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'We Still Have Nightmares': Family Whose House Was Set Afire in Delhi Riots 2020

Dinesh Yadav, the first convict in connection with the Delhi riots, was part of the mob that attacked Manori's home.

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(This was first published on 28 December 2021. It has been republished from The Quint's archives after Dinesh Yadav, convicted by a Delhi court on 6 December 2021, was sentenced to five years in jail on Thursday, 20 January 2022.)

Video Editors: Rajbir Singh, Mohd. Irshad Alam

Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya

“We used to have wooden doors… we then got iron gates out of fear,” said 71-year-old Manori, whose house was attacked by a mob, looted, and set ablaze during the northeast Delhi riots in February 2020.

The house, tucked into a lane of Bhagirathi Vihar, continues to wear its scars even after one person was convicted for being part of a riotous mob. The family had to rebuild their lives from scratch when they returned two months later.

They recall the incident from 24 and 25 February. Those present at home at the time were Manori, her daughter Sahida Begum, and two of Manori’s grandsons – Ashiq and Asif.

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Recalling the incident, Ashiq said, “It started on 24 February at around 3-4 pm when they were screaming slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’, so we thought it was a religious rally. We were not tensed at the time. At 6 pm, more crowds gathered and there were 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans again. They started saying, ‘get Muslims out of the house. We will kill them.’”

That night, the family locked their gates and stayed inside. On the evening of 25 February, the mobs returned and announced that they would attack the houses when the lights went off. The lights went off at 6:30 pm. “'If it is a Hindu, leave them, if it is a Muslim, kill them'… these were the kind of announcements that were made,” recalled Manori.

The family did not comment on the conviction, saying that they do not remember any of the faces since. All they could think of at the time was survival, added Manori.

The Conviction

On 3 March 2020, an FIR was registered based on a complaint filed by Manori. Statements were taken from her as well and her grandsons, Ashiq and Arif, who were supposed to have been present at the scene when the mob attacked the locality.

Two policemen who were in the area and had tried to curb the violence – constable Vipin and head constable Sanoj – also gave their statements. Later, Ashiq and Arif said that they had not been present when the incident took place.

While these key witnesses could no longer be used to identify the rioters or describe the incidents as they happened, their testimonies still established "the fact that their houses had been trespassed into after breaking open the locks, vandalised, robbed and then set on fire by a violent mob", the court found. The conviction was eventually based on the versions of the two police witnesses. They both identified Yadav as part of a mob that day.

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Still Torn By the Damage

Ashiq flipped through photos of the damaged house on his phone, saying that they were robbed of everything, starting from utensils and clothes to their buffalo. They used to have a dairy business but after the riots, they could not afford any more cattle. The two brothers started working in a factory, which makes parts of a refrigerator.

They said that they faced losses of Rs 5-7 lakh and were given government compensation of Rs 50,000.

The incidents of the two days had a psychosomatic impact on Sahida Begum, Manori’s daughter. She can barely get out of bed and has trouble moving around without help. Ashiq stays at home to help his mother. His brother is currently the only wage earner in the family. They were able to rebuild their home with the help of NGOs.

Manori said that Sahida was sitting behind the grill and hiding when the she saw a few young men being beaten and killed. When she saw the blood, she cried and screamed. ”Her younger son tried to calm her down and said, ‘mummy, let’s go. Do you want to get us killed… do you want to get us killed?’ She could not keep quiet. Since that day, she has been unwell,” said Manori, still glad that her children had survived.

Ashiq said that they still have dreams of that day and that whenever they hear any chaos or noise in the neighbourhood, they are immediately transported to 24 and 25 February 2020.

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