It was the fourth day after the brutal, violent anti-Hindu riots that have engulfed Delhi, and have uprooted the lives of thousands of people living in these areas.
The first thing we saw upon entering the riot-hit areas of Chand Bagh is a ruined, gutted shop. Oranges were scattered all over the place. Media persons were busy filming the oranges. It was the first image, but we moved on, we wanted to witness the characters who suffered in this brutality.
Passing cordons of security personnel, we entered Karawal Nagar, the area where AAP councillor Tahir Hussain’s house is located, the man who was allegedly behind the murder of IB officer Ankit Sharma. The big house was surrounded by police and media personnel. We moved on. In the lane just opposite to Hussain’s house, behind a closed gate, we saw faces, over two dozen faces that were watching the march of the security forces with scared, wary eyes. No media person had turned towards this part yet.
We approached those people. We asked them are they just scared or are they the victims of these riots too. Then the floodgates opened, stories of horror and brutality started flowing. We wanted to know the stories that could not make it to media coverage in these four days. Then we met a man who could not control his emotions upon seeing us. It was Shyam Sahni, the ‘Chaiwala’ in these areas who was running the tiny ‘Syam Tea Stall’ for many years. Not anymore.
Shyam Sahni was sitting bewildered on the floor, with his wife and son. Upon asking he told us his story.
I was in my shop making tea on Monday. From the morning, the Muslims in the area were protesting against the CAA. Then I heard that a large mob, with thousands of Muslims, is proceeding towards this area, smashing shops and moving from Changbagh towards Karawal Nagar. We quickly pulled the shutter and escaped through the back door. But the mob did not spare my shop. They brought a sewing machine and broke the shutter with it. They first looted the shop, then ransacked it, broke everything that they could not take. Then a petrol bomb came from Tahir Hussain’s rooftop and bured my shop.
Shyam further told us that he watched this horror unfold hiding in a bylane, but he could not do anything. Then he heard that a large Muslim mob has attacked the houses of Hindus in Yamuna Vihar area. Since Shyam’s house was located in that area, he ran fearing for the lives of his wife and children. He reached his home and told his wife to take their four children and leave, away from the Muslim-majority locality and to the house of a family friend in another lane.
Shyam narrates that they were so scared that they spent the rest of the day and night holed up in a corner, hungry and thirsty. When police forces came the next morning, Shyam mustered the courage to come out and go towards his shop. When he reached and saw what had become of his shop, the means of livelihood, he broke down.
Neighbours told us that since that day, Shyam has neither changed nor have eaten a morsel of food. “I am ruined. I have no idea where to go or what to do.” He says that overall, he lost over 5 lakh rupees.
Shyam had come to Delhi in search of livelihood over 20 years ago. He is from Vaishali, Bihar. His family consists of his wife and four children. Shyam’s four children, Neeraj, Dhheraj, Sunny, and Roshan have been living under fear for the last few days.