By: Express News Service

At Shiv Vihar in New Delhi after the Delhi riots (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

From a 15-year-old who had gone out to buy chowmein to a 90-year-old sitting inside the safety of his home, from an Intelligence Bureau staffer killed metres from his residence to two brothers lynched not far from their doorstep — the riots in Northeast Delhi in 2020 left 53 dead.

A year on, The Indian Express tracked down their families and discovered that wounds from the violence are still fresh, compensation has reached most but is well short of what they need and, in many cases, there’s little awareness of where the murder case stands.

Ankit Sharma (26), Intelligence Bureau staffer

He was stabbed multiple times and his body was discovered from a drain on February 26. He is survived by his parents, brother and sister. They have now moved from their home in Khajuri Khas to a rented accommodation in Ghaziabad.

“We couldn’t bear to stay there any longer. There were too many memories attached with bhai. The drain from where he was pulled out is just 100 metres from our home. It was giving us a lot of anxiety and my parents already have high blood pressure and sugar,” said his brother Ankur Sharma.

Ten people have been arrested. While the family got Rs 1 crore compensation from the Delhi government, a government job promised and announced by the Chief Minister has still not been given to his brother, they said.

“One year later, we are being told the job is still in process. They have said it will take 2-3 months. We want the case to be fast tracked. We also expected help from the Central government since Ankit was their employee. They just said they will name a road in Muzaffarnagar district in his name and install his statue near our ancestral village,” said Ankur.

Brothers Hashim Ali (17) and Amir (30), a labourer

On February 26. Hashim called his family on the phone and said he and his brother were five minutes away from home, when the two were targeted by a mob, which allegedly asked about their religion and beat them to death with stones, cudgel and iron rods.

Police have chargesheeted nine persons in the case and a trial is underway.

Their father, Babu Khan (57), is looking after Amir’s three daughters, the youngest born just five months ago. The family is Rs 6.5 lakh in debt, though they got Rs 10 lakh compensation.

“We did not see such communal hate in our village in Bulandshahr, where perhaps one might have expected it, but we saw it in this city,” Khan said.

Ratan Lal (42), Head constable with Delhi Police

He died on February 24 in a clash between a mob and police personnel. Seven people have been arrested for his murder.

His wife Poonam and three children aged 14, 11 and 9 continue to live in their home in Burari. “I used to hardly leave the house before, and my husband used to look after our children’s studies and our family. I had a very sheltered life. Now, even while I have to handle everything, I get very tense about leaving the home, especially leaving the children behind,” said Poonam.

The Delhi government had announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore for Lal’s family. Poonam has received 60 lakh, while his family in Rajasthan received Rs 40 lakh. However, Poonam said she has not yet received a job as a government school teacher which she had been promised by the Delhi government, and has been supporting the family with the compensation amount. She has also been demanding a certificate to declare Lal a martyr.

Akbari Begum (85), Homemaker

Begum died on February 25 inside her family’s home in Gamri when a mob set it on fire. The sole woman to have died in the riots, her charred body was found inside the family home. Six people were arrested for her death.

She used to live with her son Mohammad Saeed Salmani, his wife and three children. With their four-storey property burned down, the family of five now live on rent in a one-room flat in Kachi Khajuri paying Rs 5,000 per month. One of his daughters is in class X and the other in XI. Last March itself, he removed them from the private school in which they studied and enrolled them in a government school. He said that while his family received the Rs 10 lakh compensation, distributed among his seven siblings, from the Delhi government, they were found ineligible for the 5 lakh compensation per floor of his house due to a loan insurance with his bank.

“I used to run a garments factory from my house and when it burned down, I suffered a loss of around Rs 5.75 crore. Since I have lost that, I have been unable to restart my business and am losing hope that I’ll ever be able to,” he said.

Parvez (48), Businessman

He died on February 25 from a gunshot injury to the chest. He is survived by his wife and three sons, and the eldest, Sahil (26), said that he is now the sole earner for the family with a “showpiece” business. The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government and they continue to live in their home in Ghonda, near which Parvez had been shot dead.

“My mother does not want to live here but I’ve been pushing for us to continue staying here because this is our home, we were born here and have always been here… Lots of things got disrupted last year, including my plans to get married,” said Sahil.

Yusuf (52), Carpenter

He was attacked on February 25 while returning to his home in Mustafabad from Noida, where he had gone for work. He left behind seven children, his wife and mother. His family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.

“Our brother Suleiman had also been badly assaulted by the mob which had killed our father. We thought we would get some additional compensation due to that but we haven’t… Now two of us brothers are working to support the family, including my own family with a son. I do welding work in Paharganj,” said Azruddin (29), Yusuf’s son.

The family continues to live in their home in Mustafabad. “Where else would we go? What happened was about five kilometres away from our home. We feel our immediate neighbourhod is safe because all the families here are Muslim,” he said.

Sharif Khan (90)

He choked to death when his family home in Shiv Vihar was set ablaze. The rest of the family ran out but he was too old to do so. The family, comprising his wife, son Mohammad Azeez, and Azeez’s five children, continue to live in the home which they have renovated. They have received the compensation of Rs 10 lakh from the Delhi government. “I support my family by working as an autorickshaw driver,” said Azeez.

Anwar Kassar (58), animal caretaker

He died in a blaze on February 25, and his family initially had difficulty in identifying his charred body. He lived in Shiv Vihar near his brother Saleem’s home, and looked after some goats at an adjacent plot. He left behind two daughters who have received the Delhi government’s compensation amount.

Saleem and his family, including five children, no longer live in their Shiv Vihar home and live on rent in Mustafabad. “My home had been set ablaze, as well as two autorickshaws, a rickshaw, two cars and a workshop I had. I have received Rs 2.25 lakh as compensation for that while my losses amounted to about Rs 80 lakh. Since I lost everything with which I earned my livelihood, I now do whatever odd job comes my way,” he said.

Suleiman (22), Blacksmith

He went missing on February 25 and his brother identified his body three days later in GTB Hospital. While the rest of his family, comprising his mother, two brothers and two sisters, lived in their village in Hapur, Suleiman travelled to Delhi when work was available and stayed in Karawal Nagar. The family has received Rs 10 lakh.

“He was the primary breadwinner since he earned in Delhi. They don’t have any land and the other brothers are earning by working on other people’s lands,” said Mohammad Javed, their neighbour.

Naresh Saini (32), vegetable vendor

The father of two, a five-year-old son and a daughter aged seven, succumbed to bullet injuries on March 4 at GTB Hospital. He was shot in front of his residence at Brahmapuri during the early hours of February 25. “A large mob had attacked our locality. Many people had come out to defend the area otherwise we would have been killed. During the violence, he received gunshot injuries,” Rajiv Saini, Naresh’s elder brother, said.

The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation, but that is too little to compensate for the loss, Rajiv said. “How long will the family be able to sustain with that amount? They have their entire lives before them. He had even taken a loan to construct a house. The wife should be at least provided with a job,” the brother, employed with a private firm, said.

Ayub Ansari (60), Scrap collector

He died on February 28, with his son Salman saying he had been beaten to death in Shiv Vihar when they had ventured out to work. The family lives in Loni, Ghaziabad. Rizwan, a friend, is currently caretaker to 19-year-old Salman who continues to work as a scrap collector. Salman has not yet received compensation.

“There have been paperwork issues because Salman did not have documents. There have also been issues with establishing relations in the family. Ayub and Salman’s mother had divorced many years ago. Then Ayub had lived with another woman, with whom he had also separated. Neither of them have been in touch with the boy since the incident,” said Rizwan.

Maruf Ali (32), electrician

He was shot dead near his residence on the night of February 25, leaving behind a wife, a son aged eight and a 10-year-old daughter. He had gone out to check on his shop, said Haroon Ali, 42, his elder brother.

The family has received Rs 10 lakh. However, they said, the police investigation into Maroof’s death was riddled with gaps. “I named six to seven men while filing the FIR. But the chargesheet has six names, including that of four Muslims, that I did not mention in my complaint at all. The real culprits are in our neighbourhood and they have not been acted against. We were last called by the SIT in May and since then we have not heard from them,” Haroon alleged.

Dinesh Kumar Khatik (34), Private job

A resident of Karawal Nagar, he was killed in the violence on February 26. His elder brother Suresh said Dinesh, who left behind a wife, two sons aged eight and two, and parents, succumbed to bullet injuries. The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

“He was out to fetch milk for his children. As shops were closed in the area, he walked up till Mustafabad, where he was caught in the violence. We have no update on the police investigation,” Suresh, who runs a utensil shop, asked.

Firoz Ahmed (35), Garment altering

A resident of Ghaziabad’s Loni, which borders the Northeast district, Ahmed’s body was found in a drain at Khajuri Khas on March 9, two weeks after he went missing. Ruksana Bano, his wife, said Ahmed was the lone earning member of the family. “He worked at a garment manufacturing unit at Chandni Chowk,” Bano said. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.

“I will have to raise five children, aged between three months and 15 years, on my own. I was pregnant with our fifth child when Ahmed passed away. I have named the baby girl Feroza to keep his memory alive,” Bano said. She said the family received legal assistance during the initial months, but the lawyers gradually “stopped coming”. “A witness named five accused in the case but the police did not act. We have shared our account with the media countless times over the last few months but it seems futile now,” she said.

Nitin Kumar (15), Student

Nitin had left his house at Gokulpuri on February 26 to buy chowmein, though his family had told him not to venture outside. He died after allegedly being hit by a teargas shell.

Nitin’s father drives a battery rickshaw, working as a transport goods carrier. His son would occasionally help him out. The family survived the pandemic after some neighbours helped out with the rent.

The family got Rs 5 lakh compensation — an amount his father said is barely sufficient since Nitin also contributed at work. His elder sister Pooja (20) regrets not being more assertive with Nitin that day. “We had told him not to leave the home since things were getting heated up. He was a rebellious kid and the apple of our eye,” Pooja said.

From having to take up a job as a domestic help to depending on in-laws for a paltry sum to run the house — women who lost their husbands say they have barely been able to get their lives back on track over the past year.

Aash Mohd (32), labourer

He was stabbed to death by a mob while on his way to work on February 28 and his body was found on March 9. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation. Aash is survived by his wife and three children — aged 10, 8 and 5 — and a younger brother. The family still stays in Dayalpur.

His wife Sahiba said, “We have got two scholarships for my children. My youngest daughter can’t speak and was undergoing treatment at a hospital, but after her father’s death, I have not been able to continue that. I am trying to get a job; maybe at the mahila samiti or sewing.”

Nine people have been arrested in the case.

Prem Singh (27), Rickshaw puller


He was stabbed to death on February 25. The family says two people have been arrested, and they have received Rs 10 lakh from the government and Rs 6 lakh from other organisations. The family continues to live in Brijpuri. Singh is survived by his younger brother, mother, wife and four children aged 10, 4, 3 and eight months old.

Sunita, his wife, said, “One of our children was born after his death. Prem’s younger brother doesn’t have a job. My children are young so I couldn’t work initially, but now I have taken up a job as a domestic help.”

Rahul Solanki (26), Student

He was shot in the neck and killed on February 24 when he stepped out of his home to buy milk and groceries. Eight people have been arrested and the family has received Rs 10 lakh as compensation. Solanki is survived by his family of six including his parents, two siblings, uncle and his wife.

The family, which lived in Babu Nagar for 30 years, has now shifted next to Karawal Nagar police station, after allegedly receiving threats to vacate.

Solanki’s father Hari Singh Solanki said the last year has been extremely difficult. “Soon after Rahul’s death, my wife became paralysed. My brother will soon need a kidney transplant. I also have breathing issues and have continuous joint pain which makes it difficult to walk long distances. We are just counting moments till death arrives at our doorstep too,” he said. Solanki’s demand is that Rajdhani School, where his son was shot, be closed down.

Bhure Ali (35), beldaar (labourer)

Ali was beaten to death on February 27-28 and his body was dumped in a canal. His family said they identified it on March 3 at RML Hospital, and have so far received Rs 10 lakh compensation. Md Rafiq, Ali’s younger brother, said the family still lives in Loni. Ali is survived by his parents, two children and a brother; his wife died six years ago.

Rafiq said the past year has been particularly challenging because they tried to get a status report from the police, but don’t know anything about the case. The family can’t afford a lawyer: “I have gone to Gokulpuri police station several times, but police told us the case is with the Crime Branch and didn’t give us any details. At the Crime Branch office, we didn’t get anything. Now we want to just live peacefully. I am trying to earn money for Bhure’s kids. My parents are old and can’t work.” Police said nine people have been arrested in the case.

Jamaluddin (35), Bakery owner

He was with two others when a mob attacked him on February 27. He died on March 3 at a hospital. The family says they received Rs 10 lakh compensation and have now shifted to Loni since they didn’t feel safe in Delhi, nor could they afford rent there.

Jamaluddin is survived by his three brothers, parents, wife and four children.

Md Afroz, Jamaluddin’s brother-in-law, said, “We had to shift. All compensation money went into building our new place. Our bakery was shut after the riots. I now do small labour work. My brothers don’t support the children and our sister.”

No arrest has been made in this case.

Mursalen (26), Factory worker, scrap dealer

He went missing from his home on February 25, following which the family checked three morgues and police lockups. His body was taken out of a canal on March 12, with his family saying he was beaten to death. The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation, and they still live in Indira Vihar.

Mursalen is survived by his father, four siblings, wife and three kids aged seven, five and two. Hafizuddin, his brother, said, “I got a job and take care of the children now. Nargis doesn’t have a job, she takes care of the kids at home, while other family members don’t help much.” Nine people have been arrested.

Arshad Raza (22), Mobile repair shop worker

On February 26, Arshad was coming back from work when a mob attacked him at Karawal Nagar toll. His body was found at GTB hospital on March 2. The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation and has since shifted from Karawal Nagar to Loni as they didn’t want to live in the same locality. Arshad is survived by six sisters, three brothers and parents.

Nasim Alam (50), his father, said. “Police said they haven’t arrested anyone. We don’t feel safe in Delhi. I have difficulty seeing because of diabetes, so I can’t work. Nobody is earning at our home and the compensation isn’t enough. We need help; Arshad used to earn for the entire house.”

Mohd Furkan (30), Did handicraft work and ran a godown

He was shot dead on February 24 when he went out to get cheese for his children. His body was found the same day but his wife was informed of his death three days later. Furkan is survived by his brother, wife and two children. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Firdaus, his wife, lives with their children at their home in Kardampuri, but says her in-laws want her to leave and haven’t provided her the compensation money, instead giving her Rs 10,000 a month to buy ration, pay school fees and run the family. She said, “My in-laws want me to go back to my parents. But I don’t want to leave. I feel alone now. I can’t sew or cook well so I don’t have a job, Furkan’s brother Imran looks after everything.”

Police have filed a chargesheet against four persons but Firdaus claims they know two of the accused and they would not have killed Furkan.

Md Muddassar (35), Plastic scrap work

On February 25, he had gone to Crescent School to pay the fee of one of his children when riots broke out. He went to his friend’s house and stayed there. He was shot dead when he stepped out the next day.

The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation and scholarships for three children.

Muddassar is survived by his wife and eight children, all girls, aged between one and 15. His youngest daughter was born 17 days after his death.

His family still lives in Mustafabad. Imrana (34), his wife, said, “I never had to worry though we have eight kids. Now, I am all alone. I opened a cosmetic shop but need more resources to run it successfully. My brother-in-law gives me some money to run our house and take care of the children but it’s not enough. I don’t have much support from my in-laws because I have girls. I wish to see them study.”

Shaban (25), Welder

He had left his home in Bhagirathi Vihar on February 24 to pick up a welding machine at Chandbagh. Later in the evening, his family members were informed he had been shot in the leg, and succumbed to his injuries days later.

His brother Faizan (24), who runs a purse making unit in the area, said his father wanted to marry all three of his sons at the same time in April last year. Now, their 15-year-old sister’s mental condition has deteriorated. “She keeps thinking of Shaban’s death,” Faizan said.

The family got Rs 10 lakh compensation, but that money was spent paying off Shaban’s debts. “Some people asked for more money, with interest. My father told me we should not keep debts of a dead man,” he said. Police have not made any arrests or filed a chargesheet in the case.

Zakir (27), Welder

Zakir used to run a welding unit with his brother, Gulfam, at Old Mustafabad and had left to pray at a local mosque when rioters attacked the place. His brother was later informed that Zakir succumbed to his injuries after the attack on the mosque.

His mother, Meena, mostly stays alone inside their house, occasionally pointing to empty spaces. “Even his pillows were not left behind. I am alone now,” she said.

Meena feels embittered as Zakir’s wife remarried around two months ago, and claims she left with the compensation of Rs 12 lakh from government and private donors. His wife refused to comment. Gulfam said, “My brother’s death has made us lonelier.”

Musharraf (30), Driver

He was allegedly pulled out of his home in Bhagwati Vihar, beaten with steel rods and thrown into a fire on February 25. His wife Mallika and their three children witnessed the incident. Mallika says she escaped by putting sindoor on her forehead.

The family of four had moved to UP’s Loni after the riots but has now shifted to Gokulpuri. “Nothing was left in our house after the riots. Everything was either broken or stolen. We had to move,” she said.

They received Rs 10 lakh as compensation but their financial situation is still dire. “My eldest daughter was 18 so I got her married using that money. But I still have two children aged four and 13 to look after. I used to work in factories but ever since the pandemic, no one is giving me a job. The compensation money will soon run out,” she said.

A chargesheet has been filed in the case and nine people have been arrested so far.

Heading to hospital, out for work, shopping for clothes — many who were killed in last year’s riots were going about their lives when they were caught in the violence. A year later, their families can’t help but wonder if things could have been different.

Faizan (23),Worked at the Ghazipur animal market

On February 24, he left his house after riots broke out as he was anxious about his mother not being at home. At 8 pm, his family got to know that Faizan was injured. He succumbed to his injuries three days later.

In a video, Faizan and four other men could be seen lying injured on the ground as personnel in police gear forced them to sing the national anthem and Vande Mataram.

Faizan’s four brothers work as daily wage labourers, but the lockdown last year robbed them of a livelihood. His four sisters are married, and Faizan too was due to get married last year. His mother, Kismatoon (60), said: “I used to sleep next to him. Police bachati hai, magar mere bete ko maara hai unhone (Police are supposed to save, but they hurt my son).”

The family got compensation of Rs 10 lakh which was used to marry off the youngest son. No arrest has taken place so far and the chargesheet is yet to be filed.

Vir Bhan (48), jeans manufacturing unit

As violence broke out in Maujpur on February 24, worried family members asked Bhan to rush home at neighbouring Karawal Nagar. The father of three — a son in class II and two teenage daughters — was heading home when he was shot in the head. His body was handed over to the family after three days, his brother Mukesh said. The family has received the Rs 10 lakh compensation.

“The Crime Branch had called us to its office to identify the accused. But we could not recognise the men who were produced before us. So far, we have no update on the chargesheet. The incident has left the family helpless. They try to make ends meet by bringing produce from a small patch of land cultivated at their ancestral village in Bharatpur,” Mukesh said.

Ishtiya Khan (27), ran a welding unit at his house

He had left home after hearing a commotion outside when he was shot dead. His younger brother Mustaq (23) now manages the welding unit in Mustafabad, though he says demand has been low of late. The family of six, including Ishtiya’s wife and two children aged one and five, depend on Mustaq to survive. The compensation of Rs 10 lakh has been saved for Khan’s children.

“I was asleep when my brother died,” Mustaq said, tossing a welding part into a heap. He said both he and his mother now suffer from anxiety.

Salman (24), tailor

salman who died in delhi riots last year.
Salman’s father Sabir (50) plays two call recordings of his son informing a friend that stone pelting had begun at Shiv Vihar. “Aa raha huun,” Salman’s words ring from the phone as tears trickle down Sabir’s cheeks. “He never made it home.”

On February 24, Salman had left with his uncle but was caught in the riots around Shiv Vihar. He was shot in the head and died three days later.

Salman used to work in Mustafabad and would travel from Ghaziabad’s Loni every day. His father has set up a duster-making unit at home, where he works with his younger son. So far, three men have been arrested in the case. The family received the Rs 10 lakh compensation. “The biggest difficulty is that he was our only support, and that is gone. We used his money to buy a plot of land. We just want the people who did this to be punished,” his father said.

Deepak Kumar (32), worker in a manufacturing unit

He wanted to be back home in Bihar during Holi. On February 25, he went to Chandni Chowk with his friend Vicky to buy new clothes that he would take with him for family members. On his way back, Deepak was caught and killed by a mob in Gokulpuri. A native of Bhojpur district, Deepak left behind his wife, two daughters and a son. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government.

“His wife, Sarita Devi, is in deep distress; she is yet to recover from the trauma. The family does not own any land. She occasionally works on the farms of others. Even Deepak used to do that before moving to Delhi with his brother in search of work. He wanted to come home during Holi with new clothes. Instead, his lifeless body reached the village,” said Dev Kumar, Deepak’s cousin. The family has no update on the police investigation.

Mohsin (22), generator business

Mohsin used to rent out generators for a living. His family remembers him as a hard worker who never missed a day of work. On February 25, he left his home in Noida to reach Northeast Delhi after a generator malfunctioned during a wedding reception. He was burnt to death by rioters inside his Alto car. His family first received another victim’s charred body but a DNA test conducted later on a second body ascertained Mohsin’s identity, and the family laid him to rest. He is survived by his three-month-old daughter and wife who are now taken care of by four of Mohsin’s brothers. The compensation received by the family of Rs 10 lakh will be used for his daughter’s education.

Shahjawan (25), his brother, who works in a fabrication unit in Hapur, said, “Mohsin used to scold us all the time to work harder… He never wasted time. Police have not bothered to even call us once and inform us about the investigation. We have lost confidence. We don’t think we will get justice.”

Shahid (22), auto driver

He died of a gunshot wound suffered during the riots. Married merely three months earlier, he was working extra hours to save for the new chapter in his life. “Our life is in turmoil since there is no fixed source of income. We aren’t aware of the police and legal proceedings in the case,” said Irfan, his brother.

The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi government. Shahid’s wife went back to her home in Bulandshahr while his parents and brother continue to live in Mustafabad. Due to the pandemic, his brother has been in and out of jobs. Police have arrested six persons and a chargesheet has been filed.

Mohammad Shahbaz (24), welder

Hailing from Loni, he was in Karawal Nagar on February 25 for a hospital visit when he was caught in the riots. A charred body found in the same area was later identified as his. “We never found the whole body. There was just a charred body and a DNA test was performed,” said Safi Ahmed, Shahbaz’s father.

He is survived by four sisters and a brother, who reside in Ghaziabad. The Rs 10 lakh compensation by the Delhi government has provided temporary relief, but the elder son has not been able to find a permanent job so far. Five persons have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Rahul Thakur (25), preparing for CCS exams

As the riots were raging, Thakur had stepped out of his home in Brijpuri to see what was happening on February 25. He was shot in his chest, and died on the spot, just a few metres away from home. The family has received Rs 10 lakh as compensation.

Thakur left behind his parents, elder brother, sister-in-law and a niece who continue to stay in the same house. “The last one year has been very challenging. I try to distract myself by organising kirtans but my mother has slipped into depression. I have a small shop where I sell pooja samagri; that’s the only source of income. If I get a government job, life would be a lot easier,” said his brother Yogesh Thakur.

Aman (18), tea factory worker

The Seelampur resident had gone to fetch a packet of milk when he was caught in the riots and suffered a gunshot wound. “He did not know the violence was so intense and there was firing. He suffered a bullet injury in the head, doctors said he died on the spot. He was an honest worker and was not at any fault. And yet he met such an end,” said Rihana, Aman’s mother.

He used to provide a part of his earnings to fund the education of his two sisters. In Aman’s absence, his mother is providing for the family by taking up a stitching job. The family has not been able to afford a lawyer and says they have not been contacted by police for the last one year. Twelve people have been arrested in connection with the case.

Aftab, 21, welder

Hailing from Noorpur, he took up a job at a welding shop in Shiv Vihar during his study break to earn money for his sister’s wedding. “He had just started working in that shop… Since February 24 evening, we couldn’t trace him. Nearly a week later, we were asked to come to RML Hospital where we identified his body. All he wanted was to earn a little extra,” said his brother Firoz Khan.

The family received Rs 10 lakh compensation from the Delhi Government. He is survived by his parents and sister, who continue to live in Bijnor. The family said they couldn’t afford a lawyer, and Aftab’s parents are being looked after by relatives.

The common refrain among relatives of many riot victims: Want justice but can’t afford a lawyer, want harshest punishment for the accused but don’t know how to identify them.

Dilbar Negi (21), sweets shop worker

Dilbar worked in Anil Sweet Shop at Chaman Park and was returning home on February 24 when a mob of 200 surrounded him and other workers. He allegedly tried to hide in a store adjacent to the sweets shop but the mob cornered him.

“We don’t know what exactly happened but his phone was switched off on February 24 evening. We later came to know he was attacked by a mob when he was coming back from the bakery. His burnt body was found on one of the floors. It has been very hard for us,” said Devinder Singh, Dilbar’s brother.

Dilbar’s three other siblings are currently in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal and have received Rs 10 lakh compensation. Delhi Police has filed a detailed chargesheet identifying 12 accused in connection with his murder.

Hamza (25), ran a Chinese food kiosk

A resident of Meerut, he had gone to Delhi three months before the riots to earn a living. He stayed with his sister, brother-in-law and their two children in Mustafabad. Hamza went missing on February 26, and his body was recovered from a drain on March 3 with serious injury wounds to his head and face. A chargesheet has been filed and nine people have been arrested. The family received Rs 10 lakh from the Delhi government.

Hamza’s elder brother Sameer said their sister in Delhi shifted with her family to Surat, where they were earlier settled, following the riots. At Meerut, Hamza has left behind a family of seven brothers and sisters and his parents. “Losing their son has taken a massive toll on our parents. My father was diagnosed with oral cancer six months after Hamza’s death. This also led to increasing financial burdens on us, especially with our confectionary shop in Meerut facing severe losses during the pandemic. We just want the culprits to be punished,” said Sameer.

Irfan (25), factory worker

A factory worker who cut school bags for a living, Irfan was beaten to death on February 26 in Kartar Nagar when he had stepped out to buy milk and medicines. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Irfan is survived by his parents, wife and two children. The family still stays in Kartar Nagar with relatives, but are managing life with great difficulty. “Just two-three months after his death, Irfan’s father also passed away. He was under a lot of trauma. His mother also doesn’t keep well. Whatever they earn is because Irfan’s wife is working as a tailor. Our only demand now is that we should get justice,” said his cousin Mohd Sadiq, with whom the family stays.

Monish (25), labourer

He was shot and attacked on February 25 near Dayalpur while he was on his way from Samaypur Badli, after meeting his father, and heading to Old Mustafabad, where his uncle was staying. He was taken to GTB Hospital but succumbed to his injuries on March 1. A chargesheet and supplementary chargesheet have been filed in the case. Seven people have been arrested and are in judicial custody.

Monish’s brother-in-law Mohd Sagir said the uncle and father continue to live in the same homes. At Samaypur Badli, Monish has left behind a joint family of 15 members. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Sagir said tragedy has struck the family repeatedly after Monish’s death: “His sister and nephew fell down from the terrace and sustained serious injuries. His mother, a vegetable vendor, also had an accident and fractured her hip.

Financially too, we are in a bad spot since we are all labourers. A lot of the compensation money went in Monish’s last rites and surviving the lockdown. The government should give us a job.”

Mubarak Hussain (28), labourer

He was shot in his chest and died on the spot in Babarpur’s Vijay Park on February 25. Hussain was staying alone in Delhi, with his family residing in Bihar’s Madhubani district. He is survived by his parents and three siblings. The family has received Rs 10 lakh compensation. “Nobody in my family is really in a position to earn a living. We are poor labourers. Mubarak was the sole breadwinner; I am physically disabled. My wife developed high blood pressure after Mubarak’s death. She just keeps crying or offering namaaz. Everything has changed in our lives,” said his father Mohd Ibrahim.

Vinod Kumar (51), DJ at weddings

For the Brahmpuri resident, the decision to step out to buy medicines for his grandson as violence engulfed the neighbourhood proved fatal. He was beaten to death by a mob in his own locality. Video clips of his lifeless body being dragged away to safety by his son, Nitin Kumar, were widely circulated at the time.

A year later, Nitin, who also suffered severe injuries during the violence, is a broken man. “Compensation for his death has been given. But we have not received a single penny for the injuries I suffered. My motorbike was set afire by the mob. No compensation has been extended for that loss,” said Nitin, who stays with his wife, children and mother.

Jamil Qureshi (30), private job

A resident of Mustafabad, Jamil has left behind his wife and two daughters aged two and five. Naseem, Jamil’s brother-in-law, said the wife, Shahnaz, now stays with her family, alleging that the in-laws took away her jewellery and money after Jamil’s death. “The Rs 10 lakh compensation was issued in her name so that remains with her. But she has to raise her daughters and take care of herself with this amount. The younger daughter is unwell and needs medical attention as she can’t walk properly,” said Naseem.

The family said a lawyer, whose name they don’t remember, assisted them initially but currently they don’t have any information related to the murder case.

Babbu Salmani (34), auto driver

Babbu was killed by a mob near Khajuri Khas around 2 pm on February 25. He left behind a wife, who has mental disabilities, two sons, aged one and four, and a daughter aged six.

Babbu had taken his auto out when a mob caught and thrashed him and set the three-wheeler afire. “A mob has no face so we don’t know who beat him. But I had filed an FIR against unknown persons,” Pappu, Babbu’s elder brother, said.

Babbu died on February 27 at GTB Hospital. Pappu said police have verbally informed them that a chargesheet has been filed. “But we have not engaged a lawyer. Crime Branch officials were in touch till about two months back,” Pappu said. He said using the compensation from the government and assistance provided by other organisations, the family bought a house in Khajuri Khas and gave one floor for rent.

Ashfaq Husain (22), Electrician

Ashfaq had got married just 11 days before the riots. He was working as an electrician in a small shop when clashes broke out. “He was a simple, God-fearing man… He was surrounded by a mob which ascertained his identity before killing him. He was attacked with a sword and shot six times. What was his fault?” alleged Mirza, Ashfaq’s brother.

As Ashfaq’s family and residents of Baghirathi Vihar found out about his death, the first thing his father did was rush to the local temple to guard it so communal violence wouldn’t escalate. The family has received Rs 10 lakh. “Police are asking for witnesses of the crime; how can one find witnesses when he was killed by a mob,” said Mirza.

Police have arrested five persons in connection with Ashfaq’s murder.

Akib (18), student

Akib was preparing for a cousin’s wedding and shopping in Bhajanpura when he was caught in the violence. “He had no clue what the atmosphere was like after stone-pelting in Maujpur. He had gone to collect clothes when he got caught. He sustained an injury to the head and was taken to a nearby hospital. I took him to GTB hospital by which time he had passed away,” said Wasim, Akib’s brother.

Akib was the youngest of five siblings and was studying at a school in Bhajanpura.

Amin (18), daily wager

He had shifted to Mustafabad from his village in rural Hathras to earn a living, months before the riots. He suffered head injury in the violence. “For the longest time, we didn’t know what had happened to him. We tried making calls to another relative on February 26 who also could not find him. On March 12, we came to know that he had died at GTB Hospital. It was through another person that we got to see his body 35 days later. We just know he was killed in the riots…,” said Sauddin, his father (55), who rears animals for a living in Hathras.

The family received Rs 5 lakh compensation and said they couldn’t afford a lawyer.

Mehtab (20), construction worker

He hailed from Brijpuri and had gone out to buy milk when he was caught in the violence. “When Mehtab stepped out, riots had not taken place in Brijpuri and it was relatively calm. But the situation deteriorated quickly. He saw that one lane was blocked and he took another route near the house. It was there that he was caught by a mob and beaten to death. We are yet to come to terms with what happened,” said Yasmin, Mehtab’s sister-in-law.

The Rs 10 lakh compensation has been helping Mehtab’s six siblings over the past one year with their education. Five people have been arrested.
8 Jan 2021

This story first appeared on  indianexpress