It is important to observe how the quasi-state structure of Delhi has been a key factor in approaching the last person in the queue with adequate facilities.
The Delhi riots 2020, have been time and again compared to the 1984 massacre in Delhi. The impression, however, is uncanny.
In February, Delhi witnessed the worst riots in decades. As many as 53 people have been killed and more than 200 have been injured in the major violence that broke out in Delhi. Frenzied mobs, both for and against, took over the streets over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Houses, shops and vehicles were set on fire, and the mayhem that continued for 3-4 days saw people roaming the streets of North-East Delhi with stones, lathis, and swords.
Babarpur, Mustafabad, Karawal Nagar, Maujpur, Bhajanpura, Gokulpur, Ghonda, Rohtas Nagar, Yamuna Vihar, Shiv Vihar, and Chand Bagh were the areas worst affected by the violence.
It is important to observe how the quasi-state structure of Delhi has been a key factor in approaching the last person in the queue with adequate facilities. As much as we understand how effective governance includes assuring its people safety, security, and stable law and order situation, it must be kept in mind that Delhi is a lesser state than other states, under Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution. Under such a situation, we have to realise that there was little that the Delhi government could do in controlling the law and order situation.
The Delhi riots 2020, have been time and again compared to the 1984 massacre in Delhi. The impression, however, is uncanny. Both the riots were communal in nature, no police personnel were interested even in the slightest way to stop the mayhem, and a dominating majority attacked a minority group with an agenda of polarisation. The differences also need to be assessed in a certain manner. The 1984 riots happened before the Lok Sabha election in the country, the recent riots happened after the Delhi Assembly Elections 2020.
Another difference is how the state governments then and now comprehended the intensity of the aftermath. The could-haves and should-haves that are being witnessed in the current situation on how the state government is dealing with the situation, would have been appreciated if they had a roadmap of the rehabilitation to follow from the 1984 riots. Unfortunately, the 1984 riots have nothing to prove in terms of relief, rehabilitation, peace-building, inter and intra-faith measures, a part of the reason why we are still intolerant to other faiths in the 21st century.
Mustafabad camp tells stories of thousands of people who have been displaced due to the violence. The Delhi government has set-up 10 camps in the riot-affected areas of North-East Delhi, Mustafabad camp being the biggest of all. The camp can accommodate around 1000 people and has been set up with separate tents erected for women (and children) and men, with provisions of food and water, toilets and medicines. Six help desks have been established at different locations in the riot-affected areas; Jagat Parking in Shiv Vihar, Gali No. 20 Shiv Vihar, Sherpur Chowk Khajoori Khas, Mother Dairy Gokulpur, Gate No. 1 Tyre Market, and Masjid Aziziya Gamrhi.
Several accounts of the 1984 riots depict the horrifying experience and how it took years for the government to pass orders on the relief assistance. The UPA government announced a compensation of 3.5 lakh to the kin of the deceased, which was enhanced in 2014 to 5 lakhs. Thirty-five years later, affected families are yet to avail justice and are living in abject poverty.
On the other hand, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced free treatment for the injured in government as well as private hospitals under the Farishtey scheme. He also announced a compensation amount of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the deceased, with Rs 1 lakh as the ex-gratia amount. Rs 5 lakh would be granted in case of the death of a minor.
Apart from the 35 Mohalla Clinics, 23 dispensaries, and two polyclinics operating in these areas, 12-15 health teams are being deployed on the ground to provide immediate medical assistance to these areas. The officials of the Delhi government said that in the wake of Corona, the district administration is taking preventive measures at the relief camps.
Mental health experts and psychotherapists from IHBAS and other institutions are working on the medical camps to aid people with behavioural disorders. The Mustafabad camp has a reading mela set-up by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Children Rights. At the set-up, several life-skill sessions have been organised to alleviate the impact of the riots on children. We cannot help but assess the alleviation that it might have had on the affected community back then.
The Delhi government had started an intensive two-day verification drive. The drive ensured speedy compensation to the victims of the riots that took place in North-East Delhi. Police and administration officials have been working to verify the losses suffered by the families. People have also started moving back to their homes.
The Delhi government has disbursed a total compensation of over 13 crores as relief assistance and compensation. The compensation has been disbursed on the cases of deaths, severe and minor injuries, and total, substantial and minor damage to residential units.
I’ve grown up listening to stories about the 1984 riots in Delhi. I remember my father telling me how he got lost in a crowd while coming back from school. He nearly lost his sight because of the tear gas shells fired towards him. I’ve heard my grandfather telling me how they sheltered a Sikh family. And I would always think to myself, how worse could it have been? It is a human tendency to disbelieve things that you’ve not seen. My firsthand experience with the riots that ravaged the North-East Delhi last month, explains it all.
The 1984 and 2020 Delhi riots were the results of a political will. The post-riot relief is what a state government needs to do for its people. Hence, the current attempt should be seen as a will of the government to reinstate normalcy.
Mansha Vij is a Delhi-based media fellow. She can be reached on Twitter , Facebook, and LinkedIn.