The recent riot in the capital has pushed to think the minorities regarding their safety and security in the country. The stories of violence in the region were dreadful and alarming. Similar was the story of Riyazuddin- a fruit seller in the Mustafabad area. He had been living in the Bhagirathi colony at a Hindu dominated lane in a rented house from past 9 years. He was the only Muslim resident in the lane and his house was the only house which was burnt during the violence that took place in north east of Delhi.
I met Riyazuddin during the relief activities of the NGO. He was called for the document verification for the livelihood project of Vision 2026. He needed a cart to restore his business as he used to sell fruits in the streets. During the violence the rioters burnt his cart. In my visit to his home for verification process, we talked a lot about the incidence that happened on the day.
We took an e-rickshaw to his place. Sitting in the rickshaw, he started telling his story. When violence took place, he was selling fruits in the market. Soon after he heard the news, he rushed and called his wife to immediately vacate the house and reach to a safer place with his children. Riyaz said that he never imagined his house would be burnt, as he was living there for a long time. Also, he was a well-known resident of the colony and friendly with all the residents.
I asked if there was any resident involved in the riot that looted and burnt his house. He replied firmly in a low voice that he doesn’t know who they were. People said they came from UP. But he believes that, without the help of the locals how would they know that a Muslim lives in this particular house. Only my house was looted in the lane which has more than 200 houses. “How come they knew without the help of the locals? I called my neighbors and friends, they said they were outsiders who burnt your house. But sir, how it is possible without local involvement? How they identified my house? Who told them a Muslim lived in this house? Now the only pain I have is, that my fellow residents didn’t resist when they looted and burnt down my house. If they would have resisted and stopped then it could have been stopped. While my expectation has broken, on which hope I will return to my home where I lived so long. I don’t feel safe enough to live with my family there. During the day violence took place I was so confident that nothing will happen to my home because I had the trust that the people who live along side were my friends. They will never let anything wrong to happen. But now the trust has been lost and returning to the place is unimaginable after this”.
We reached Bhagirathi colony. We both stepped down and entered the colony together and started walking towards his house. As he was walking, I could feel the fear coming out in his face. People were staring at Riyaz and he was smiling which brought a sense to me that he was a known resident of the colony.
Suddenly, he removed his skull cap and put in his pocket. I was shocked seeing this. It gave me a clear message that he was going through a deep identity based fear. He even didn’t make eye contact with any of the residents there and was rushing towards his house with his head down. I asked, if he is not comfortable, we can go back. He came close to me and said “sir ab khone ko kuch hai nahi chalte hain aap dekh lijiye”. The sense of disappointment and breach of trust can be clearly felt from his expressions as he was sad and disheartened from what has happened to him.
We reached his house and did the verification work. While I was returning, I asked does he hate this place. He calmly replied, “no sir I don’t hate this place nor I hate these people at all. I know most of the people are with me and they personally apologized, but few definitely broke my trust. My only complaint to my fellow residents is that they could have stopped this to happen. With this pain I am leaving otherwise I would never have left this place and my friends because I never felt so insecured or fearful before. I will search some place where my children can live in peace and without any fear”. Riyazuddin left after dropping me in my place.
The story of Riyazuddin is the story of many Delhi riot victims which must be brought into the public domain. It is the pain of the people who lost everything due to hate.