‘We Fought Rumour Mongering Post-Communal Violence’

Ashok Kumar, 48, a home guard posted as a bus marshal with Delhi Transport Corporation, took leave from work to go on a peace ride in riot-affected neighbourhood with a Muslim friend

I was unable to sleep for several nights during the time when communal violence was taking place in my neighbourhood (Yamuna Vihar in northeast Delhi). I kept thinking about the people who lost their lives, homes and their livelihoods in the mindless violence. This was particularly heartbreaking for people like me who spent their lives with Muslim neighbours in peace all my life. There can’t be anything more devastating for a city like Delhi where Hindus and Muslims live together for centuries.

I therefore took a day off and accompanied my neighbour Yusuf in a bike ride to the riot-hit localities. For, even after the bloodshed, some people had been indulging in rumor-mongering and this could lead to panic and further hatred among communities.

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This is why I felt it was my duty to be in the riot-hit area and send a message of peace. I stuck a poster of ‘Shantidoot’ on my shirt in the front and back and carried a national flag during the peace ride. As the board exams were postponed due to the violence, we visited some schools first so that the students can see that how communal harmony works and go home with good thoughts.

We spoke to whoever approached us and advised them to help us maintain peace in the city. I have so far gathered support of many people from both the communities. I am also asking for phone numbers of those who are interested in doing the same for the sake of peace in the country.

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I am planning to call all those interested in spreading a message of peace to ride with me in the entire northeast Delhi with a message of harmony. I will seek permission from the police and administration if required to carry on with such efforts on the streets. As soon as I get permission, I will call all those who are willing to volunteer and will roam the riot-hit localities with the message of peace.

In some of the suggestions I got from the people, one was very important. The residents of the violence-hit areas wanted to raise a community watch so that no such incidents can take place in future. I will not stop until I make sure that people are together against hatred and violence. Only common people like us suffer during such riots and our city gets defamed. I will take off from my job to do my duty for the country.

‘This e-Rickshaw Will Send My Children To Schols’

Parveen Bano is 32 and drives an e-rickshaw in Seelampur, North East Delhi, to make ends meet A single parent, Bano drives her e-rickshaw in two shifts so she can also take care of her three children. She wears a hijab that covers her face except her eyes but it is difficult not to see the steel behind the veil.

I originally belong to Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, a place where women are not allowed to have their opinions. They are taught to obey their in-laws and take care of their families all life.

I too was living such a life when one day my husband died of cancer four years ago and soon after I was left to fend for myself with three minor children. The support from my in-laws didn’t last. After your husband’s death, your value is one of a servant in a joint family. They always associate your identity with your husband’s. We were soon made to realise that we were not welcome in the house. I was unlettered and had never worked before. But I felt it was my responsibility to feed and take care of my three children with dignity.

I came to Delhi in 2016 with the help of a relative who got me a job at a garment factory. The earnings from the factory were too little to care of everyone in the house. I have two daughters and a son. I barely used to make money at the factory. The conditions were so bad that I had to beg for rotis to feed my children every day.

Amidst trying to make my ends meet, I met a woman named Suman who used to drive e-rickshaw.I asked her to teach me to drive. She no longer lives in Delhi but I will always be indebted to her for making me economically stronger that today I can even think of sending a child to school.

Being a single parent, I have to not only be a bread-earner but also a homemaker. Driving an e-rickshaw has given me the flexibility to do both. I wake up at 6 am and complete my household chores by 9 am. I cook food for my children and also drop my son to school. I then leave for my work.

I work in two shifts. I come back around 4 pm after collecting my son from school and again leave in the late evening. I work till 10 pm. Once I come back from home, I cook and complete other household chores. With a daily income of ₹600-700 that I make, I pay my rent for the vehicle as well as the house.

If the vehicle gets damaged I have to pay even that from my pocket and always owe some amount to my employer and my landlord. When demonetisation was announced I had a very difficult time and it left a huge hole in my pocket.

But now the things have improved. When it comes to facing retaliation from male counterparts, I have been lucky. Nobody disturbs me in my work. That way I have had some peace in my struggling life.

Amid my struggle, I want to ensure that I send both my daughters to school so that they do not have to beg before anyone or live a miserable life as we do now. Right now, I am capable of only sending my son to school due to the financial crunch.

Although I am usually short of money round the clock, I am happy that I have a respectable job and I am at least making my ends meet. The thought of what could have happened if I did not have this e-rickshaw is scary.

Also at Lokmarg

An e-Rickshaw and one happy migrant

—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>