Heading to hospital, out for work, shopping for clothes — many who were killed in last year’s riots were going about their lives when they were caught in the violence. A year later, their families can’t help but wonder if things could have been different. The third of a series that tracks families of the 53 victims.
Faizan (23),Worked at the Ghazipur animal market
On February 24, he left his house after riots broke out as he was anxious about his mother not being at home. At 8 pm, his family got to know that Faizan was injured. He succumbed to his injuries three days later.
In a video, Faizan and four other men could be seen lying injured on the ground as personnel in police gear forced them to sing the national anthem and Vande Mataram.
Faizan’s four brothers work as daily wage labourers, but the lockdown last year robbed them of a livelihood. His four sisters are married, and Faizan too was due to get married last year. His mother, Kismatoon (60), said: “I used to sleep next to him. Police bachati hai, magar mere bete ko maara hai unhone (Police are supposed to save, but they hurt my son).”
The family got compensation of Rs 10 lakh which was used to marry off the youngest son. No arrest has taken place so far and the chargesheet is yet to be filed.
Vir Bhan (48), jeans manufacturing unit
As violence broke out in Maujpur on February 24, worried family members asked Bhan to rush home at neighbouring Karawal Nagar. The father of three — a son in class II and two teenage daughters — was heading home when he was shot in the head. His body was handed over to the family after three days, his brother Mukesh said. The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation.
“The Crime Branch had called us to its office to identify the accused. But we could not recognise the men who were produced before us. So far, we have no update on the chargesheet. The incident has left the family helpless. They try to make ends meet by bringing produce from a small patch of land cultivated at their ancestral village in Bharatpur,” Mukesh said.
Ishtiya Khan (27), ran a welding unit at his house
He had left home after hearing a commotion outside when he was shot dead. His younger brother Mustaq (23) now manages the welding unit in Mustafabad, though he says demand has been low of late. The family of six, including Ishtiya’s wife and two children aged one and five, depend on Mustaq to survive. The compensation of Rs 10 lakh has been saved for Khan’s children.
“I was asleep when my brother died,” Mustaq said, tossing a welding part into a heap. He said both he and his mother now suffer from anxiety.
Salman (24), tailor
Salman’s father Sabir (50) plays two call recordings of his son informing a friend that stone pelting had begun at Shiv Vihar. “Aa raha huun,” Salman’s words ring from the phone as tears trickle down Sabir’s cheeks. “He never made it home.”
On February 24, Salman had left with his uncle but was caught in the riots around Shiv Vihar. He was shot in the head and died three days later.
Salman used to work in Mustafabad and would travel from Ghaziabad’s Loni every day. His father has set up a duster-making unit at home, where he works with his younger son. So far, three men have been arrested in the case. The family received the Rs 10 lakh compensation. “The biggest difficulty is that he was our only support, and that is gone. We used his money to buy a plot of land. We just want the people who did this to be punished,” his father said.
Deepak Kumar (32), worker in a manufacturing unit
He wanted to be back home in Bihar during Holi. On February 25, he went to Chandni Chowk with his friend Vicky to buy new clothes that he would take with him for family members. On his way back, Deepak was caught and killed by a mob in Gokulpuri. A native of Bhojpur district, Deepak left behind his wife, two daughters and a son. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.
“His wife, Sarita Devi, is in deep distress; she is yet to recover from the trauma. The family does not own any land. She occasionally works on the farms of others. Even Deepak used to do that before moving to Delhi with his brother in search of work. He wanted to come home during Holi with new clothes. Instead, his lifeless body reached the village,” said Dev Kumar, Deepak’s cousin. The family has no update on the police investigation.
Mohsin (22), generator business
Mohsin used to rent out generators for a living. His family remembers him as a hard worker who never missed a day of work. On February 25, he left his home in Noida to reach Northeast Delhi after a generator malfunctioned during a wedding reception. He was burnt to death by rioters inside his Alto car. His family first received another victim’s charred body but a DNA test conducted later on a second body ascertained Mohsin’s identity, and the family laid him to rest. He is survived by his three-month-old daughter and wife who are now taken care of by four of Mohsin’s brothers. The compensation received by the family of Rs 10 lakh will be used for his daughter’s education.
Shahjawan (25), his brother, who works in a fabrication unit in Hapur, said, “Mohsin used to scold us all the time to work harder… He never wasted time. Police have not bothered to even call us once and inform us about the investigation. We have lost confidence. We don’t think we will get justice.”
Shahid (22), auto driver
He died of a gunshot wound suffered during the riots. Married merely three months earlier, he was working extra hours to save for the new chapter in his life. “Our life is in turmoil since there is no fixed source of income. We aren’t aware of the police and legal proceedings in the case,” said Irfan, his brother.
The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government. Shahid’s wife went back to her home in Bulandshahr while his parents and brother continue to live in Mustafabad. Due to the pandemic, his brother has been in and out of jobs. Police have arrested six persons and a chargesheet has been filed.
Mohammad Shahbaz (24), welder
Hailing from Loni, he was in Karawal Nagar on February 25 for a hospital visit when he was caught in the riots. A charred body found in the same area was later identified as his. “We never found the whole body. There was just a charred body and a DNA test was performed,” said Safi Ahmed, Shahbaz’s father.
He is survived by four sisters and a brother, who reside in Ghaziabad. The Rs 10 lakh compensation by the Delhi government has provided temporary relief, but the elder son has not been able to find a permanent job so far. Five persons have been arrested in connection with the murder.
Rahul Thakur (25), preparing for CCS exams
As the riots were raging, Thakur had stepped out of his home in Brijpuri to see what was happening on February 25. He was shot in his chest, and died on the spot, just a few metres away from home. The family has received Rs 10 lakh as compensation.
Thakur left behind his parents, elder brother, sister-in-law and a niece who continue to stay in the same house. “The last one year has been very challenging. I try to distract myself by organising kirtans but my mother has slipped into depression. I have a small shop where I sell pooja samagri; that’s the only source of income. If I get a government job, life would be a lot easier,” said his brother Yogesh Thakur.
Aman (18), tea factory worker
The Seelampur resident had gone to fetch a packet of milk when he was caught in the riots and suffered a gunshot wound. “He did not know the violence was so intense and there was firing. He suffered a bullet injury in the head, doctors said he died on the spot. He was an honest worker and was not at any fault. And yet he met such an end,” said Rihana, Aman’s mother.
He used to provide a part of his earnings to fund the education of his two sisters. In Aman’s absence, his mother is providing for the family by taking up a stitching job. The family has not been able to afford a lawyer and says they have not been contacted by police for the last one year. Twelve people have been arrested in connection with the case.
Aftab, 21, welder
Hailing from Noorpur, he took up a job at a welding shop in Shiv Vihar during his study break to earn money for his sister’s wedding. “He had just started working in that shop… Since February 24 evening, we couldn’t trace him. Nearly a week later, we were asked to come to RML Hospital where we identified his body. All he wanted was to earn a little extra,” said his brother Firoz Khan.
The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi Government. He is survived by his parents and sister, who continue to live in Bijnor. The family said they couldn’t afford a lawyer, and Aftab’s parents are being looked after by relatives.
Reports by Amil Bhatnagar, Anand Mohan J, Aranya Shankar, Jignasa Sinha, Mahender Singh Manral, Sourav Roy Barman and Sukrita Baruah
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