Shivangi Mariam Raj
Situation is still very tense in Mustafabad. Of all the sleepless nights, this one seems to be the longest – everyone here is concerned about the threat given to Shaheen Bagh by Ravikant Bhadana and his gang of Hindu terrorists. Every lane is dotted with groups of women and men sitting together, guarding their streets and talking about those 72 hours and their shadow that continues to grow thicker.
An old woman is walking restlessly across the neighbourhood, maintaining the labour of a careful vigil and greeting every group she finds with a breezy Salaam. Men are breaking into tears only to be consoled by their young daughters. Some of these men are the survivors of the genocide. A woman says she cannot remember anything in her life before the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests and now the world exists only in her eyes, what her eyes saw in the carnage. So many families had not eaten in days out of mourning, in grief. A lady who had helped other Muslims seeking shelter on a rooftop from gunshots and stones and fires, and had given them water, now often refuses to drink water. Sleeps are not easy and nightmares are even more haunting. Many of those who were killed or gravely injured were rozedaar that day (observing roza as a form of ongoing protest against CAA-NRC-NPR).
The bodies I have seen/heard about in the last two days spell horror. All I can say is that photographs that have emerged so far do not even capture half the truth, half the terror. Numbers do not match either. Injuries have been more than a thousand, and every Muslim feels this was an organised, well-planned attack and if their young men had not put up a strong defence, the losses could have been much, much higher. To be alive and safe is either a miracle or a state of disbelief.
They could never imagine this. How will we be ever able to contain these images. What do I write about the young man whose body was ripped apart into two by splitting his legs? Or about the man who came with over 20 knife stabs? Or about the young boy whose skull bears a cut more than an inch deep? According to the locals and doctors here, more bodies are lying in the drains or being secretly taken into trucks or not being allowed to emerge from the burnt debris.
Bodies of two brothers were discovered yesterday after their sister went looking for them, only to be refused any information by the police, and discovering them in a truck, lying among other dead.
Children, some wept because their schools have turned to ash. They are facing hate comments and apathy from their teachers, some of whom are refusing to even answer their exam-related queries on phone. While some other teachers are forcing students to attend classes in this atmosphere. I found a group of children playing “RSS-RSS” in the streets: a game where one group becomes RSS and the other Muslims and they fight. Children in Chand Bagh are tending to their mothers’ injuries while others are deprived of much care. We will gradually discover more stories of destroyed, decimated childhoods.
All relief efforts are being tirelessly coordinated by the local Muslim residents who, crisscrossing days into nights, are arranging for food, clothes, and other relief material. Several Sikh organisations and other citizen bodies are coming with relief as well. The government is only adept at sending PCR vans, one after the other, even when hospitals are making desperate pleas for ambulances. There is no organised medical, legal or relief aid by any of the state body. And there won’t be. Because this is state-sponsored, caste Hindu-sanctioned terrorism.
As it rained in the evening, nausea descended over Brahmapuri, Chand Bagh, and Noor e Ilahi where schools, mosques, and strings of shops and houses lie charred, screaming their testimony. Police deployment was heavy across Bhajanpura, Kabir Nagar, and later in the night, at Shiv Vihar as well. Anxious mothers and volunteers discussed whether the reports of several boys and young men being picked up from the area are true. Many are reported disappeared.
My salute to the doctors and medical staff at Al Hind and other local hospitals for their hardwork. Actually, I don’t have the right words. For anything. To see them breaking down, being consoled by the local boys, and then resuming work has been a sight I will never forget in my life. The women who have resumed their presence across some protest sites, the women who are engaging in layers of impossible, indispensable labour: may we all learn from you, may your stories never be stolen by anyone or sold as “Muslim-women-finally-wake-up-and-find-voice” brand of trauma porn, may you succeed in your struggles.
I don’t know what to write now, but I will leave this here as my testimony. It is my duty as a witness. All words, all imagination end here.