How a Delhi Muslim Family Found Shelter in Hindu Neighbours’ Home

Ali Mohammad told The Quint that despite calling the police several times for help, no one came to rescue them.

Published28 Feb 2020, 02:25 PM IST
India
4 min read

Video Editor: Varun Sharma/Ashutosh Bhardwaj

  • Reporter: “Sir, please accompany us, we don’t know this area at all.”
  • Delhi Police: “Ma’am, I am telling you. Go this way, then take a right.”
  • Reporter: “Sir, please understand the situation.”

The Quint’s journalist requested police to accompany Siraj, an auto-rickshaw driver, in rescuing his sister and her family who were stuck in their residence in violence-hit northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar since 23 February.

But police did not agree to come with Siraj. Finally, The Quint’s journalist decided to go with Siraj themselves.

The first challenge was to reach the family’s house as neither of us knew the way to Siraj’s sister’s residence. And police was not present in the interior galis of Karawal Nagar.

Police Did Not Come to the Galis of Karawal Nagar: Local

On our way, a family asked us for a lift as our vehicle was the only one plying on the road. He told us that police has not come to Karawal Nagar since 23 February.

A mosque in Gali No 12 has been vandalised. The entire problem is that police isn’t coming inside.   
A local of Karawal Nagar

Siraj’s sister’s residence was next to the same mosque which was vandalised on 23 February. On reaching the place, we parked the auto outside the gali and walked towards the residence. All eyes in the neighbourhood were on us.

We reached the house to find it locked from outside, and were told by a resident of the locality that the family was not inside. But that very moment, Siraj’s sister shouted and told him to collect the keys from the house next door.

Ali Ahmed’s family.
Ali Ahmed’s family.
(Image: Poonam Agarwal/The Quint)

‘A Hindu Family Sheltered Us’

Ali Ahmed, Siraj’s sister’s father-in-law, has been living Karawal Nagar with his family since 1984. He told The Quint that he has never felt any threat although it is a Hindu-dominated area.

On 24 February, when the tension in the area was at its peak, a Hindu family in the neighbourhood sheltered them.

“We took shelter at our neighbour’s house – a Hindu family. We’ve been neighbours for years. They got into trouble when some people found out we were staying at their house. They asked us to return to our house on the morning of 26 February. They bolted our door from the outside so nobody would know we were in there. They assured us they’d help us escape from the locality.”
Ali Ahmed, Siraj’s sister’s father-in-law

‘Violence in the Gali Was Triggered by Outsiders’

Ali recounted to The Quint what he saw on the evening of 23 February.

“On 23 February, I initially saw 50-60 people come and vandalise the mosque. They didn’t attack the houses. Later, the mob began attacking people and their homes. They said Muslims should be thrashed and removed from the area. I saw people get assaulted. Youngsters ran away, but families escaped on Tuesday morning. We moved to our neighbour’s house on Monday night as they were trying to burn our house – but they were stopped since the fire would have spread to other houses.”
Ali Ahmed, Siraj’s sister’s father-in-law

The mob tried to break into Ali’s residence.

“They tried to break the iron gate and get into our house. But the gate was strong so they couldn’t enter.”
Ali Ahmed, Siraj’s sister’s father-in-law

Police Did Not Come Despite Several Calls: Family

Ali’s son Ali Mohammad told The Quint that despite calling the police several times for help, no one came to rescue them.

In fact, Mohammed dialled 100 several times in front of The Quint’s journalist, but the police refused come because of “lack of manpower.”

“We repeatedly dialled 100 for police assistance. They said they would come but they didn’t, or refused citing lack of manpower. I called many times.”
Ali Mohammad, Ali Ahmed’s son

This reporter then called senior police officers to rescue Ali’s family from the violence. After three to four hours, three policemen arrived at the house to take the family –comprising six adults and four children – to safety.

Another Muslim couple, who were sheltered by a Hindu family, joined us on the way. One of the policemen told The Quint, that the situation in Delhi, since 23 February, was worse than the 1984 riots.

Family Appeals For Peace

Feeling devastated after the violence, Ali said that he and his family will return home once peace returns to the locality.

“We will return when the situation is better. We never imagined this would happen. We want peace. Others have left and it’s difficult for us to stay here. We’ve sought police assistance but they haven’t come. Only when there is peace will we return.”
Ali Ahmed, Siraj’s sister’s father-in-law

The family's relief at having escaped the violence is tempered by the blow of having to leave their home behind.

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