February 28, 2020 3:02:54 am
Thursday afternoon is the first time Mohammad Azad of Azad Chicken Shop has come out of hiding to assess the damage after his shops and house were burnt and vandalised. His brothers lost a fruit shop and sweet shops, where squished oranges lay scattered on the floor. This is 10 metres from Khajuri Khas police help centre on Bhajanpura main road in Northeast Delhi.
Saying that nobody came to save him during the violence, he recounted Monday’s mob attack and how he escaped with his family, jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Saying that the fruit shop was set up by his father 45 years ago, he added: “Crores ka nuksaan hua hai. It was a wholesale business. Rs 8-10 lakh in cash and jewellery was looted… We don’t even have clothes left to wear.”
A few shops away on Chand Bagh main road stood Faizan Ashrafi, looking for documents at his burnt down shop, Ashrafi Dawakhana, set up two decades ago. “The shop had medicines worth Rs 2 crore and Rs 7 lakh in cash.” Saying that he expected more help from the authorities, he added that the only thing truly burnt in the riots was “insaaniyat”.
As DCW chief Swati Maliwal arrived in the area on Thursday, angry residents refused to let her speak, with many chanting slogans of “go away”.
When asked about an estimate of damages incurred by people, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said an assessment is yet to be made.
On Bhajanpura slip road not far away, Rakesh Sharma, an employee of Yohana automobiles, stared at two rows of burnt two-wheelers. A few metres away, a liquor shop operated by the Delhi government had been looted. Raj Kumar, the manager, said: “There is a loss of Rs 70-80 lakh… 1,800 beer bottles; the rioters used alcohol for arson.”
At an Indian Oil petrol pump that lay charred, the owner said the company will conduct a survey to assess the damage.
Between rows of burnt homes, shops and vehicles, the faultlines between people had deepened.
Dhuli Chand, owner of a pastry shop at Shiv Vihar, recalled a large crowd gathering at this shop and him running away after bringing down the shutters. He ran the shop, now vandalised, for 16 years. The far bigger loss was the murder of an employee in a godown across the road. “His body was found in the shop Thursday morning. He had come from Pauri Gharwal to work with me. Everything is gone now,” he said, breaking down. “My niece’s wedding has been called off; we are left with nothing.”
Beside his shop, two private parkings were set on fire, with at least 50 vehicles destroyed. The EDMC had gathered to clear up the mess.
Gulshan Kumar of Chawla Books Centre laughed at his own plight: “Rioters broke CCTVs… Rs 10 lakh worth of books and stationery gone… I returned only on Thursday after we got to know that media and police were on the ground, after which I gathered some strength.”
A few metres away, two schools stood side by side: DRP School and Rajdhani Senior Secondary School. Manager Dharmesh Sharma of DPR said that while classrooms were burnt down, projects and computers were looted. “Student records are gone… The mob damaged the guard’s room, pulled out his clothes to check if there was any money. His family escaped by jumping across rooftops.”
At Rajdhani school, the entrance was set ablaze but classrooms survived. Rajkumar, the guard, said not one but two mobs had targeted the school.
Outside, DCW chief Maliwal tried to meet a few locals. Here, people were forthcoming, sharing their problems. She replied: “I’m here to listen to the entire problem. Please call the 181 helpline and we will definitely come to you.”
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