2 Lakh for Damaged Eyes: The Price of Delhi Riot Victims’ Loss
Delhi Riots: The Quint speaks to victims, both Hindu and Muslim, about their lives after year of 2020 Delhi riots.
“Doesn’t matter how much I get from the government. Nothing is left in life without eyesight”Mohammad Wakil, Delhi Riots’ Victim
Most of us remember the February 2020 Delhi riots as a tragic series of incidents. But those directly affected by the violence found their lives altered irreparably, dealing with loss of life, loss of limb, loss of dear ones, loss of livelihood.
While no amount of compensation money can turn back the clock, The Quint found that some of those affected by the riots, have either received inadequate compensation, and in some case, none at all.
The Quint met riot survivors suffering serious medical conditions, along with their family members, from across communities. The aim was to understand how the riots changed their lives, and how the struggle for a fair and timely compensation has only further stripped them of dignity.
‘I Will Never Have Normal Eyesight’
While recollecting the fateful night when violence broke in North-East Delhi on February 2020, 52-year-old Mohammad Wakil says “it doesn’t matter how much I get from the government. Nothing is left in life without eyesight.”
A rioter threw acid on his when Wakil was peeping out from his residence’s gate to access the magnitude of the violence. Considering the risk, Wakil and his family were forced to leave home. They managed to take shelter in a nearby masjid.
“When the Masjid was gheraoed by rioters, we lost hope. I could see nothing after the acid attack. We didn’t even touch the water tap fearing the rioters would know we were inside the masjid.”Mohammad Wakil, Delhi Riots’ Victim
When they felt that masjid is unsafe, Wakil, who was in excruciating pain, moved out post mid night to reach a nearby hospital for treatment. The family got separated in a park due to chaos and violence. Wakil along with his elder son, somehow managed to reach a government hospital after 12 hours of acid attack.
“Doctors saying my eyesight might return, but will not be normal. But I will be able to recognise a person. My life was peaceful before the riots. As we talk, I can only hear you. I can’t see you.”Mohammad Wakil, Delhi Riots’ Victim
Wakil got Rs 2 lakh compensation from the Delhi government. He has applied for his compensation to be raised to Rs 5 lakh. The matter is pending since August 2020.
The three main categories of compensation announced the Delhi government for Delhi riots victims were:
- Rs 2 Lakh for serious injury
- Rs 5 Lakh for permanent disability
- Rs 10 Lakh for death
Wakil’s elder son had to leave studies to run grocery shop for earnings and take care of his father’s treatment.
“I hoped to start a business after class 12, but could not complete my studies. Our grocery shop used to make a profit, but not anymore. We don’t have much to sell.”Mohammad Shamim, Mohammad Wakil’s son
The family stayed in a rented house for almost a year because Wakil’s house and shop were burnt down by the rioters. Their house and shop were rebuilt with the assistance of NGOs.
Though the grocery shop has reopened but does not give enough business to run the house.
“Government should give me the compensation I deserve. My husband was the sole earner. Every hospital trip costs us around Rs 1000. His medicines cost between around Rs 1000-2000.”Mumtaz Begum, Mohammad Wakil’s wife
‘I am Bedridden Ever Since I was Shot’
On 24 February 2020, 17-year-old Mohammad Akmal (name changed) got shot when he was returning home. For the past one year he is bedridden. He has no sensation in his legs.
“On 24 February I was in Kasabpoore. When I was returning, around 3.30 pm, I got shot near my house at a crossing. I felt an electric sensation in my legs and fainted on the road. When I woke up, I was in an operation theatre.”Mohammad Akmal, Delhi Riots Victim
Doctors are not sure whether Akmal will ever walk again. His younger brothers take care of and help him in doing leg exercise as guided by physiotherapists.
“Due to exercise, I can now sit on the bed briefly. There is no other progress.”Mohammad Akmal, Delhi Riots Victim
Akmal wanted to become an engineer but he had to stop studies due to his medical conditions. He loved going to school and assist his parents in their business. But his life has changed for worse after Delhi riots.
Akmal’s family received Rs 2 Lakh compensation from the Delhi government but the family hopes to get Rs 3 lakh more from the government.
“He studied, and helped me at work. Now he’s totally bed ridden. I wanted him to pursue higher education, become an engineer. I thought that with education he could help me in business also.”Mohammad Akmal, Delhi Riots Victim
‘Daughter Still Cries Seeing her Father’s photo’
“My husband would be alive today if he had not left home that night. My daughter still cries on seeing her father’s photograph.”Guddi, Lokman’s widow
44-year-old Lokman, a resident of North-East Delhi, was brutally beaten by the rioters while he was returning home. He was admitted in the hospital by the police.
“My husband had injuries from head to toe. His spine was damaged. In hospital, his body was covered by a thin plastic sheet. He was bedridden. Doctors said they could operate on him, but there was a risk that he might not survive.”Guddi, Lokman’s widow
Lokman’s wife Guddi received Rs 20,000 as compensation from the Delhi government when was undergoing treatment in the hospital. She even applied for compensation under ‘injured’ category. But she did not receive more money.
Lokman was discharged after a month’s treatment but he continued to be bedridden.
“His condition stayed bad even after he left the hospital. Often he would scream, “They are hitting me, they are hitting me with a belt!”Guddi, Lokman’s widow
Lokman passed away after 4 months of illness in June 2020. His name is not listed among the 53 killed in Delhi riots.
“My son and I went to the police station several times, begged them to register a complaint. But police said, may have registered it earlier, but now it is too late.”Guddi, Lokman’s widow
After Lokman’s death, his 19-year-old son was compelled to take up job. Guddi had to leave her job because she had to take care of her differently-abled daughter.
Guddi plans to file a petition in the court for death compensation which is Rs 10 lakh to secure her children’s future.
‘Compensation Money Will Help Me In Starting Small Business’
Mohammad Zakir, a tailor, was brutally beaten by the rioters when he was returning from his factory. He fractured both his arms, legs and broke his jaw.
“On 26 February, we left the factory in the morning. Just a little ahead rioter stopped us. They asked my name, demanded an ID. I did not have my ID. They checked my phone call details.”Mohammad Zakir Ansari, Delhi Riots Victim
Zakir was admitted in the hospital by the Delhi police. An FIR was also registered in this matter. He was discharged from the hospital after a month’s treatment. Zakir and his family left for his village as had no source income in Delhi due to COVID-19 lockdown.
But before leaving the National Capital, his family applied for compensation which got rejected. After coming back to Delhi in December 2020, he has once again applied for compensation.
Zakir does not have tailoring job as his physical condition does not allow him to sit in one place for long.
“I can’t eat any solid food. My legs hurt when I walk. A tailor has to paddle the sewing machine for long hours. But I can’t sit for long.”Mohammad Zakir Ansari, Delhi Riots Victim
An NGO is financially supporting him but he says Rs 2 lakh compensation from the Delhi government will help him in at least starting his own small business.
“I was almost dead. God forbid, riots ever happen. If anything happens to me, who will look after my children?”Mohammad Zakir Ansari, Delhi Riots Victim
‘Life Has Changed For Worse, No Job, No Health’
Journalist Akash Napa was hit by a bullet while reporting on the riots for a private news channel. The bullet is still stuck inside his body. But even in ailing condition, he continued to work for the channel. But unfortunately, he was fired in February.
“Ever since the bullet injury, I’ve faced lots of problems. I need constant medical attention. I have now lost my job as well.”Akash Napa, Delhi riots victim
Doctors have refused to remove the bullet from his body as it could damage his organs. Akash left Delhi in March 2020 after he was discharged from the hospital. He is currently living in Hisar in Haryana with his wife and a year-old son.
“My health started deteriorating after I was hit with a bullet. Doctors advised me to leave Delhi because COVID-19 was spreading fast in Delhi (in February-March 2020). They said that if at all I get infected with the virus then it could be dangerous for my health.”Akash Napa, Delhi riots victim
Akash received Rs 2 lakh as compensation from the Delhi government but most of it was spent in his treatment. With no job in hand, he is struggle to meet his financial needs. “The Delhi riots have changed my life completely. I am living in terrible conditions,” he said.
He will be filing a petition in the court with the plea to raise his compensation money to Rs 5 lakh.
‘Bullet Is Still Inside Me, I Can’t Work Or Study’
22-year-old Mohammad Gufran was hit with a bullet in the chest when he was standing in the balcony during riots. He immediately crawled down inside his home and was taken to the hospital. Since the bullet was close to his lungs, the doctors did not take it out.
“The bullet is still inside my body. Doctors say even a small movement of the bullet can kill me. They have refused to take out the bullet because it might damage my lungs.”Mohammad Gufran, Delhi Riots Victim
Later, the rioters ransacked and robbed his residence. Gufran applied for compensation to the Delhi government but he has not received any money yet.
“(I feel pain) in my shoulders and head. I can’t walk for long. My spine pains after sitting for just a few minutes. When my health improves, I’ll get back to studies and work and earn as well.”Mohammad Gufran, Delhi Riots Victim
Gufran’s health condition has forced him to quit studies. He is also unable to work.
53 people were killed and hundreds were injured in 2020 Delhi riots. Delhi government has claimed that it has distributed compensation worth over Rs 26 crore. Then why have many like Gufran and Zakir not received a paisa?
Why have many like Akmal and Wakil not got what they deserve?
The Quint has written to the Delhi government for their comment. We will update the article as and when we receive their response.
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