Camera: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
“My son is gone... how do I make people understand?”
“I don’t know when I will go home or if I have a home at all.”
“What have they given as freebies? They have given us bullets as freebies.”
Every house in violence-hit northeast Delhi has a story to tell. But women in these houses have more than stories to tell – they have lost loved ones, been left homeless and shattered.
Like 54-year-old Ramsakhi Solanki, who has been residing in Shiv Vihar for more than three decades. Her 27-year-old son Rahul Solanki, stepped out of the house, just as violence broke out. He never came back to see his mother – he was killed after a bullet was shot at him.
Solanki is among the 53 people who were killed in the violence.
“The violence was underway when my son said ‘Mother, we are in a Muslim neighbourhood, let me go and see what is happening to the Hindus.’ He also said he will bring milk for tea if he can find it.”Ramsakhi Solanki
“No one admitted my 27-year-old son. What do I say now?” said the mother, who claimed that her son was taken to 3-4 nursing homes but they refused to treat him.
Of Lost Savings & Cancelled Weddings
Shaheeda, 45, in Chand Bagh had saved Rs 10 lakh for her daughter’s wedding and had total savings of Rs 60 lakh from her husband’s retirement. She has now lost everything and she describes her mind as nothing but numb. Her street, she claims, was one of the worst-hit areas in the violence.
“I have nothing left now. What do I do? My mind is not working. Where do I go? All the dahej (dowry) I had collected, all the gold that I had saved is all gone now.”Shaheeda
Just seven kilometres away from Chand Bagh is Indira Vihar – where 18-year-old Hena is taking shelter at a relative’s house. Her marriage was fixed for 15 March in Muzaffarnagar. But it now stands cancelled because “she has lost it all.”
“I have lost everything in these riots. My mother is also hospitalised. I have nothing left. How do I get married amid this?” Hena breaks down.
‘My Dupatta Was Snatched’
Many women in the area are still living in fear. Some do not know when they will go back home or if they have a home left at all.
“I don’t want to live there now given the situation. People’s eyes are filled with hate. They are looking at us differently.”Ravi Parveena, Who Used to Live in Shiv Vihar
Rani Parveena, 37, has been living in Shiv Vihar for more than a decade with her two children and husband. She came to attend a wedding in Indira Vihar, just hours before the violence broke on 24 February. She has never returned and does not know if she ever can.
Unlike Parveena, 32-year-old Nargis had to flee Shiv Vihar:
“They had huge stones in their hands. I came to Babarpur with someone who is living here. But the men were snatching our dupattas. I was walking fast, covering my face. I am Muslim and I wear a burkha. But that day, my burkha was left there.”
“So many things happened to women. Many women escaped in a lot of distress. Some were grabbed, some pulled. Their hearts are filled with terror,” echoed 75-year-old Fareeda, who is also staying at a relief camp in Indira Vihar.
‘Want Humanity, Not Freebies’
Amid the myriad of emotions is simmering anger. Anger over the mob that started the violence. Anger over government’s inaction.
“Free batti, free water, free bus rides. I am folding my hands and requesting you – we don’t want free water, free electricity or free bus rides. We just want humanity.”Usha Chowdhary, Shiv Vihar Resident
Usha Chowdhary’s house is one of the few houses in the area that has not been burnt. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t furious.
But unlike Chowdhary, Halima had to flee her house in Khajuri Khas along with her two kids:
“I told them I was sorry. I haven’t done anything. They were calling us ‘terrorists’ and saying we’re ‘anti-nationals’. My father, mother, grandmother and grandfather have all died on this soil and then I am an anti-national? I am a traitor?
Many women in the area have a question, the one they say they might never find answers to.
“Hindu women have become widows. Muslim women have become widows. People are being killed. Who is benefiting from all this? Politicians are benefiting from this, right,” asked Chowdhary, saying she is asking on behalf of all women – be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Sikh.
(With inputs from Asmita Nandy)