It wasn’t possible for Mohammed Idrish to watch Narendra Modi’s address to the nation last Tuesday exhorting 1.3 billion Indians to stay at home. His TV was looted along with everything else in his home in Delhi during the recent anti-Muslim riots in the Indian capital.

When Idrish, a carpenter, heard about Modi urging Indians to stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading, he shook his head again and again. “I don’t understand … I don’t understand. Doesn’t he know we have no home?”

On 25 February, his house in Shiv Vihar was among many reduced to a charred ruin by mobs. The ferocious violence that engulfed the north-east of the city for four days – mostly Hindu mobs killing Muslims and destroying property – left 53 dead and thousands injured.

Families ran with only the clothes they were wearing and mobile phones in their pockets. Hundreds were housed in the Eidgah relief camp, a collection of tents set up in the courtyard of a mosque in Mustafabad.

The camp was a temporary home for Idrish, his parents, wife and four children. It gave them shelter and safety while they waited for compensation to renovate their home. But on Monday the Delhi authorities ordered families to leave the crowded camp for fear it provided the ideal conditions for a perfect viral storm.

The camp’s days were numbered even before Modi imposed an unprecedented nationwide lockdown last week, as Delhi had already banned any gathering of more than 30 people.

“From fire burning my home to a camp, I am now being thrown out of a tent because of the coronavirus. I don’t understand. They have told me to leave and go and rent a room but what do I pay the landlord?” said Idrish.


Delhi protests: India’s worst religious violence in decades – video report

The Delhi government says it is giving all the families some rations and 3,000 rupees (£33 ), the minimum rent for a small room. This leaves no additional money for food. Most landlords also demand a month’s deposit. Some families have received rations, others have received money, some have received both, and others neither.

Idrish was given lentils, sugar and rice, and told to leave. After scouring the alleyways around the camp, he found a landlord who agreed to let the family stay in one room for two or three days. “I don’t know what I will do in a few days. He will want rent naturally but I don’t have anything. I lost everything. I am desperate to work to feed my family, I want to work, but with the lockdown, I can’t even work,” he said.

The lockdown is catastrophic for the poor in India who live from day to day. Drivers, maids, auto-rickshaw drivers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, artisans and street vendors buy lentils or vegetables to feed their families from the day’s earnings. There are no reserves, well-stocked freezers, or anything saved for a rainy day. As one daily wage labourer said: “If the coronavirus doesn’t kill me, hunger will.”

For the Muslims whose lives have been devastated by the riots, all of this applies, but worse. With no homes, the Eidgah camp was their main sanctuary, unless they could depend on the charity of relatives who put them up. Many are grieving for loved ones who were beaten to death, lynched or set on fire. The pain of losing a home is still fresh. Now the coronavirus is battering them all over again.

Makeshift tents in Mustafabad



Muslims have had to leave their makeshift tents in the Mustafabad area of New Delhi. Photograph: Muzamil Mattoo/NurPhoto/PA Images

“My wife snorted with anger when she heard Modi telling us all to stay at home. Our house was torched. Nothing, not even a clothes hook was left untouched by the fire. Only the walls are left. What home is Modi talking about?” said Abdul Satter, a welder.

He would like to return to start cleaning up his house in Purana Gaon, a village near Khajuri Khas, Delhi, but he and his wife, Mehtab, fear further violence from their Hindu neighbours. “All I have is the blanket I grabbed after my son called us saying a mob was coming and told us to run as fast as we could. I thought the blanket would at least cover my children if we had to sleep on the street,” said Mehtab.

Mehtab said she understood the need to take drastic measures to protect people. Delhi has had 30 coronavirus cases and one death. The Eidgah camp – packed with families in unsanitary conditions – is a potential disaster area, she concedes.

What she doesn’t understand, however, is where the government expects people like her to go. While some families have received compensation, many others are still waiting for their claims to be processed by the Delhi government.

“If we had got compensation, we could at least have started repairing our homes. I got 25,000 rupees (£257) for my family’s immediate needs but there are 18 of us who live together and that money is almost finished. You tell me, where should I go? Where?” said Mehtab.

By Wednesday, with the tents coming down, she and her family had divided themselves among four relatives in the city. With the lockdown in force, they will not be able to see each other for three weeks.

Narendra Modi



Narendra Modi announces a 21-day lockdown. Photograph: Jagadeesh Nv/EPA

A short distance away, Chandu Nagar, Delhi, has become a refugee colony for riot victims. Some of the Muslim families here have opened their homes to complete strangers. Since a mob burned their two-storey home in Shiv Vihar, Mumtaz Taufir has lived in a rented room measuring 10 x 10ft with his parents, four brothers and their wives.

Taufir watched Modi’s address in his landlord’s living room. “I wanted to tell him we have become beggars overnight and don’t even know what the word home means. If we had a home, we’d be happy to stay in it. But it’s gone,” he said.

What’s equally worrying for him is that the Delhi government’s attention will be focused exclusively on fighting the coronavirus for some time. “It means it will take us even longer to get compensation,” he said.



READ NEWS SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here