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Northeast Delhi riots, one year later: ‘Mob has no face, we don’t know his killers’

The common refrain among relatives of many riot victims: Want justice but can’t afford a lawyer, want harshest punishment for the accused but don’t know how to identify them. The fourth of a series that tracks families of 53 victims of the Northeast Delhi riots

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

The common refrain among relatives of many riot victims: Want justice but can’t afford a lawyer, want harshest punishment for the accused but don’t know how to identify them. The fourth of a series that tracks families of 53 victims of the Northeast Delhi riots.

Dilbar Negi (21), sweets shop worker

Dilbar worked in Anil Sweet Shop at Chaman Park and was returning home on February 24 when a mob of 200 surrounded him and other workers. He allegedly tried to hide in a store adjacent to the sweets shop but the mob cornered him.

“We don’t know what exactly happened but his phone was switched off on February 24 evening. We later came to know he was attacked by a mob when he was coming back from the bakery. His burnt body was found on one of the floors. It has been very hard for us,” said Devinder Singh, Dilbar’s brother.


Dilbar’s three other siblings are currently in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal and have received Rs 10 lakh compensation. Delhi Police has filed a detailed chargesheet identifying 12 accused in connection with his murder.

Hamza (25), ran a Chinese food kiosk

A resident of Meerut, he had gone to Delhi three months before the riots to earn a living. He stayed with his sister, brother-in-law and their two children in Mustafabad. Hamza went missing on February 26, and his body was recovered from a drain on March 3 with serious injury wounds to his head and face. A chargesheet has been filed and nine people have been arrested. The family received Rs 10 lakh from the Delhi government.

Hamza’s elder brother Sameer said their sister in Delhi shifted with her family to Surat, where they were earlier settled, following the riots. At Meerut, Hamza has left behind a family of seven brothers and sisters and his parents. “Losing their son has taken a massive toll on our parents. My father was diagnosed with oral cancer six months after Hamza’s death. This also led to increasing financial burdens on us, especially with our confectionary shop in Meerut facing severe losses during the pandemic. We just want the culprits to be punished,” said Sameer.

Part 1 |The 53 killed: The lives in their wake

Irfan (25), factory worker

A factory worker who cut school bags for a living, Irfan was beaten to death on February 26 in Kartar Nagar when he had stepped out to buy milk and medicines. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Irfan is survived by his parents, wife and two children. The family still stays in Kartar Nagar with relatives, but are managing life with great difficulty. “Just two-three months after his death, Irfan’s father also passed away. He was under a lot of trauma. His mother also doesn’t keep well. Whatever they earn is because Irfan’s wife is working as a tailor. Our only demand now is that we should get justice,” said his cousin Mohd Sadiq, with whom the family stays.

Monish (25), labourer

He was shot and attacked on February 25 near Dayalpur while he was on his way from Samaypur Badli, after meeting his father, and heading to Old Mustafabad, where his uncle was staying. He was taken to GTB Hospital but succumbed to his injuries on March 1. A chargesheet and supplementary chargesheet have been filed in the case. Seven people have been arrested and are in judicial custody.

Monish’s brother-in-law Mohd Sagir said the uncle and father continue to live in the same homes. At Samaypur Badli, Monish has left behind a joint family of 15 members. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Sagir said tragedy has struck the family repeatedly after Monish’s death: “His sister and nephew fell down from the terrace and sustained serious injuries. His mother, a vegetable vendor, also had an accident and fractured her hip.

Financially too, we are in a bad spot since we are all labourers. A lot of the compensation money went in Monish’s last rites and surviving the lockdown. The government should give us a job.”

Part 2 |For women left behind, future uncertain

Mubarak Hussain (28), labourer

He was shot in his chest and died on the spot in Babarpur’s Vijay Park on February 25. Hussain was staying alone in Delhi, with his family residing in Bihar’s Madhubani district. He is survived by his parents and three siblings. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation. “Nobody in my family is really in a position to earn a living. We are poor labourers. Mubarak was the sole breadwinner; I am physically disabled. My wife developed high blood pressure after Mubarak’s death. She just keeps crying or offering namaaz. Everything has changed in our lives,” said his father Mohd Ibrahim.

Vinod Kumar (51), DJ at weddings

For the Brahmpuri resident, the decision to step out to buy medicines for his grandson as violence engulfed the neighbourhood proved fatal. He was beaten to death by a mob in his own locality. Video clips of his lifeless body being dragged away to safety by his son, Nitin Kumar, were widely circulated at the time.

A year later, Nitin, who also suffered severe injuries during the violence, is a broken man. “Compensation for his death has been given. But we have not received a single penny for the injuries I suffered. My motorbike was set afire by the mob. No compensation has been extended for that loss,” said Nitin, who stays with his wife, children and mother.

Jamil Qureshi (30), private job

A resident of Mustafabad, Jamil has left behind his wife and two daughters aged two and five. Naseem, Jamil’s brother-in-law, said the wife, Shahnaz, now stays with her family, alleging that the in-laws took away her jewellery and money after Jamil’s death. “The Rs 10 lakh compensation was issued in her name so that remains with her. But she has to raise her daughters and take care of herself with this amount. The younger daughter is unwell and needs medical attention as she can’t walk properly,” said Naseem.

The family said a lawyer, whose name they don’t remember, assisted them initially but currently they don’t have any information related to the murder case.

Part 3 |One year later, the next of kin: Wrong place, wrong time

Babbu Salmani (34), auto driver

Babbu was killed by a mob near Khajuri Khas around 2 pm on February 25. He left behind a wife, who has mental disabilities, two sons, aged one and four, and a daughter aged six.

Babbu had taken his auto out when a mob caught and thrashed him and set the three-wheeler afire. “A mob has no face so we don’t know who beat him. But I had filed an FIR against unknown persons,” Pappu, Babbu’s elder brother, said.

Babbu died on February 27 at GTB Hospital. Pappu said police have verbally informed them that a chargesheet has been filed. “But we have not engaged a lawyer. Crime Branch officials were in touch till about two months back,” Pappu said. He said using the compensation from the government and assistance provided by other organisations, the family bought a house in Khajuri Khas and gave one floor for rent.

Ashfaq Husain (22), Electrician

Ashfaq had got married just 11 days before the riots. He was working as an electrician in a small shop when clashes broke out. “He was a simple, God-fearing man… He was surrounded by a mob which ascertained his identity before killing him. He was attacked with a sword and shot six times. What was his fault?” alleged Mirza, Ashfaq’s brother.

As Ashfaq’s family and residents of Baghirathi Vihar found out about his death, the first thing his father did was rush to the local temple to guard it so communal violence wouldn’t escalate. The family has received Rs 10 lakh. “Police are asking for witnesses of the crime; how can one find witnesses when he was killed by a mob,” said Mirza.

Police have arrested five persons in connection with Ashfaq’s murder.

Akib (18), student

Akib was preparing for a cousin’s wedding and shopping in Bhajanpura when he was caught in the violence. “He had no clue what the atmosphere was like after stone-pelting in Maujpur. He had gone to collect clothes when he got caught. He sustained an injury to the head and was taken to a nearby hospital. I took him to GTB hospital by which time he had passed away,” said Wasim, Akib’s brother.

Akib was the youngest of five siblings and was studying at a school in Bhajanpura.

Amin (18), daily wager

He had shifted to Mustafabad from his village in rural Hathras to earn a living, months before the riots. He suffered head injury in the violence. “For the longest time, we didn’t know what had happened to him. We tried making calls to another relative on February 26 who also could not find him. On March 12, we came to know that he had died at GTB Hospital. It was through another person that we got to see his body 35 days later. We just know he was killed in the riots…,” said Sauddin, his father (55), who rears animals for a living in Hathras.

The family received Rs 5 lakh compensation and said they couldn’t afford a lawyer.

Mehtab (20), construction worker

He hailed from Brijpuri and had gone out to buy milk when he was caught in the violence. “When Mehtab stepped out, riots had not taken place in Brijpuri and it was relatively calm. But the situation deteriorated quickly. He saw that one lane was blocked and he took another route near the house. It was there that he was caught by a mob and beaten to death. We are yet to come to terms with what happened,” said Yasmin, Mehtab’s sister-in-law.

The Rs 10 lakh compensation has been helping Mehtab’s six siblings over the past one year with their education. Five people have been arrested.

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

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