Idea of Plural Neighbourhood Shattered: When Two Neighbours - Mosque and Naresh Chand's House - Were Torched by Rioters
Mumtaz Alam & Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI, MARCH 05— Walking through the narrow lanes of Shiv Vihar, reported to be the worst affected neighbourhood in the northeast Delhi violence last month, one finds clear signs of the idea of plural neighbourhood getting trampled by rioters.
In several lanes, two-three houses, belonging to minority community, were targeted, looted and torched. But the rioters did not spare the two unique neighbours – Madina Masjid and Baghel House of Naresh Chand. There is nothing between the walls of the mosque and Naresh Chand’s house – they are so close and had been standing in harmony till the evening of February 25. Rioters torched both.
Naresh Chand, in 70s, was sitting on the stairs of his burnt house adjacent to the burnt mosque when India Tomorrow team reached there on March 3. While speaking, he had tears in his eyes.
“My house was torched around 5 PM on February 25. I was with my family in the house – me and my wife, my son and my daughter-in-law and their two children. When situation was growing tense, my daughter-in-law asked me to leave the house. I took my daughter-in-law and her two children and went out to a relative’s. My son refused to leave. He said if you are afraid you can go. I was telling him that people are running away as rioters were approaching. I left the house with my daughter-in-law and two children. But my son and my wife did not move. Within 15 minutes, a mob of rioters reached there and the two got trapped in the house,” said Naresh.
He said that rioters first broke the CCTVs and torched his house after looting it.
“The rioters first broke the CCTV cameras. They started pelting stones on the glass windows of my house. Luckily, my wife and son remained safe inside the house. We moved to our relative’s house. They have looted our house, all valuables and jewellery,” says Naresh and begins sobbing. His house was also burnt. On the veranda of the house, there is a torched bike of his son.
The Delhi government officials have come to his house in the last few days and noted all things and SDM filled in the compensation form. Naresh has also got Rs 25,000 as ex-gratia from the Delhi government.
Adjacent to the Baghel House is Madina Masjid, apparently the largest mosque of this neighbourhood. The mosque was torched and apparently damaged with cylinder blasts. Everything was destroyed here. Even the funeral cots on which bodies are taken to graveyard were also damaged.
Walking through lanes of Shiv Vihar, it appears it was a model neighbourhood with Hindus and Muslims living together peacefully. However, the unprecedented violence, which continued from Feb 23-25, has shattered the idea of a plural neighbourhood. In lane after lane, some houses, all belonging to Muslims, were singled out and targeted.
Nasruddin Khan lives in Gali No. 18 of Shiv Vihar. He would run business of biscuits and other bakery items on the ground floor of the house and would live on the first floor.
“The rioters first torched a marriage hall in front of my house. We were in house. The rioters then broke open our gate, looted the valuables and then torched the house,” said Khan.
His three-storey house stands completely burnt. He tells how his Hindu neighbour saved him and his family. Since the violence day, he has been staying with his family at a relief camp run by an individual Dr. Rizwan. He and his wife returned to their burnt house on March 3.
“We are just weeping to see the destruction of our house,” says he while his wife Shabana Begum sitting on the step of the house is continuously weeping.
He told that government officials have recorded his statement but he has not got any compensation amount yet.
Khan had bought the house just eight months ago. He is yet to pay remaining Rs 2 lakh to the owner of the house.
“My house is destroyed, my business is destroyed and my children have stopped going to school. I am unable to think what to do now.”
Riyazuddin and Shakeela, who also live in the same lane, have similar stories of pain to narrate.
“We were at home till 9 PM on February 25. When we felt we can’t save our lives as the rioters were attacking from three sides, then we fled the house with my wife and children. My kids were sleeping but we made them awake and ran. My house was looted and burnt at 10 PM the same day. I could not take anything. Next day when we came we found everything was torched. We have six in the family – two sons, a daughter, my mother and we husband-wife. We took shelter at our relatives’ house in Babu Nagar,” says Riyazuddin.
We Muslims and Hindus Have Been Living Together: Riyazuddin
“We come in the day to see our house. We don’t have courage to stay here in the night. The atmosphere is so frightful. We all – Hindus and Muslims – were living together. It seems some rioters were brought from outside – some 100-150 were from outside and some were from neighbouring areas,” says he whose eldest son is 15 and youngest 8 years old and all are school-going.
“We have been living here for 12 years. We never faced such situation. We have been living in Shiv Vihar for 30 years. This is the first kind of incident. We Hindu-Muslims live here together. When rioters came we all fled - both Hindus and Muslims. There was no one left. Only one elder was left at each home and rest had already left. They used petrol to torch our house. They took away cylinders. They broke the gate and looted the valuable items including cash and jewellery and then torched the house. Roughly, we have got a loss worth Rs 6 lakh,” he said.
He told us that DCP had come and noted all the things on papers and submitted the form in the SDM office.
“The government has given me Rs 25,000 and I do not know when I will get the rest amount of compensation.”
Shakeela, who had a bakery on the ground floor and would live on the first floor, says: “The rioters first threw stones from the side of Shamshan Ghat, then they started throwing bombs, our Muslim brothers could not stand and came back to homes and locked themselves from inside. We took shelter in a relative’s house but that too was burnt, then we entered into another’s house through roofs. We remained there whole night. The rioters took away jewellery and all valuable items.”
She has five daughters and two sons. She says her relative was to marry her two daughters but the rioters looted all jewellery and other items of the house.