the police investigation,” Suresh, who runs a utensil shop, asked.

Firoz Ahmed (35), Garment altering

A resident of Ghaziabad’s Loni, which borders the Northeast district, Ahmed’s body was found in a drain at Khajuri Khas on March 9, two weeks after he went missing. Ruksana Bano, his wife, said Ahmed was the lone earning member of the family. “He worked at a garment manufacturing unit at Chandni Chowk,” Bano said. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.

“I will have to raise five children, aged between three months and 15 years, on my own. I was pregnant with our fifth child when Ahmed passed away. I have named the baby girl Feroza to keep his memory alive,” Bano said. She said the family received legal assistance during the initial months, but the lawyers gradually “stopped coming”. “A witness named five accused in the case but the police did not act. We have shared our account with the media countless times over the last few months but it seems futile now,” she said.

Nitin Kumar (15), Student

Nitin had left his house at Gokulpuri on February 26 to buy chowmein, though his family had told him not to venture outside. He died after allegedly being hit by a teargas shell.

Nitin’s father drives a battery rickshaw, working as a transport goods carrier. His son would occasionally help him out. The family survived the pandemic after some neighbours helped out with the rent.

The family got Rs 5 lakh compensation — an amount his father said is barely sufficient since Nitin also contributed at work. His elder sister Pooja (20) regrets not being more assertive with Nitin that day. “We had told him not to leave the home since things were getting heated up. He was a rebellious kid and the apple of our eye,” Pooja said.

Reporting by Amil Bhatnagar, Anand Mohan J, Aranya Shankar, Jignasa Sinha, Mahender Singh Manral, Sourav Roy Barman & Sukrita Baruah

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