Thousands of people in North East Delhi, mostly Muslim but also some Hindu, were the victims of gruesome state organized communal violence and state terror, from February 23-26, 2020. As has been documented, the police were under instructions to stand by as mute witnesses and even assist the murderous gangs. The police acting in unison with the attackers, beat up the victims, insulted and tortured them and even prevented the injured from being taken to the hospital. Nearly 60 people were killed and several hundreds wounded, women and girls were sexually assaulted and raped, houses, shops and establishments were burned, vehicles were burnt, homes and shops were looted, places of worship, schools and educational institutions were vandalized and burnt.
Victims and social activists describe their trauma and difficulties in rebuilding their lives at a People’s Tribunal in New Delhi on 16th March 2020
People of both Hindu and Muslim communities came together in many places, to defend their neighbours from the attackers. Gurudwaras opened their doors to the victims. Doctors and nurses worked round the clock to treat the wounded. Hundreds of people across the city, students and youth, political and social activists have voluntarily come forward to provide relief and supplies and other kinds of assistance, including assisting the affected people who have lost everything and their near and dear ones, to rebuild their lives.
On February 27, the Delhi Government announced various forms of compensation for the victims. Rs. 10 lakh has been promised to the families of those killed. Rs. 25,000 has been promised to those whose houses have been burnt. Free books and uniforms have been promised for the students who lost these. The government has promised to bear the cost of treatment of those of the injured who have been admitted in private hospitals. Those families which have lost a minor member have been promised Rs. 5 lakh while those seriously injured have been promised Rs. 2 lakh. Those who have suffered minor injuries have been promised Rs 20,000, and the orphaned children Rs 3 lakh. The government has also promised that special camps will be set up for people to get essential documents they lost in the arson.
However, the reports of several activists who are working to assist the victims rebuild their lives have been highlighting the numerous hurdles they are facing.
Those whose houses have been burnt have lost all their documents, including property ownership documents, identification documents, certificates, bank documents, etc. It is extremely difficult for them to claim any kind of relief or compensation, because they do not even have any documents to show their relationship to those killed. They have lost ownership documents of their homes, shops and establishments, as well as all documentary proof of what they had, so it is nearly impossible for them to prove what they have lost and claim compensation.
Those whose homes and shops have been looted have no means to prove the cost of what they have lost. Those whose vehicles were burnt are not covered by insurance. Moreover, their ownership papers have been burnt, so they cannot claim any compensation from the government.
Orphaned children who have lost their entire family and home have no way to prove who their parents were, in order to claim compensation.
Schools which had stocked up books and uniforms for the students for the coming session have lost everything. Their owners are unable to claim compensation because all purchase documents have been destroyed.
People living as tenants in the houses that have been destroyed are complete shattered, as they are not eligible for any kind of compensation.
Thousands of people working in the affected areas have lost their means of livelihood.
There is no compensation for the injuries that women have suffered on account of sexual violence and rape. There is no compensation for the humiliation and trauma they have suffered. Likewise, there is no compensation for the acute depression and mental illness that has affected hundreds of the old and young, who have witnessed unspeakable horrors.
The hundreds of people who have been forced to seek refuge in relief camps face an extremely uncertain future. They are struggling against heavy odds, to re-build their shattered lives. Many of them face fear and insecurity in returning to the places they lived in earlier, lest they are attacked again, for they know that their killers are roaming free and will never be punished.
The terrible tragedy of the victims of the pogrom in North East Delhi once again reinforces the need for people to unite and build a powerful movement, which will ensure that state-organised communal violence and state terror is put an end to forever.