The betrayal felt in the still-recovering areas hit by the Delhi riots makes coronavirus more of a threat

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Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, and more – those of us living our cushioned lives in India‘s capital hadn’t thought much about these areas until three-odd days of mob violence took 53 lives and injured over 200, a majority of the dead and injured being Muslims.

Unofficial estimates have these figures much higher. Even though there are indications of the areas coming back to life, an uneasy calm lies just under the surface. Fear, grief, trauma, anger, disbelief, hopelessness come together to tell stories of loss – of lives, livelihoods, material goods, and most of all trust. History tells us that these kinds of losses linger for generations.

In some of the worst-affected areas, survivors are trickling back. But the stench of burning still lingers in the lanes, and even those who have lived here for two decades don’t yet feel safe enough to stay the night. During and in the aftermath of the violence – I believe pogrom is the right word, given that the police looked on as Muslims were attacked, and some even allegedly joined in the violence – an ad hoc and decentralised citizen-led relief network emerged, taking the lead in rescuing people in distress (a court order was needed to let ambulances through during the worst of the violence), providing immediate relief, and now helping survivors get back on their feet.

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No political party has yet come out with a statement unconditionally condemning the violence. In fact, there is evidence that goes beyond that. Eyewitness accounts tell how the police stood aside as arson, stone-pelting, murder, and more took place; Delhi Police (who come under the central government, not the state) later claimed they had “no orders to act”. Even grievously injured survivors were harassed in government hospitals. In short, trust in the authorities is at an all-time low.

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