Residents in northeast Delhi, where communal violence claimed 47 lives last week, removed nameplates from their doors during the riots in a bid to hide their identity as they moved to safer places. Shop owners too removed hoardings from outside their shops for the same reason.
A number of dark, narrow lanes deep inside Shiv Vihar, among the worst-hit areas, are empty. Similarly, many Hindu families in the area that borders Mustafabad have fled after locking their homes, while some among them took down or damaged their nameplates in a bid to hide their identity.
Deepak Rajora, who fled to his relative’s home in Ghaziabad when riots started on February 24, said, “But before running away, I took down the nameplate bearing the name of my father.”
“A few others in our lane did the same thing. Houses in one corner of our lane have been completely gutted by the fire,” the 32-year-old told news agency PTI.
In Burari, which is not far from the riot-affected northeast Delhi, Aqrab Saeed’s furniture shop is hard to find without a hoarding outside it.
“There was a large hoarding reading Iqbal Furniture House outside our showroom, but we cannot take any risk considering ours is the only Muslim-owned shop in the area,” said a salesperson seeking anonymity.
Yaqoob Malik, 55, tore off the hoarding reading ‘Malik Cloth House’ outside his shop in Shiv Vihar fearing that the mob would target it.
“My neighbour, Shiva bhai, who runs a chemist shop, scratched the ‘Om’ symbol painted on the glass door. Luckily, we did not suffer any damage,” he said.
Malik returned to his shop on Monday as paramilitary personnel stood guard nearby. “The situation is peaceful for now. People are returning to their shops,” he said. “This is how things will return to normal.”
Shah-e-Alam, 35, who runs a crockery shop in Bhajanpura, said he and his helper, Yunus, shut the power supply from the mains switch, took down the hoarding reading ‘Irfan Crockery and Plastic House’ and hid it inside the shop.
Alam said the situation remained peaceful in the area in the past six days, but shopkeepers had been wrapping up early in the evening as a precautionary measure.
Economic activity in the riot-hit areas has been hit hard. Though a large posse of paramilitary personnel has been guarding the volatile zones, most shops continue to remain shut. Burnt electricity wires dangled outside charred shops, with walls covered in soot and ash.
“Only a few shops, generally the grocery stores, are open. The big showrooms are still shut as owners are not willing to take any risk,” a shopkeeper said. Those which remain open have been wrapping up early, he said.
Abdul Aziz, who runs a small printing press in Maujpur, also took down the large hoarding that hung over the shutters the day violence erupted in the area.
“It was a targeted attack. Outsiders were involved in rioting and they knew if the owner of a shop was a Muslim or a Hindu,” he said. “I saw them with rods and bricks, I saw their faces,” he added. “Dil me se dehshat nahi nikal rahi (I am still terrified).”
(With inputs from agencies)