This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Mohammed Shahid. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“None Of The Neighbours Helped When The Only Muslim House In The Colony Was Burning”

More from Mohammed Shahid

The recent riots in the capital have pushed the minorities to contemplate their safety and security in the country. The stories of violence in the Northeast region of Delhi were dreadful and alarming. Similar to these is the story of Asif* (Name changed), a fruit seller in the Mustafabad area. He has been living in the Bhagirathi colony, in a Hindu-dominated lane, in a rented house for the past nine years. Being the only Muslim resident in the lane, his house was the only one burnt to ashes during the recent pogrom in northeast Delhi.

I met Asif when I was working with an NGO to provide relief services in the area. He had been called for document verification for the livelihood project of Vision 2026. He needed a cart to restore his business, as he used to sell fruits on streets. During the violence, the rioters burnt his cart. On my visit to his home for the verification process, we talked a lot about the events that happened on that day.

We had taken an e-rickshaw to his place as he began narrating his story. When the violence had erupted, he was selling fruits in the market. Soon after he heard the news, he called his wife to immediately vacate the house and reach a safer place with his children. Asif said that he never imagined his house will be burnt, as he had been living there for a long time. He was a well-known resident of the colony and friendly with all the residents.

Asif’s house. Image provided by the author.

I asked him whether any neighbour was involved in the pogrom in which his house was looted and burnt. He replied firmly, yet in a low voice, that he did not know who they were. People said that the miscreants had come from UP, but he said that without the help of the locals, how would they know that a Muslim lives in this particular house?

“Only my house was looted in the lane that has more than 200 houses. How would they know without the help of the locals? I called my neighbours and friends, they said the miscreants were outsiders. But sir, how could it have been possible without local involvement? How did they identify my house? Who told them a Muslim lives here? Now, the only pain I have is, my fellow residents didn’t resist when they looted and burnt down my house. Had they resisted, this could have been stopped. While my expectations have crumbled, with what hope do I return to my home where I’ve lived for so long? I don’t feel safe enough to live with my family there. During the day, when the violence had taken place, I was so confident that nothing will happen to my home because I trusted my neighbours. I believed they would never let anything wrong happen. But now, the trust has been lost and returning to the place is unimaginable.”

We reached the Bhagirathi colony. We stepped down and entered the colony together, and started walking towards his house. As he was walking, I could feel the fear coming out on his face. People were staring at Asif and smiling, which brought a sense of reconfirmation that he was a known resident of the colony. Suddenly, he removed his skull cap and put it in his pocket. I was shocked to see this. It gave me a clear message that he was going through a deep identity-based fear. He didn’t make eye contact with any of the residents there, and was rushing towards his house with his head down. I said that we can go back if he is not comfortable. He came close to me and said, “Sir, ab khone ko kuch hai nahi, chalte hain, aap dekh lijiye. (Sir, there is nothing more to lose, you come along, you’ll see). The sense of disappointment and breach of trust could be clearly felt from his expressions.

We reached his house and completed the verification. While I was returning, I asked whether he hates this place. He calmly replied,

“No sir, I don’t hate this place, and neither do I hate these people. I know most of them are with me and have personally apologised, but a few definitely broke my trust. My only complaint to my fellow residents is that they could have stopped this. I am leaving the place with this pain. Otherwise, I would have never left this place or my friends. I have never felt such insecurity or fear before. I will search for some place where my children can live in peace and without any fear.”

Asif left after dropping me at my place.

The story of Asif is many a survivors’ stories, which must be brought to the public domain. These stories are about the pain of the people who lost everything due to hatred.

* Name changed due to safety and privacy concerns.

Note: Asif’s photo has been retracted due to safety and privacy concerns. 

You must be to comment.

More from Mohammed Shahid

Similar Posts

By Imran Khan

By Ashraf Lone

By Sarah Marzouk

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below