Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Jahangirpuri violence: In absence of men, Muslim women struggle to put food on table

Nargis,20, is anxious about how to feed her eight-month-old infant. The tragedy of losing her first child two years ago haunts her. But her husband is absconding since police began raiding Muslim houses after communal violence broke out in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri on Hanuman Jayanti, 16 April this year.

Nargis is among dozens of Muslim women in the C block of Jahangirpuri who are left behind by men who were forced to flee from Delhi due to “police harassment”. Some of them also lost their properties in the subsequent demolition drive by the BJP-ruled civic body.

“We [Muslims] have already paid a high price,” says Nargis, as she appeals that her husband had no role in the violence.

Locals allege that police arrested whoever they caught during the midnight raid and tortured others.

“Men and boys have left Delhi after they saw what police did to our men,” Asiya, a local resident, told Maktoob.

According to reports, about 32 persons, including three juveniles, have been arrested in the case related to the communal clashes so far by the Delhi Police Crime Branch. Delhi police have also nabbed one accused from West Bengal after he fled from Jahangirpuri.

Although there is no confirmed figure of how many of them have left Delhi, over a dozen women told Maktoob that the men in their families are hiding due to police harassment.

Even after two months, locals claim that police are still in search of men who lived in the colony.

“Discriminated from all sides”

Most of the residents of Jahangirpuri are from the Khotta community, a Bengali Muslim group. They say that prejudice against them, by political parties and media, has left them in misery.

Following the violence, both Bharatiya Janata Party and Aam Aadmi Party leaders labelled inhabitants of Jahangirpuri as infiltrators, speculating they are Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims.

In the absence of men — some of them were summoned for investigation — the women allege regular harassment by police personnel.

“They threaten us that they will seal our houses. Some of the houses have a notice on the door,” said Asiya. Locals also complain about police using racial slurs and derogatory terms against them.

“We are genuine citizens of this country,” a number of women, who shared their ordeal, assured Maktoob.

Women with Bengali dialect are reluctant to visit their kin in jail due to fear of harassment.

The women also said that no political parties supported them in the situation, because they are “Muslims”. These men can’t afford to migrate their families along with them due to financial constraints.

Many among them don’t even have a medium to send their daily wage to their families.

“I also have to deposit money in jail,” says Sakeena, whose son-in-law remains in jail for a case related to the violence.

Sakeena lives in the shanties across C block where the situation is even worst. Her son-in-law, Amir, was detained on the night of violence at 2 am and allegedly tortured while in custody.

“He couldn’t walk when I met him the day after he was arrested,” claims Sakeena. She was among the Muslim women who confronted BJP members groups outside Jahangirpuri police station who raised “Jai Shree Ram” slogans.

“It was a clash between two parties. Why are police only looking for Muslims? Did Muslims fight each other,” asks Sakeena, who witnessed the violence.

Muslim groups have slammed the police investigation as “biased” after an overwhelming majority of the men booked in violence were Muslims. “They arrested some Hindus to save their face. They immediately got bail. What about our men?” the group of women in C block asked.

“We live on relief funds handed by NGOs. But after Ramadan, many have stopped taking care of us,” laments one of them.

Some of the women have made a makeshift shop on the adjacent road to keep them afloat during these difficult days. “We don’t know how long police will allow us to keep it running. They have turned merciless

“If people forget about us, we will starve to death,” a lady among the group said.

Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla, an award-winning journalist, is the Deputy Editor of Maktoob.

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