Nagma Saifi breaks down every time she recalls that dreadful Monday. At the break of dawn, right after the morning Azaan, she had to escape her house along with her mother and three sisters with nothing.
The previous night, tensions had built up in Khajuri Khas with provocative sloganeering and stone pelting right outside her house. Surrounded by Hindu-dominated Sherpur Chowk, Khajuri Khas is one of the worst affected localities in Delhi riots. More than 30 houses were burnt here. The Saifi family’s was one of them.
On Monday they woke up to threats of molestation. “Iss ghar mein Muslim ladkiya hai (There are Muslim women in this house),” was being yelled by rioters outside.
That’s when they decided to run away. Nagma’s mother Farzana begged and cried before her husband Mohd Illyas to leave with them. But Illyas said he won’t leave the house unattended. “They’ll burn my house, I won’t let them,” he said.
And so Illyas stayed back with his two sons. Nagma and her sisters escaped to a relative’s place in Chandbagh. Soon after, she heard horrifying accounts of gunshots being fired at her house. Worried sick for her father and brothers who had been left behind, she made several calls to 100, but they went unanswered.
Finally, Nagma’s younger sister Farah called ‘Poonam ma’am’, who ended up being their guardian angel. A trainer at Farah’s beautician course at a government-run Mahila Kendra in Dayalpur, Poonam somehow sent help to the men in Khajuri Khas and they escaped the house on Monday afternoon.
“If it was not for Poonam ma’am, we would have lost them all. My father and two younger brothers would have become just another number in the death toll. She was an angel sent to help us from God on that dark day. Don’t know how she did it, but she helped us when the police couldn’t,” says Nagma.
Later that day, they heard how their house was first looted and then set on fire. “They were outsiders who first put all our things out on the road and then ordered the others to come and take what they like. These men instigated people in our neighbourhood. There were those who said, ‘no, this is not right’. They were threatened and abused by the rioters. Some of our own neighbours then looted our house with those rioters,” said Nagma.
Nagma and her elder sister Nazreen used to run a boutique shop on the third floor of their house. This was the family’s primary source of income. It was the first thing to be mercilessly looted by the mob. All the clothes, dress material, were thrown out on the road. Then the third floor was shot by something, as it came tumbling down. And then the rest of the house was looted and set on fire.
Their father, Illyas, is a carpenter and had a shop on the ground floor of the same house but he didn’t make much money out of it. “My mother, sisters and I worked together and used to make around 30,000-40,000 a month. That was barely enough to sustain our family of eight. Papaji wasn’t able to make much. But he had recently got an order and had bought a lot of wood, all burnt down now…,” Nagma breaks down.
Not only did they lose their house, but they’ve lost their livelihood too. And to add insult to injury, her eldest sister Nazreen was slated to be married on March 29. She herself is engaged to be married, but that’s been postponed. All that the poor family has collected over the years for their weddings have been robbed or burnt.
“My mother isn’t eating or sleeping. She can’t stop wailing about Aapi’s (elder sister) wedding. We have nothing to give her. How will we get her married? Her in laws will break the marriage,” says Nagma.
“My mother’s Aadhar card is the only thing we have of our identity proof. That too, because it’s in our phone. All our degrees, certificates, our medals, our dream have been burnt to ashes,” she says.
Her younger sister Noor has her Class 10 board exam today. With no books, no bags, no admit card. It is no surprise that a traumatised Noor will not be giving the exams.
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