It is a much-needed gesture of communal harmony in North-East Delhi that had witnessed a devastating riot just six months ago between two religious communities leaving over 50 dead, hundreds injured and large-scale destruction of properties and livelihoods.

Last week a Muslim youth, Syed Mashkur Hussain, who was out for a walk, stopped at a kiosk in the riot-hit Chand Bagh area to buy a packet of biscuit. He was little surprised to see that the kiosk was almost empty with a very few items up for sale. However, its owners, – a wheel-chair-bound woman and a man with a crutch, put up a brave face.

Hussain engaged in a conversation with the couple and realised that their kiosk was looted and burnt to ashes by the rioters. As they were struggling to make both ends meet, Covid-19 worsened the situation. They survived the lockdown with the help of relatives and neighbours.

Though soon after the riots, the Chief Minister of Delhi had announced, among many other rehabilitation measures, an immediate relief of Rs 25,000 to those who lost their properties, Chand claimed that he filled the form for compensation but never received any communication from the government.

His biggest challenge was to restart his business. An NGO helped him get a new kiosk but he had nothing to put up for sale except a few packets of biscuits and pouches of chips and snacks.

“When I told Hussain about my plight, he immediately asked me to make a list of items that I used to sell in my shop. He arranged everything within a couple of days,” Suresh Chand, 58, said. Chand further said that Hussain might have spent about 8 to 10 thousand to buy all the products but “his gesture was priceless for me.”

He added, “He wanted to buy a bigger kiosk for me but I told him to let me earn money and do it on my own.”

Chand lost his left leg in childhood while playing near a wheat mill machine when it entangled in its belt conveyor. He walks with the help of a crutch. His wife, paralysed due to polio, is constantly on a wheelchair. The couple had two adolescent kids who are studying.

Chand recollected that in the afternoon of February 23, the communal tension started with stone pelting from all directions. His shop was close to Tahir Hussain’s house and as there was chaos all around, he immediately shut it down. “I pushed my wife’s wheel chair in a nearby street that led to my house about half a km away from my shop,” Chand said.

The family remained indoors for three days as violence engulfed the whole area. Some people lost their lives and many houses and shops were completely gutted in fire. Ankita Sharma, the IB officer, was one of the victims from the area who was allegedly murdered by Tahir Hussain and his associates.

Chand returned on February 27 when the situation calmed down and was shocked to see that along with many other shops, his kiosk was also completely burnt. He recollected, “In the next few days, government representatives came to assess the loss of lives and properties. They asked me to fill the form and promised compensation for my losses but I am still waiting for that.”

 


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