Muslims, have yet again been victims of the latest round of communal firestorm in the capital in more ways than one. Several in the community have common stories to tell – either the news of the death of a dear one or the frantic search for a missing relative in the aftermath of the riots.
Wailing inconsolably outside a government hospital was 65-year-old Ameena Begum, whose two children Sabina and Abdul are missing since Tuesday.
“They had gone out to meet relatives in Noida and were late while returning. Since Tuesday evening, I don’t know where they are. I have made multiple trips to Guru Tej Bahdur and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospitals, but to no avail,” says Ameena Begum.
Traumatic search, changed neighbourhoods
Sajjad Ibrahim, a resident of Farukabad in Uttar Pradesh says the attacks on Muslims on February 24 and 25 were planned in advance and that there was an attempt to vilify the entire community by heaping the blame on AAP councillor Tahir Hussain.
Hussain has been charged by Delhi police for the murder of intelligence officer Ankit Sharma.
Ibrahim’s cousin Moinuddin was killed in the riots and it took the family a while to locate the body. Ibrahim says Moinuddin had gone to Badli, but could not return to Mustafabad due to the riots. “For two days, we ran from police stations to hospitals, to locate him. Finally, his body was found at GTB Hospital. We do not know how he was killed and in which locality, but hospital staff said his body bore burn injuries and his face appeared to have been bludgeoned with bricks,” Ibrahim says.
Many relatives of victims that The Federal spoke to said the bodies had started decomposing by the time they received them as hospital authorities had not kept them in freezers.
The riots have also instantly marooned the Muslims in their respective localities. Iqbal Khan, a resident of Chand Bagh says while the riots have created a general apathy for Muslims, people in his neighbourhood have stopped talking to him and his family after his brother-in-law was killed.
“Muslims are scared to talk to us, they fear something. Hindus feel my brother-in-law was a troublemaker and so he got killed,” he says.
Shabnam, another resident of Chand Bagh area, whose husband Feroz Ali and brother Rehman are missing, complains of police indifference and non-cooperation in hospitals. “There is lack of coordination and delay in getting any information,” she says.
Question mark on govt, police’s role
Police constables deployed on streets admit that there have been instances of targeted violence. In Karawal Nagar locality, around 70 houses were set ablaze, says a policeman.
Many residents in Karawal Nagar accused BJP leader Kapil Mishra for flaring up the riots through his incendiary remarks.
“Kapil Mishra was an MLA from Karawal Nagar constituency as AAP member but he joined BJP in 2019. Even during his AAP stint, Mishra has been communal and used to talk about controversial right wing issues like Ram Mandir and Triple Talaq,” says an elderly person in the locality.
While the riots and the gory massacre put immense pressure on the Delhi police to act, several leaders in BJP’s fold have criticised the leadership for not taking acting against leaders like Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra for their provocative remarks capable enough to trigger violence. Recently, Bengal BJP leader Subhadra Mukherjee quit the party, quoting the leadership’s lack of action against Thakur and Mishra as the reason.
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“No one is taking actions against Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra. The visuals of Delhi riots have shaken me completely,” she said in Kolkata.
In more ways than one, pressure is also being built up on Delhi police to initiate actions against wrong doers.
Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, has sent a notice to Additional Police Commissioner Crime Branch and said her panel has taken “a suo-moto cognizance” on crime bring committed on women and girls during the riots. “There would be some events of assault on women,” a source said.
DCW has already ordered inquiries into cases of assault on women.
Delhi Police spokesperson Mandeep Singh Randhawa, meanwhile, said police have identified the cause of death of 35 victims in the communal violence.
According to him, there were 13 deaths due to gunshots and 22 people died due to fatal and burn injuries.
“The investigation is underway and we have called FSL teams,” police PRO said.
In some areas, members from the minority community say the ‘radicals’ among Hindus still continue their sloganeering.
“I am not scared to say that there was an overwhelming participation of a section of locals in the violence. The average Delhiite has turned into a religious bigot,” says a government employee.
In Ashok Nagar and some other parts of the city, as there was rampage and even attacks on a Masjid, there has been instance of a mob shouting ‘Hinduon ka Hindustan’.