‘Over 100 People Stayed In My 500sqft House, Slept In Shifts’

Mohammad Hakim, 45, supplies jute bags to shops in Delhi for livelihood. During northeast Delhi communal violence in February, he provided shelter and safety to over 100 victims at his humble house in Chandu Nagar

It was something I have not seen in my lifetime. We migrated to Delhi from Khagariya district of Bihar 20 years back and since then we have been living here peacefully. We never thought such level of communal violence will ever happen here. On the intervening night of February 24 and 25, houses of my relatives was attacked and shops were set of fire. They called me for help.

My wife went there and saw some police personnel escorting my relatives and scores of other residents of the area, houses of whom were attacked by mobs with stones and petrol bombs. The cops left the rescued people in my lane. As my relatives entered my house, scores of others also pleaded for a shelter for some days. These people included women and young children.

Suddenly there was commotion towards the main road. I realised that stone-pelting had started once again. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt so I asked them to immediately enter my house.

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There were 98 people in all including children. All of them managed to find space in my small house for four days. We didn’t have space to sleep for all of us; so we slept in shifts. I had some ration at my kitchen and it all got over in just two days. There was no milk for children so I requested my neighbours to help.

Even in these difficult times, people helped. My neighbours provided food and milk for the sheltered and their children. I remember not sleeping for four nights due to fear. Riots and clashes continued just two lanes ahead of my house. I was afraid that if anyone came to know that I had given shelter to nearly 100 people, their lives could be in danger. So several of us stayed awake during nights and kept a watch on the lanes.

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The violence continued for four days and then abruptly stopped. Some of those who had taken shelter into my house, went to see their houses and found them burnt and looted. Their shops were also gutted. Hence, they came back and are still staying at my place.

I have a two-storied rented accommodation of 500 square feet. On the ground floor, I have a small workshop and godown and on the first floor, I have two small rooms, a kitchen and a washroom. It was all full for four days with no space to even walk. In the huddle, there was fear for an uncertain future. Most of those who had taken shelter were daily-wage labourers and vendors. Their livelihoods were completely lost in the violence. They have to feed their children; I don’t know how they will survive.

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I am now trying to help these people to get government compensation. There are children who have to appear in the board exams. I have been buying newspapers for them so that we get all verified information about state measure for the riot-affected and holding of exams. God knows for how long these people will stay. I am getting help from my neighbours and other people to feed them. I just hope this never happens again. Both communities have suffered loss of life and property. The government must not allow such horrific thing to happen again.

‘Bloodshed Forced Me To Come Out On Street With A Tricolour’

Mohammad Yusuf, 40, a resident of Yamuna Vihar in riot-hit northeast Delhi, felt devastated after watching the bloodshed and violence on TV channels. He decided to visit the affected localities with a Hindu neighbour to spread the message of peace

Yamuna Vihar is a mixed colony, with Hindus and Muslims living next to one another. We never saw each other from the view of one’s religious identity. The three-day violence on the streets so close our colony left me pained and heartbroken. This was not how we had grown up in our mohalla. I just could not sit at home watching the clashes on TV and feel safe.

I felt just as the rioters, peace-loving locals will also need to come out and counter the violence and stem the ill-feelings and hatred from spreading further among the community. We are Indian citizens first. If one tries to harm a person in his neighbourhood because of his religion, he or she will be ending up harming the fabric of India.

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I decided to visit the riot-hit areas on my bike with a Tricolour and a message of peace. I was accompanied in this by my neigbour Ashok Kumar, who felt equally revolted on the issue. We felt it as our duty save our home, that is our country, and our foremost challenge was to stop rumor-mongering in the area. Usually, small bit of misinformation and unverified message can fan violence in such times.

I must admit that my family members were a little concerned but our Hindu neighbours assured them that they will be the first to protect me from any untoward incident. I went to schools, areas where violence tool place, shops and houses that were torched and met the victims. People clicked photos with us. Students went home with a message of peace and love. It was a long day but I felt proud. This is what I always wanted to do.

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There is no religion bigger than humanity. We must understand the fact that if we don’t take care of each other, the world will not respect us. It is time for all communities to come together to fight the hate and rumor-mongering. I am worried about the children, they have seen and felt what they weren’t supposed to. They are our future, and our country’s future. Their minds are fragile and impressionable; they must be protected from harbouring hate.

Homeguard Ashok Kumar and Mohd Yusuf

During my visits, I saw many personal losses and tragedies from a close view. It had set in a sense of hopelessness. But we now have to look forward and ensure that this will never happen again, at least not under our watch.

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I next want to setup a community watch group and invite people from all sections to join it. Such steps can identify the troublemakers and report them in time. For now, however, I am continuing with meeting the victims, listening to them and spread the message of peace. Hatred must not have any space in our society.