Killed by hate

In February, 53 people were killed amid protests against India's new citizenship law. Here are their stories.

By Bilal Kuchay/ Al Jazeera

In February, at least 53 people were killed in the worst religious violence the Indian capital witnessed in decades.

The violence erupted after a mob led by a governing party leader targeted sit-ins in New Delhi against a new citizenship law, which critics say goes against the secular ethos of the country.

The passage of the law last December triggered nationwide protests, mostly led by Muslims who say the law discriminates against them.

Beginning on February 23, Muslims in northeast Delhi were attacked by Hindu mobs, who went on a rampage for five days, killing dozens, burning houses, shops and mosques.

About a dozen Hindus were also killed in the violence.

The police were accused of either supporting Hindu mobs or looking the other way as the capital burned, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with US President Donald Trump barely 20km from the site of the violence.

Home Minister Amit Shah has rejected accusations of Delhi Police's complicity in the violence and praised them for controlling it. More than 800 people have been arrested for the violence, while police continue to make arrests and investigate.

Al Jazeera visited at least 50 families who lost their loved ones in the violence to record their ordeal as they come to terms with their losses.

Ashfaq Hussain, 22

Ashfaq, who ran an electrical shop in Chand Bagh, was killed in closeby Brijpuri at around 6pm on February 24. He had five bullet injuries on his body, his family told Al Jazeera. Ashfaq got married only 10 days earlier on February 14.

Al Jazeera

Mohammad Sulaiman, 27

A resident of Hapur district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Sulaiman worked as a labourer in Northeast Delhi’s Karawal Nagar area. On February 25, he left for work but never came back. His body was identified days later by his family in the mortuary of a government-run hospital.

Al Jazeera

Akberi, 85

The oldest victim of Delhi violence, Akberi died on February 26 after her house in Gamri village was set on fire, her son Mohammad Saeed Salmani told Al Jazeera. Salmani operated a garments workshop on the first two floors of his house.

Al Jazeera

Musharraf, 35

Musharraf, also a labourer, lived in Mustafabad. His family alleged he was dragged by a Hindu mob from their home and beaten to death. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.

Al Jazeera

Shaban, 22

Shaban, a welder by profession, originally belonged to Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district and was living in Mustafabad. On February 24, he left home to get a welding machine from a contact in Chand Bagh area, but never returned. His family looked for him for three days. Their search ended at state-run Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital mortuary on February 28.

Al Jazeera

Dalbir Singh Negi, 20

Negi worked at a sweets shop in Shiv Vihar, one of the worst-hit areas during the violence. After having his lunch on February 25, he was taking a nap in a godown when the rioters came. His family alleged the attackers cut his limbs and set him on fire. The family said they got to know about his death two days later.

Al Jazeera

Sonu, 32

Sonu’s family told Al Jazeera he died of a heart attack hours after he saw a Hindu mob in his Bhajanpura neighbourhood killing a Muslim man. He died in the early hours of February 28.

Al Jazeera

Nitin Kumar, 15

Nitin Kumar was the youngest victim of the Delhi violence. He was an eighth grade student at a government school. His father Ram Sugarak, 48, said he went out on February 26 to buy chowmein. Half an hour later, Sugarak received a call from his family, saying Nitin could not be found. He came back and looked for him too. The locals then told him police had taken the injured to the GTB hospital. When Sugarak reached the hospital, Kumar was still breathing. A few hours later, he died.

Al Jazeera

Babbu, 30

Auto-rickshaw driver Babbu lived in Khureji Khas area of Northeast Delhi. On February 25, he was returning home to have lunch when he was attacked by a mob. His family received a call about him lying in a pool of blood on the road. He was rushed to the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. On February 27, he breathed his last. He is survived by his parents, wife, two sons and a daughter.

Al Jazeera

Mubarak Hussain, 31

Mubarak had come to New Delhi from Madhubani district in Bihar more than two decades ago and worked as a labourer in Maujpur area. On February 25, he was hit by a bullet in his chest and died on the spot.

Al Jazeera

Monis, 22

Monis hailed from Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi district and had been living in Mustafabad area for nearly a decade. A daily-wage labourer, he stepped out of his home on February 25. At around 4pm, he told his cousin he is on his way home. But he never reached while his family could not reach his phone either. His body was found in a mortuary on February 28.

Al Jazeera

Mohsin Ali, 24

Mohsin used to rent and repair electrical generators from his shop. He got married in December and lived with his wife and younger brother in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida, one of the satellite cities of New Delhi. As riots began on February 25, he received a call about renting out a generator for a wedding in Northeast Delhi. His charred car was found near Khajuri Khas area the next day.

Al Jazeera

Vir Bhan, 45

On February 27, Bhan was returning home from work on his motorbike with his son. He worked in a factory that made jeans and other garments in Maujpur. He fell from his vehicle near Shiv Vihar after he was hit by a bullet, his relatives said. Bhan, originally from Sadpura in the western state of Rajasthan, had been living in Northeast Delhi for the last five years. He is survived by his wife, 22-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.

Al Jazeera

Mehtab, 22

Mehtab, a resident of Brijpuri, had gone out to buy his grocery on February 25. While returning back, he saw that the iron gate in his lane was locked and decided to take another lane. But he was attacked by rioters and later succumbed to his injuries.

Al Jazeera

Prem Singh, 27

Prem Singh lived with his pregnant wife and three daughters - aged nine, five and three - in a rented accommodation in Brijpuri. A resident of Kasganj district in Uttar Pradesh, he had been working in Northeast Delhi as a rickshaw-puller for five years. On February 25, he left his home for work but never returned. His neighbours identified his body in the mortuary of the GTB Hospital.

Al Jazeera

Aqil Ahmad, 40

Aqil, who worked in a car workshop, left for work on February 26. When he didn’t return home that evening, his anxious family searched for him, a search that lasted three days before they found him dead in the GTB Hospital mortuary.

Al Jazeera

Rahul Thakur, 23

Thakur lived in Brijpuri, where he was preparing for the Staff Selection Commission examination, which would have gotten him an administrative job with the government. As violence began on February 25, he stepped out of his home to see what was going on. Within minutes, he was shot in the chest, his family told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera

Aamir, 30, and Hashim, 19

The two brothers were killed on the evening of February 26 when they were returning to their home in Mustafabad from Uttar Pradesh. “They were returning home from their grandmother’s house after Ajit Doval (national security adviser to the Indian prime minister) visited the area and assured people that the situation was under control,” said their father, Babbu Khan. Their bodies and the burnt motorcycle were found by police in a canal on February 27. Aamir, a father of two daughters aged seven and three, worked as a scrap dealer while Hashim worked in a garments factory.

Al Jazeera

Mudasir Khan, 36

Mudasir was also a scrap dealer in Mustafabad. On February 24, he left home for work but did not return. His family received a call from him in the evening, in which he said he had decided to stay in the neighbouring Kabir Nagar due to the violence. Next day, as he was on his way home, stone pelting started near Kardampuri and someone shot him in the head, his father Haji Mohammad Yaseen told Al Jazeera. Khan is survived by his wife and eight daughters.

Al Jazeera

Zakir Saifi, 28

Zakir Saifi was offering his afternoon prayers at the Farooqia Masjid in Mustafabad when a Hindu mob chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) entered the mosque and began attacking the devotees. Saifi was rushed to a local nursing home where doctors told his family he should be taken to a bigger hospital where he could get treatment. In the absence of any vehicle or ambulance, his family took him on a cot to Al-Hind Hospital in Mustafabad where doctors declared him brought dead. Saifi was a father of two daughters aged eight and four.

Al Jazeera

Salman, 24

Salman lived in Alvi Nagar, a neighbourhood in Ghaziabad, one of the satellite cities of New Delhi Loni in Uttar Pradesh. He worked as a tailor in Mustafabad. On his way home on February 24, he was caught by a mob in Shiv Vihar and shot in the head, his family told Al Jazeera. He was on a ventilator when his family found him in the GTB Hospital where he breathed his last a couple of days later.

Al Jazeera

Aqib, 19

A resident of Mustafabad, Aqib was a ragpicker. On February 26, he was attacked by the rioters in Bhajanpura and put in the Intensive Care Unit of the GTB Hospital for a week. He died on March 2. “The attackers had beaten him on his head. We don’t know who took him to the hospital,” his father Ikraam told Al Jazeera, adding that on the day he was attacked, he had taken money from him to buy new clothes.

Al Jazeera

Mohammad Hamza, 25

Hamza, who originally belonged to the satellite city of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, had come to the Indian capital in January only and was working at an eatery selling chow mein and pizza, his father told Al Jazeera as he sat distraught outside the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Hamza, who was staying with his sister’s family in Mustafabad, went missing on February 26. His family alleged that police filed a missing report only after a local court intervened. Their search for Hamza ended at the hospital’s mortuary on March 5. Hamza’s family said his body was found in a canal in the area with several injuries in the head.

Al Jazeera

Rahul Solanki

Solanki was an engineer and lived in Babu Nagar. His father Hari Singh Solanki, 50, told Al Jazeera that around 5.30pm on February 24, he went out to buy milk from the nearby dairy. “Within 15 to 20 minutes of him leaving the house, we got reports that he had been shot. He had a gunshot wound to his throat,” he said. The family took him to a local nursing home where they were told to go to the GTB Hospital. Due to intense violence on the way, the family decided to take him to a hospital in Ghaziabad’s Loni area. Solanki passed away before they could reach the hospital. His father said they did not feel safe in the area anymore and were planning on leaving it.

Al Jazeera

Bhure Ali, 27

On February 26, Ali, a resident of Loni’s Raghunath Colony, left home at around 9am for work in Brijpuri in Mustafabad. When he did not return home in the evening, his family began calling on his phone but it was switched off. They searched for him for almost a week before they identified his body in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on March 3. Ali was a father of two sons aged eight and six.

Al Jazeera

Sanjit Thakur, 33

Thakur was a welder and lived in Khajoori Khas. Once violence started on February 25 in his area, he went out with his neighbours to guard the gates of their locality. He returned a few hours later with serious injuries to his head, chest and feet, purportedly from the heavy stone pelting in the area. The next day, the violence reached the nearby lane. Sanjit was alone in his house with his infant son. At around 2pm, his family received a call that Sanjit has been found hanging by the ceiling fan in his room. His son was fast asleep on the bed in the same room. The family still doesn’t know why he took such a step. His wife Sudha Thakur, 28, however suspects he feared for his life once violence started. She also feels her husband killed himself since he felt he would not be able to go to work anymore or provide for his family.

Al Jazeera

Ankit Sharma, 26

The killing of Sharma, an Intelligence Bureau official, was perhaps the most high-profile casualty of the Delhi violence. The Khajoori Khas resident stepped out of his house on February 25 to see what was happening in his neighbourhood. His body was found in a nearby drain a day later. Right-wing news channels and publications claimed he was stabbed 400 times and his intestines pulled out. But his post-mortem report said he was stabbed 12 times and received 51 injuries in all. At least six Muslims have been arrested so far for Sharma’s murder.

Al Jazeera

Parvez, 52

Parvez, a social worker, was shot right outside his house on February 25, his son Sahil Parvez told Al Jazeera. His family said he had been persuading the Hindus and Muslims in his neighbourhood to not participate in the rioting and stay united. On February 25, he was shot in the back a few metres away from his house, when he was trying to talk to people. He was rushed on a scooty to the GTB Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Al Jazeera

Maroof, 34

Maroof had two children, nine-year-old daughter and six-year-old son, and ran an electrical appliances shop. He, along with both Hindu and Muslim residents of his neighbourhood, were guarding their area when a mob chanting Hindu slogans fired on them. A bullet hit Maroof in his right eye. Two hours later, he breathed his last at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital.

Al Jazeera

Ayub, 50

Ayub, a ragpicker, lived in Loni’s Nasbandi Colony with his 18-year-old son, Salman. The Delhi violence had forced them to stay home. But on February 28, Ayub told Salman he could not stay home any longer and went out in search of work. He was attacked by a mob in Shiv Vihar and forced him to chant Jai Shree Ram (Hail Lord Ram), his son alleged. He was brought home by two men. Salman said he borrowed Rs 500 ($7) from a neighbour to take his father to a nearby hospital, where the doctors referred him to the GTB Hospital. Ayub died before making it to that hospital.

Al Jazeera

Faizan, 23

Faizan was a tailor and lived in Kardampuri. On the afternoon of February 24, he left his home. Hours later, he was among a few men lying wounded on the road as police officers forced them to chant the national anthem. A mobile video recording of the incident went viral. At around 8pm, a neighbour told his family that he had seen Faizan in a hospital. His family alleged that despite his injury, police kept him in custody and didn’t allow them to meet him. On February 25 at around 11pm, the family received a call from the police asking them to take him home. “He was beaten so badly that he couldn’t stand on his feet. The whole night at home, he cried with pain,” his mother Kishmatoon, 61, told Al Jazeera. Next morning, the family took him to a hospital where he breathed his last.

Al Jazeera

Mohammad Furqan, 32

On February 24, Furqan’s family, which lived in Kardampuri, received a call saying he had been hit by a bullet. His brother Mohammad Imran told Al Jazeera that by the time he reached the hospital, he had already died. Furqan is survived by his wife and two young children aged five and two.

Al Jazeera

Ishtiyaq Khan, 27

On the afternoon of February 25, Khan went out to buy groceries from a nearby store. He was shot in his abdomen roughly 100 metres away from his home. His family took him to GTB Hospital, where he died an hour and a half later. Khan is survived by his wife and two children - five-year old daughter and two-year-old son.

Al Jazeera

Mohammad Yusuf, 53

Yusuf, a resident of Mustafabad, was a carpenter. On February 25, he and his son Sulaiman had gone to Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi for work. At 3:48pm, they called home to say they were near Loni, 5km (2 miles) from Mustafabad. A mob of around 100 men stopped the two upon seeing a long beard on Yusuf’s face. The father-son duo was badly beaten. Sulaiman fell unconscious and they were taken to hospital by people there. Three days later, the family came to know Yusuf died at GTB Hospital.

Al Jazeera

Jamal-ud-Din, 33

Jamal-ud-Din worked at a bakery in Shiv Vihar. On February 25, his family came to the neighbouring Babu Nagar area to stay at a relative’s house. Two days later, when extra forces were deployed in the violence-hit areas of New Delhi and news of the improving situation appeared on television, Jamal-ud-Din and his brother Nizam-ud-Din, 38, decided to visit Shiv Vihar to see if their home was safe. There, a mob of 30-40 people stopped them and asked for their identification. When the mob found out the two were Muslims, they were hit by an iron rod, said Nizam-ud-Din. Jamal-ud-Din died on the spot while his brother received fractures on both his arms and a leg and injuries on his head and back as well. The family now lives in a shelter for the displaced families in Mustafabad.

Al Jazeera

Mohammad Anwar Qassar, 58

Qassar also was burnt to death on February 25, his son-in-law Nasruddin told Al Jazeera. A resident of Shiv Vihar, Qassar had been living by himself for almost a decade. Nasruddin said Qassar was shot and his body was set on fire. The family buried just one of his legs since the rest of his body wasn’t found. Qassar’s relatives alleged his house was looted and even the two dozen goats he owned were taken away by the rioters or set on fire.

Al Jazeera

Jamil Kuraishi, 24

Kuraishi worked as a mason and lived in New Delhi’s Chaman Park area for the last eight years. On February 24, his mother sent him out to get provisions but he never returned home. His mother thought he might have taken refuge at some place. Days later, his body was found in GTB Hospital’s mortuary. “His throat was cut and he had a hole on his nose,” his brother Mohammad Javaid told Al Jazeera. Kuraishi is survived by his wife and two young daughters, one of them eight months old.

Al Jazeera

Aas Mohammad, 30

Aas Mohammad, a daily wage worker, left home for work on February 25 and did not return. His family filed a missing report. Days later, they received a call from the police, which called them to the station to show pictures of bodies lying in different hospitals. His father Tahseem, 60, told Al Jazeera he identified his son’s body through his clothes. Police told them the body was found in a drain near Shiv Vihar. Aas Mohammad was the father of two young daughters and a nine-year-old son.

Al Jazeera

Aftaf, 21

Aftaf had come to New Delhi only five days before he was killed. On February 26, he was allegedly taken out from a godown by a Hindu mob and brutally attacked. The godown was set on fire. Police found his body in a drain. His family said they identified his body at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital by his clothes and a mole on his chin.

Al Jazeera

Shahid Khan, 20

Shahid lived in a rented house in Mustafabad and drove an auto rickshaw for a living. On the afternoon of February 24, he left his home. At around 6pm, his family received a call that he had been shot near a nursing home in Yamuna Vihar, 3km from his residence.

Al Jazeera

Vinod Kumar, 51

Kumar was a professional disc jockey (DJ). At around 10pm on February 24, he and his son, 25-year-old Nitin Kumar, left home on a motorcycle to buy medicines from a store 500m away. On their way, Nitin was hit by a stone and the two fell from their vehicle. Soon they were surrounded and attacked by a Muslim mob carrying sticks and stones. Their motorcycle was set on fire. When the mob left, they were helped by a local who took them to a local hospital where his father died an hour later. Nitin was given 42 stitches in his head.

Al Jazeera

Naresh Kumar Saini, 33

Saini sold vegetables for a living. On February 24, masked men entered his area and set houses on fire. Saini was shot in the abdomen and he succumbed to his injuries a day later. He is survived by his wife and two children aged seven and five.

Al Jazeera

Irfan, 28

Irfan was out buying groceries when he was attacked by a mob carrying rods, sticks and swords. His mother Quresha, 60, told Al Jazeera she was walking behind her son and witnessed him being beaten to death. Quresha and her family had been living in the area for four decades but he said she had never felt more helpless. “I want justice for my son who was killed because of his religious identity. The men who killed my son are free and no one has been arrested so far,” she said.

Al Jazeera

Ratan Lal

Ratan Lal served as a constable in the Delhi Police and was shot while he was trying to control the violence in Northeast Delhi’s Gokulpuri area on February 24. The bullet that killed Lal entered from his left shoulder and was recovered from his right one. He is survived by his wife and three children aged 13, 10 and eight.

Al Jazeera

Mursaleen Mallik, 28

A resident of Chaman Park, Mallik was a scrap worker. He went missing on February 24 and his body was found by his family at the GTB Hospital mortuary. The body was handed over to the family on March 13 after a DNA test. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Al Jazeera

Dinesh Kumar, 28

Dinesh Kumar worked as a salesman at an electrical shop. On February 25, he left home for the market and was shot in the head. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Al Jazeera

Deepak Kumar, 32

Originally from Bihar’s Arrah district, Deepak Kumar was a factory worker and lived in Northeast Delhi’s Mandoli area. On February 24, the father of three children went out to buy clothes when he was attacked with swords and left badly wounded. He was rushed to the hospital but he succumbed to his injuries.

Al Jazeera

Amaan Iqbal, 17

Amaan Iqbal was a ninth grade student. On February 25 at around 3:30 pm, his father Iqbal Ahmad told him to get milk from the market. When he couldn’t find any, he told his father he would get it from the neighbouring Jaffrabad locality, barely 200m from their home in Seelampur. He was shot in the head outside an alley. Iqbal worked at a tea factory for a monthly salary of 9,000 rupees ($130). Fifteen days before the riots broke out, Amaan had started learning wood-carving work to help his family and fund the education of his two sisters.

Al Jazeera

Arshad Alam, 22

Alam was a house painter. On February 24, he left for work at New Delhi’s Jamna Vihar area. When he didn’t return home for several days, his family filed a police report. On March 1, they received a call from police to identify his body in a hospital. His father Mohammad Naseem Alam told Al Jazeera that he had bullet injuries in his right leg and hand, but accused the police of not including it in the post-mortem report. Alam was the eldest among his 10 siblings - four brothers and six sisters and was the family’s breadwinner. His father is diabetic and also has heart ailments.

Al Jazeera

Nazeem Khan, 35

Nazeem was working as a scrap dealer in Delhi.

Shan Mohd, 35

Shan was a resident of Loni in Uttar Pradesh.

Alok Tiwari, 24

Alok was working in a cardboard factory and was living in Karwal Nagar. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Dozens of mostly young lives were cut short in violence that sent shockwaves through the Muslim community, who form nearly 200 million of India's 1.3 billion population.

The families of the victims have little hope of getting justice and stare at an uncertain future, as state institutions such as the police and judiciary appear to have failed them.

And their fears are not unfounded.

A number of Muslim activists have been arrested, while ruling party leaders accused of inciting the Delhi violence roam free with impunity - the hallmark of Modi’s six years in power.

Relief camps set up to shelter the survivors of the carnage continued until they were cleared due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some violence-hit neighbourhoods also witnessed a boycott of Muslims, who have now been forced to settle in predominantly Muslim ghettos.

Police have made little headway into the investigation into the worst violence in the capital since 1984, when nearly 3,000 people belonging to the minority Sikh community were killed.

Ashutosh Varshney, who has researched Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India, says the Delhi violence qualified to be called an organised pogrom.

The families now fear the 53 will become statistics in India's political history like those who lost their lives in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

But for the victims' families, picking up their lives is an onerous task when a hostile Hindu nationalist government commands a super majority in India's Parliament.

Many bodies were fished out from drains after days of search, while many others were burnt to ashes. To list them here was a way to accord dignity to their lives.

Tanushree Bhasin contributed to this report

Edited by: Nadim Asrar and Saif Khalid

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