Delhi Violence: Our homes are now detention centres, say victims

A resident stands by burned-out and damaged homes and shops | AFP

The streets of Chandu Nagar in Northeast Delhi’s Bhajanpura are rife with the smell of soot. Families who had been residing in the area have lost everything they owned with their houses. Many are flocking to their villages to seek refuge, while some are staying at the relief camps. Some of the displaced, on the other hand, are still struggling to find a shelter.

‘Homes are the new detention centres’

“Here, six families are living in one room. Can you even imagine? We owned a three-storey house in Chandu Nagar, which is now a pile of ashes,” said Shabnam pointing to the remains of the house.

This is the story of many such families who had been staying in parts of Chandu Nagar and Bhajanpura areas of Northeast Delhi belt—which witnessed communal violence last month.

Muslims—who were the most affected during the violence—are facing renewed ghettoisation, beginning with the inability to find a home.

“The rooms which used to cost approximately Rs 2,000 a month are now costing over Rs. 5000. With our homes and livelihoods destroyed, how do we afford so much rent?” questioned Arfa who had fled her home with her tw0-month-old daughter to their native village. She has returned 10 days later only to find out that nothing of their home has remained.

Amid the atmosphere of fear, enormous polarisation is evident on the ground. “The anti-CAA movement represented our protest against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act, we were protesting against the very idea of detention centres where many of us could have ended up because of our religion. Now our homes and our streets are our detention centres with nothing left of our lives,” said Salma, who is a single mother and a health professional.

She added, “I had to jump over rooftops with my disabled son to save our lives. Beyond emergency relief, we want economic rehabilitation; we want our homes and our livelihoods back.”

‘Hindu landlords not letting us back in’

Not far away from Bhajanpura, in the heart of Maujpur market, traders and tenants are bearing the brunt of polarisation on the ground. After suffering huge economic losses, many shopkeepers are alleging that their Hindu landlords are not letting them back in, to the shops that they had rented.

Speaking to NewsClick, Aftaab* (name changed) said, “I ran a chemist shop here, which I had rented from a Hindu landlord. I am now being told to look for another shop because they won’t let me back in. I lost everything in the violence and now I will have to start over. I was hoping to start with whatever I had been left with, but the shop is no longer mine. I don’t know if I will be get a place in this market.”

Many tenants also had similar stories to share. Speaking to NewsClick, Rafi* (name changed) said, “Our source of livelihood is completely destroyed. The market has majority of Hindu shop owners and their shops remain untouched. The shops which we had rented are completely gutted and we are being turned away by the Hindu landlords. We have no place to go to and we do not want to face more exclusion than we are already facing.”

First published in Newsclick.