Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Blinded in Delhi pogrom: Shahrukh says “no hope for justice”

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Shahrukh, a cloth seller, was dragged out of a moving auto and brutally thrashed by a Hindu mob in northeast Delhi’s Shiv Vihar on February 24, 2020, the day Delhi anti-Muslim pogrom erupted.  Photo: Arshi Qureshi/Maktoob

On 24 February, 2020 – Shahrukh’s mother Shehnaaz was waiting for her son to return home from Ijtema (an Islamic congregation).

“Before leaving for the Ijtema, he informed us that he would return in the afternoon; at the time, we had no idea that riots had broken out in the Shiv Vihar area; here in Loni, everything appeared to be fine,” Shehnaaz told Maktoob.

Shahrukh, a cloth seller, was dragged out of a moving auto and brutally thrashed by a Hindu mob in northeast Delhi’s Shiv Vihar on February 24, 2020, the day Delhi anti-Muslim pogrom erupted. 

Beaten, dragged, and left to die

“When they saw our auto approaching, they started running towards us and started chanting Jai Shri Ram and pulled me and my friend out of the auto,” Shahrukh recalls.

When asked how the Hindu mob knew Shahrukh was a Muslim, he said it was because he was wearing a skull cap. 

“They were hiding behind a temple, and when they saw my visible Muslim attire, they attacked us,” Shahrukh stated.

Shahrukh was dragged, beaten with rods, and his pants were pulled off. 

“I just remember the mob slapping me a few times, and then I was hit by a rod on my head, don’t know what happened next – I only saw the video, I have no idea who took me to the hospital, where I was – I was blacked out.” Shahrukh told Maktoob. 

The mob also attacked Shahrukh’s cousin Mohammed Hasan, but Hasan was able to flee because he lived nearby and few people outside the mob recognised him.

On the same day as the attack, a video of Shahrukh being dragged by a few people without his pants went viral, with the mob chanting Jai Shri Ram.

Shahrukh’s face was smeared with blood in the gruesome video, in which the mob could be seen holding rods, and the mob huddled around him as he lay unconscious on the road.

“We looked for him for three days ”

Twenty-two-year old Sameer, Shahrukh’s younger brother is now the sole breadwinner of the family.

On 24 February, Sameer spoke with his brother on phone – Shahrukh told him he’ll be back by 3:00 pm.

“That was our last conversation, after that when we heard that riots had broken out in Shiv Vihar area – we couldn’t reach his phone, every time we called – it said it was switched off,” Sameer told Maktoob.

When Sameer couldn’t reach his brother’s phone, he began frantically searching for him everywhere; he and his cousin rode to the Shiv Vihar area and inquired about Shahrukh; nobody knew what happened.

“I went to my uncle’s place in Shiv Vihar – we were looking for my cousin Mohammed Hasan as well, a little later – Hasan entered home, he was bleeding from his head – he told us that the riot mob thrashed him and Shahrukh while they were returning, but he escaped narrowly, and has no idea where Shahrukh was” Sameer stated.

On the same day – Sameer received the viral video of Shahrukh in which he was being thrashed by the riotous mob. 

“We were worried, no one in my family could sleep, we didn’t even know if he was alive or not – we searched for three days continuously, we looked into every nearby hospital – then on February 27, 2020 we received a call from Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital,” Sameer explained in detail.

As soon as Shahrukh’s family received the call, they sent one of their cousins to check GTB Hospital. Shahrukh’s cousin searched the entire hospital, looking at every body before going to the mortuary. When he saw Shahrukh, he was barely recognisable, his entire face was swollen, and he was unconscious. His cousin recognised Shahrukh by the “S” tattoo on his hand.

“At the very least, we were relieved that he was alive,” Sameer said.

“My father rushed to the hospital to check on Shahrukh; the administration informed him that Shahrukh will not be admitted unless they show the hospital their Aadhaar card,” Sameer added.

In the midst of the violence on the streets, Shahrukh’s father had to return to Loni, obtain the Aadhaar, and return to the hospital, where the treatment began.

The doctor informed us that Sameer had been hit by rods on his head and was also shot in the chest, which fortunately only touched and went off.

“Shahrukh was also shot thrice in his leg, he still has bullet marks on his chest and leg,” Sameer told Maktoob.

After nearly seventeen days, Shahrukh regained consciousness.

Shahrukh’s mother Shehnaaz. Photo: Arshi Qureshi/Maktoob

“We identified one of the culprits , but no action was taken”

“When he finally regained consciousness after two weeks – we were so relieved, we thought things will be better now, but as soon as he woke up he said – Ammi, mujhe kuch nahi dikh raha hai, main kya karu (Ammi, I can’t see anything, what should I do),” Shehnaaz told Maktoob.

Later, the doctor at GTB revealed that Shahrukh had lost his vision as a result of the impact on his nerves caused by being beaten with a rod on his head.

Shahrukh was permanently blind in one eye as a result of the horrific attack, and he can only see 10 percent with his right eye. 

“That day, everything ended for us, my young son, the hope of our family, I never thought we’d face this,” Shehnaaz said.

Shahrukh is the eldest of four siblings, and he was twenty-three years old when tragedy struck the family.

“It’s been two years – and I’m just sitting at home, I can’t work anymore, I can’t help my family financially – it kills me from within, I don’t know what I did wrong,” Shahrukh explained.

Sameer informed Maktoob that he recognised one of the perpetrators of the attack on Shahrukh from the video he received. He said that one of the attackers ran a pharmacy in Shiv Vihar. 

“I told the police about this person – we had video evidence – and the police said they would take action, we have no idea what happened to that man, and the police said they arrested him, but I have no idea,” Sameer explained.

According to Sameer, the pharmacy in Shiv Vihar has been replaced by a clothing store. 

“Perhaps that culprit fled, maybe he sold his shop, we don’t know what happened to him,” Sameer speculated.

According to Aasif Mujtaba, Founder and Director of Miles 2 Smile Foundation, “the culprit in Shahrukh’s case was never arrested, the police did not pursue the case – the victims are not financially strong, and they are exhausted fighting the legal battle.” 

Mujtaba’s Miles 2 Smile foundation has been providing legal and financial assistance to victims of the Delhi pogrom.

Shahrukh told Maktoob that before 2020 as well he has been targeted for his identity.

“When we used to go to sell garments, some people would stop us in areas like Noida and harass us, using anti-Muslim slurs; harrassment was nothing new for a visible Muslim man like me, but the year 2020 changed my life forever,” Shahrukh told Maktoob.

Forward to 2022 – Shahrukh has stopped working, his younger brother handles all the expenses – Shahrukh says he feels like a burden to his family.

“I’m angry – it’s been two years and I’m still looking for answers – time may pass, but the wounds will never heal, and for the time being, only praying gives me peace,” Shahrukh said.

Arshi Qureshi is an Independent journalist based in Delhi

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