In February 2020, many areas of Delhi were affected by the communal riots instigated by the Islamists under the garb of anti-CAA protests. The Chandbaag-Karaval area of northeast Delhi was one of the most severely affected areas in these riots. The area houses the building of the infamous Tahir Hussain. This place was later identified as the key location where the riots were conspired and planned.
It is the same area in which IB officer Ankit Sharma was brutally killed. A mob of violent Islamists had stabbed him to death. Shops, houses, and properties of Hindus were specifically marked and targeted in order to ensure maximum damage to the Hindu community. Not so far from Tahir Hussain’s home, there was a Shiva Temple in lane number six. The rioters had desecrated the temple.
Two years after the riots, there is no communal tension in this area as of now. But, the memories of the event keep haunting the local Hindu community. A feeling of fear is clearly seen on their faces when one tries to engage in conversation with them, especially about their experiences and memories of the riots and the hardships they had been through, even after the riots were over.
It was this traumatizing fear that Shyam Sahni was initially not ready to talk with the OpIndia. But as the conversations smoothened, he built confidence to express himself and his talks unfolded the reasons for the fear one after the other.
Shyam Sahni would run a tea shop
On 24th February 2020, Shyam Sahni was about to close his tea shop in the evening when he saw a mob of stone-pelting Muslims approaching his shop. Shyam Sahni said, “I was making tea in my tea shop. Muslims in the area were protesting against CAA right from that morning. Meanwhile, I was informed that a mob of thousands of Muslims is heading from Chaandbaag to Karaval Nagar and that they are vandalizing the shops as they march ahead. We immediately closed the shutter and escaped from the back doors. But the rioters broke into the shop and destroyed it. They looted everything they could. After this, the shop caught fire due to the petrol bomb which was thrown from Tahir Hussain’s building.
Shyam Sahni, the tea seller, claims that he has suffered from a loss worth Rs. 5 lakhs in this riot. Being a tenant, he did not receive any great help despite a cheque of Rs. 25000 from an NGO and Rs. 32000 from Kapil Mishra and a few others sources.
Sahni further told OpIndia, “I also had a small Dhaba. Rioters looted that too. The rioters took everything away destroyed everything there including the counter, the furniture, the fridge. They did not even spare the utensils.” After two years of the riots, while showing OpIndia his house, all Sahni had to show was bedding, a small worship place, and a few more things left in the shop that has a photograph of PM Modi.
PM Modi’s photograph in the shop
It has been two years since the Delhi riots and Sahni’s Dhaba has not yet resumed its normal business as before. The tea shop does not work anymore. According to Shyam Sahni, it is so because of the PM Modi’s photograph he has on the walls of the shop that he had placed there after the Delhi riots. When asked about the same, he answered, “We are alive all thanks to him. Come what may, will not remove it.”
To feed a family of six, Shyam Sahni has now started selling ice creams. He sells it in the areas like Chaandbaag, Mustafabad, and Seelampur. It is notable that the rioters allegedly hail from these areas.
In fact, OpIndia had also visited the tea shop right after the riots. At that time, the local people had told, “For four days, Shyam Sahni did not eat anything, nor did he change his clothes. His everything was ruined right in front of him.” Two complete years, but the fear persists even today; which is why Shyam Sahni was initially not ready to talk, as he still avoids any type of media. Clarifying this, he said, “I have to live in the same area. I have to live among these very people. What if anything happens to my family?”
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The rioters also destroyed the Giri automobile workshop. Two years later, when we reached the spot, we could not find Dilip, the owner of the workshop; but the marks of the fires were yet clearly seen. People in the vicinity informed that some Muslim man has bought the shop now.
Rioters left Tahir Hussain’s building and reached the Giri automobile workshop. And what they all did there is well summarized in the attached video.
Two years ago, OpIndia had an opportunity to converse with Dilip, the owner of the automobile workshop. At that time he had informed that the rioters had caused him a loss of almost 30 to 40 thousand. Besides, Pradhanji was looted for Rs. 250000.
Aman E-rickshaw shares a similar story. This shop is also located in the vicinity of Tahir Hussain’s building and rioters had very badly damaged the shop. The owner had to leave the area forever. Rioters had stolen so many batteries and other parts of E-rickshaw from his shop and then burnt the shop.
Now the place houses a wholesale shop of clothes. The owner of this shop informed that within months of the Delhi riots, the owner of the Aman E-rickshaw shop left the place forever.
Another shop in this area, formerly called Aroda furniture, has now become Sachdeva furniture. The shop had to bear a great loss in the riots and none of it was reimbursed by any means. The rear side of the house still has the marks of the brutal fire sports played by the rioters.
The victims of the Delhi riots of 2020 are slowly rebuilding their lives and businesses. But small shopkeepers have not yet completely recovered from the traumatic experience they have been through.