A Chilling Past, an Insecure Future: How Delhi Riots Scarred Kids

Traumatised by the 2020 Delhi riots, children are trying their best to return to studies.

Updated
Education
2 min read

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Camera: Athar Rather

“Life was fine before the incident. But ever since our father passed away, everything became worse for us,” laments Tina, while the cold December sweeps past the 16-year-old sitting in her humble abode in Uttar Pradesh’s Loni.

Employed as a scarf maker in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, Tina’s father Firoz was allegedly beaten up by a mob, during large scale communal violence that had broken out across Northeast Delhi in February 2020.

While the news of her father’s brutal injuries had plunged the family into a well of darkness, what unsettled them the most was the 15-day period, during which they had little idea of their father’s condition.

Private Education a Dream in Father’s Absence

And when the family finally heard about their father, it wasn’t what they had been expecting to discover.

“We learnt that our father had been beaten up by a group of people and has taken shelter at someone’s place. For 15 days, we kept on looking for him in hospital mortuaries, but he was nowhere to be found. After 15 days, his corpse was recovered from the sewer.”
Tina

The family’s sole breadwinner gone, Tina and her family were left in emotional and financial ruin. While the Class 9 student continued to study online at the Delhi government school throughout the lockdown period, her siblings could not afford private education and had to drop out.

“My father’s absence is affecting our studies. Earlier, all five of us would take tuitions, but now that has stopped. We have to think twice before spending money,” says Tina, who still gets nightmares of the violence that had unfolded early in 2020.

Lost A Father And A Mentor

When Anas pleaded his father to not visit the family’s small bakery in violence-hit Northeast Delhi, the latter promised that “he would return soon.” But as horrific details of unrest emerged, the 16-year-old shivered at the thought of his father getting caught in the crossfire.

Anas’s father, Jamaluddin was allegedly killed by a mob that also snatched away his only English mentor. Deeply upset at his father’s demise, the Class 6 student did not eat for two days.

With no money left for private schooling, Anas had to drop out of school and man his maternal uncle’s grocery store.

“Had the violence not taken place, I would have been at the school now and not man the shop. Had riots not happened, my father would have been alive.”  
Anas

Anas and Tina’s family had lost all hopes of education when a group of lawyers, doctors and scholars came together to set up, Miles2Smile, an Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) that among other things established a free school for riot victims.

Aasif Mujtaba, the Founder of Miles2Smile says that through an initiative called Shaagrid, the NPO has enrolled over 170 students in their free school.

While Tina and Anas are hopeful about moving ahead in their lives, they doubt whether they will ever be able to forget what they saw during the unrest.

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