New Delhi, Feb 28, 2020: Among the hundreds and thousands of Muslim families huddled inside their homes in various colonies of northeast Delhi over the last few days was that of one Mohd Anees.
They hoped, or prayed, that the nameplate outside the two-storey house would give the rioters some pause. The mob was going one by one vandalizing and burning down each house in Khas Khajuri Gali on the afternoon of February 25.
The nameplate said house number 76 belonged to Mohd Anees of the BSF and also showed its insignia. But it was not enough to save them from the violence that was to be unleashed.
First the cars that stood outside the house were set on fire. For the next several minutes, the mob pelted stones at the house.
They shouted slogans of “idhar aa Pakistani, tujhe naagarikta dete hai (Come here Pakistani, we’ll give you citizenship)” as they then threw a gas cylinder in the house to set it on fire. That Anees had spent three years in Jammu and Kashmir guarding the border after joining the BSF in 2013 was lost on them.
Along with Anees, his father Mohd Munis, 55, uncle Mohd Ahmed, 59, and 18-year-old cousin Neha Parveen were in the house. Sensing what was about to go down next, they all escaped from the house, and were helped by paramilitary troops.
Charred remains of the house now stand where the house was till three days ago. In the two lanes of Khajuri Khas near Anees’s house, 35 houses were set on fire. Only one house belonging to a Muslim family was spared.
The loss suffered by the BSF soldier’s family was perhaps greater as they had kept all their life’s savings inside: two weddings in the family were to take place in the next three months.
Neha Parveen was to get married in April and Anees himself was to get married the following month. “All the things we collected all our life, jewellery – two gold necklaces, silver jewellery, it is all gone,” the family said.
“We used to buy jewellery on instalments… used to give money every month and collected this jewellery,” they said. Rs 3 lakh in cash for the wedding arrangements also got burnt along with other valuables and all their belongings.
Khajuri Khas is a Hindu-majority area, but Anees’s family says no neighbour of theirs was involved in the attack. “People came from outside.” Instead, their Hindu neighbours were asking the rioters to leave. They requested them to leave and helped douse the vehicles on fire.