Without Govt Aid, Shopkeepers of NE Delhi Rely on Good Samaritans

Many have left their shops and homes in ruin as evidence for visiting officials.

Updated16 Mar 2020, 12:39 PM IST
My Report
5 min read

The violence that ensued in northeast Delhi on the night of 23 February rendered many homeless. Shops and homes were looted, destroyed and set on fire, and 53 people were killed.

We visited Shiv Vihar and Khajuri Khas on 11 March to see how people were coping with the aftermath of the violence, especially shopkeepers who lost their livelihoods. Many who had fled to safer areas have now returned to tend to the damages caused, in hopes of rebuilding their lives and starting afresh.

Violence-Hit Shops Get Second Chance

Mukesh Kumar looks around for what is left of his shop ‘Sharma Paints and Hardware’. 
Mukesh Kumar looks around for what is left of his shop ‘Sharma Paints and Hardware’. 
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

Like many other shopkeepers, 52-year-old Mukesh shut his shop when news of violence reached him on the afternoon of 24 February. He fled along with other workers. Mukesh and his brother Ravinder returned to find the shop charred to ashes.

Mukesh has been able to clear out his entire shop. He awaits the promised government aid.

Mukesh finds his accounts ledger half burnt from the rubble.
Mukesh finds his accounts ledger half burnt from the rubble.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

Two shops away from Mukesh is Mansoor’s welding shop. The cylinders in his shops caught fire and exploded. Mansoor’s eldest son, whom we met at the shop, aspired to work in West Asia and was trying to move to Bahrain to earn a living. After the violence, his seems like a shattered dream.

Mansoor fixes his tool from what is left of his welding shop.
Mansoor fixes his tool from what is left of his welding shop.
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

As we moved to another lane in Shiv Vihar, 50-year-old Dulichand was clearing out the rubble in his shop to facilitate reconstruction. His bakery Anil Pastry Shop was looted and set ablaze on 24 February. His family lives on the floor above the shop, and they all fled immediately through the back door, abandoning both his shop and home.

Dulichand has his shop cleared for reconstruction.
Dulichand has his shop cleared for reconstruction.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)
He says that 15 fridges in his shop were taken out and then his shop was set on fire. He is currently staying at his brother’s house a few lanes away. His shop is being renovated with whatever money he had saved over the years.
A worker chips a wall in Dulichand’s shop.
A worker chips a wall in Dulichand’s shop.
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

School Comes to Life

DRP Convent School, which was vandalised and set on fire, was our next stop. Students and staff were not present in the school premises during the attack. However, benches, lab equipment, appliances, blackboards, etc were damaged. The school is currently under reconstruction.

A worker plasters a damaged classroom wall of DRP Convent School.
A worker plasters a damaged classroom wall of DRP Convent School.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

A week earlier to our visit, the school campus had soot on walls, charred books and desks, and melted lab equipment. This time the school had its walls painted over, desks fixed and new equipment set up.

A worker painting the door of a classroom.
A worker painting the door of a classroom.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)
Desks being repaired and repainted before school re-opens for examinations.
Desks being repaired and repainted before school re-opens for examinations.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)
Desks being arranged into classes that have been reconstructed.
Desks being arranged into classes that have been reconstructed.
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

On our way out we met a few students gathered at the school gates to collect their examination schedules.

Students from DRP School have come for their examination schedules.
Students from DRP School have come for their examination schedules.
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

Students had returned to school after 17 days.

A class 10 student goes through the schedule for a practical examination.
A class 10 student goes through the schedule for a practical examination.
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

Help From Other Quarters

Most shops were shut and the streets left empty in an otherwise chaotic Khajoori Khas. We came across Khalsa Aid volunteers who have been working to reconstruct shops of those affected.

Ashok Kumar’s furniture shop was completely ruined with all his products (furniture and foam) serving as fuel for the fire. His shop is currently being reconstructed by Khalsa Aid.

A worker carries concrete into Ashok Kumar’s shop that is being rebuilt. 
A worker carries concrete into Ashok Kumar’s shop that is being rebuilt. 
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)
Rubble being cleared from Faizan Ashrafi’s medical store
Rubble being cleared from Faizan Ashrafi’s medical store
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

Mohammed Yousuf, whose medical store was also destroyed in this violence, told us his shop did not have insurance. Yousuf’s wife had passed away the previous year and he’s the only one to support his children and their education.

Yousuf appeared disturbed when we met him, but was extremely grateful for the Khalsa Aid, without whom he would have given up his shop.

Yousuf stands along side his medical store being reconstructed
Yousuf stands along side his medical store being reconstructed
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

Our next stop was the Gokulpuri Tyre Market. We met Khalid Khan and Mohammed Aslam whose shops were being cleared out to facilitate construction. Khalid told us that out of the 224 shops in the market, half were set on fire and the rest looted.

Khalid Khan looks at the pile of burnt tyres gathered outside his shop
Khalid Khan looks at the pile of burnt tyres gathered outside his shop
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

Khan's shop was the only source of income for his family. His eldest daughter’s wedding is scheduled in September 2020.

“Ab mai kahan se manage karunga, 10 lakh ka loan liya tha, beti ki shaadi hai September mein (How will I manage now, I had taken a loan of Rs10 lakh, it is my daughter’s wedding in September).”
Khalid Khan, Shopkeeper, Gokulpuri Tyre Market

As we left Khan’s shop we saw that he sold the damaged goods for Rs 700 to a scrap dealer, goods that he had originally purchased for 2 lakh.

Rubble being cleared from Alsam’s shop by workers. 
Rubble being cleared from Alsam’s shop by workers. 
(Photo: Maheen Bashir/The Quint)

The shopkeepers in the market are provided aid by the Delhi Wakf Board which has promised them reconstruction.

Workers at the Gokulpuri Tyre Market working on the reconstruction of Abdullah Bukhari Mosque. 
Workers at the Gokulpuri Tyre Market working on the reconstruction of Abdullah Bukhari Mosque. 
(Photo: Sravya M G/The Quint)

Most of the shopkeepers told us that government aid has not reached them yet and they are beginning to lose hope. Many still have left their shops and homes in ruin as evidence for visiting officials. Many of the shopkeepers we approached asked us, “Kahan se layenge paise? Sab kuch toh isi mein chala gaya. (Where will we get money for the reconstruction? We have lost everything.)"

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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Published: 16 Mar 2020, 12:37 PM IST
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