‘Rioters Knew Victoria School Is Owned By A Muslim’

Anil Bhardwaj, 45, along with several Hindu families in Brijpuri, jumped in front of rioters to save Victoria Public School, owned by a Muslim, from being set ablaze

I was born in this area, Brijpuri, and I saw this school (Victoria Pubic Senior Secondary School) constructed in front of my eyes. On February 24, this school was attacked by a group of rioters who wanted to burn it down. The school was probably attacked because the rioters knew that it belonged to a Muslim. Twice they tried to burn this temple of learning down but both times they were pushed away by the Brahmin families living in the neighbourhood.

When the rioters first came to the school on February 24, they first targeted two buses parked in front of the school and set them on fire. Next, they hurled stones at the school, shattering all the windowpanes. Not satisfied with it, they wanted to jump inside the premises and set it on fire.

ALSO READ: ‘Over 100 People Took Shelter In My House’

As soon as I heard the commotion, I gathered people from the area and rushed to save the school. There were about 15-20 rioters and we were about 50 people. As we confronted the rioters, they fled. I made repeated calls to the fire department but all in vain as the fire tender was also hit by stones. We somehow managed to save half of one of the buses by dousing the fire with buckets of water brought from our homes.

The rioters returned on the night of February 25 and managed to break inside the school from the back door. They torched two cars parked inside the school and started breaking the locks of the classrooms. The security guard of the school cried for help and we rushed towards the school. As we outnumbered the rioters, they were chased away.

WATCH: ‘Left With Only The Clothes I Am Wearing’

We rushed to douse the vehicles on fire but they were by now completely damaged. Thankfully, the guard raised an alarm on time and we managed to avert further damage. Had the classrooms been torched, we would have felt really bad as it will be very difficult to conduct board exams in burnt classrooms. I don’t know what the rioters were thinking attacking a school.

There is no excuse for violence. No matter who owns the school, it is the responsibility of the residents of the area to save it. I would like to urge people to act together against violence. It doesn’t matter for us whether it is owned by a Muslim or Hindu. I did what I was supposed to do. Had the school was burnt, it would have brought bad name to our locality.

If we start working together like this, we can save the entire country from communal violence. A majority of residents of this area are Brahmins and they worked together to save the school from rioters. This is how the country works. We shall show love and compassion to each other to make our society strong.

ALSO READ: State Riot Machine At Work

I just hope I don’t see such violence again. I am worried about the owner of the school. He has faced too much damage to his property. We have assured them that we will save the school from any attempt of vandalism.

‘Bleeding From Gunshot Wound, I Was Taken To Hospital On A Bike’

Bhavya Gautam, a 27-year-old lawyer, in Brahmpuri, northeast Delhi was hit by a bullet when he along with local youth tried to stop a mob from attacking a local temple

I lost my mother at a young age and was raised by my maternal uncle, Shankar Lal Gautam. My uncle tells me that our family shifted from Haryana to Brahmpuri in 1962. I was born here and have always considered Brahmpuri as home. Even the bullet that I received in my stomach on February 25 during communal riots is not going to change that.

Till a few weeks ago everything in Brahmpuri was normal. Peaceful life, friendly neighbours and life as usual. Then we heard about protesters occupying the area near Jaffrabad Metro station to create a Shaheen Bagh-style demonstration (on February 23). Brahmpuri is less than a kilometre from the protest site and as traffic issues cropped up due to the protest, the ripples reached our area too.

Things flared up on February 24 around 10 am and by the night, things had taken a scary turn. What started as a fight between pro- and anti CAA protesters soon took a communal colour. Our mohalla also became tense after news of a fight near Maujpur Metro station reached us. We were already taking preventive measures like guarding the entry points to our colony and keeping an eye on outsiders since morning. However, a mob still managed to reach a temple near my house and started throwing stones at it.

ALSO READ: ‘People Ask Us If We Save Only Hindus Or Muslims’

As local gathered to counter the mob, they took out firearms and shot at us multiple time to scare us away. Several of those trying to protect the temple go injured. I was also hit in my stomach. Thankfully, unlike as reported by other riot-hit areas, police reached our colony within 10-15 minutes of our making a distress call.

My friends were worried at my condition and one of them rushed me to Jag Pravesh Hospital (Shashtri Park, East Delhi) on a bike. I was bleeding during the journey but held on. Thankfully, we didn’t meet any mob or obstructions on the way. After initial treatment, I was referred to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital at Dilshad Garden.

Shankar Lal Gautam (left) is thankful that his nephew Bhavya Gautam is safe

The hospital was already reeling under a rush of injured. Each of the bed was shared by two, even three victims for treatment. I was writhing in pain but there was not enough space to even turn on the bed. I kept on pleading with doctors to either discharge me or give me a proper bed as I had a bullet injury. Irked they discharged me but tagged my status as an “absconder”. Since I am an advocate myself I know how serious this charge can be and I have put in an RTI application to know why this happened.

ALSO READ: 1984 To 2020: State Riot Machine At Work

It has been nine days and I am just about beginning to put back the pieces of my life together. Let’s hope my ordeal gets over soon and life gets back to normal for everyone.

(At the time of this copy being uploaded, Bhavya’s uncle Shankar Lal Gautam who has access to the CCTVs in the area has been watching the footage minutely to observe if they can identify anyone from the attackers. The residents are weary and hurt but not scared. Gautam feels it will take a long time before life gets back to normal again in the area but he has faith in God.)