Delhi Riots: Victims run from pillar to post to get govt compensation for bullet injuries, loss of property

They are being forced to move the court as the SDM offices were not opening even after the lockdown lifted and in multiple cases, their applications are not being accepted

Muslims 'targeted' in New Delhi riots
Muslims 'targeted' in New Delhi riots

Ashlin Mathew

Aamir (name changed to protect identity) skipped school on February 25 to go with his father Salman to their machine repair shop in Kabeer Nagar. As soon as they neared the shop, Salman saw armed men shoving people. While he called his brothers to warn them, his 15-year-old son went ahead to check the situation. That was all it took. He was swept up in the armed violence.

In the ensuing commotion, several people got injured and a few people rushed to help them. Salman rushed when he saw that Aamir was injured. It was 11.30 am. With the help of a few people, Salman took his son to a clinic in one of the bylanes behind his shop.

“When we reached there, we were told that Aamir was shot below his navel. The doctors helped reduce the blood loss. I ran to find a vehicle to take my son to Guru Teg BahadurHospital. An auto-rickshaw driver took pity on me. We then switched Aamir on to a mini tempo as the auto-rickshaw was running out of gas. We reached GTB Hospital after 2 pm,” said Salman.

He was rolled in for surgery by 6.30 pm. Even though the surgery finished only close to midnight, the doctors were not able to remove the bullet as it was lodged too close to the spine. They were told that it would take multiple surgeries to remove the bullet.

Aamir’s case is not an isolated one. In the Hindutva mob-instigated pogrom in north-east Delhi, several people lost their lives, their belongings and their homes and business establishments were looted. Several were able to file complaints at the relief camp that was set up near Eidgah, but none of these have been converted to FIRs. Even fewer people have got the compensation amount promised and now, in the midst of the lockdown, they are being forced to go to court as the SDM offices were not opening even after the lockdown and in multiple cases, their applications were not being accepted.

Less than one-third of those who have applied for compensation have got the payments. According to Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, there are at least 2,000 compensation forms waiting to be processed at the various SDM offices in north-east Delhi. A few hundred have been processed. Even in cases where compensations have been given, families have only got a fraction of what the government announced.

In May, the Delhi government announced a payment scheme for all those affected by the riots. According to the scheme, Rs 10 lakh were to be given to a family where a major person died, and Rs 5 lakh in case of a minor. Initially Rs 1 lakh was to be given and the rest of the amount once the documentation was completed.

The government, in the scheme, stated that if a house was completely damaged, Rs 5 lakhwould be given, Rs 2.5 lakh in case of substantial damage and up to Rs 25,000 in case of minor damage. If during the pogrom, the person suffered from permanent incapacitation, then they would be paid Rs 5 lakh, Rs 2 lakh in case of serious injury and Rs 20,000 in case of a minor injury.

“At the hospital, the sub-divisional magistrate handed over Rs 20,000 and he said it was immediate assistance and the remaining would be given later. He gave it to other families present at the hospital too,” said Salman. Since then he has been trying to get the rest of the compensation promised by the Delhi government.

Despite having a grave bullet injury which could incapacitate him for life, Aamir’s case was categorised as a minor injury. “The assessors from the SDM’s office have categorised several of the serious bullet injuries into the minor category. That is what has happened in Aamir’scase. We are likely to go to court on this. Aamirshould get at least Rs 2 lakh, if not more,” said Neha, a lawyer working on the case. Names have been changed as both lawyers and the victims are being pressurised to drop the court cases.

Ishaan (name changed) was shot in his thigh and that led to the thigh bone splintering. “The bullet is still lodged in his thigh and he can’t walk yet. Two surgeries have been done to ensure the bone is repaired. Now, Ishaan has to undergo at least two more surgeries to remove the bullet as there is severe pain in his thigh. But, due to the lockdown and lack of money, they family has not taken Ishaan to the hospital. They have not been paid any money at all,” explained another lawyer, who did not want to be named.

Afsana and her family had left Shiv Vihar for their village on February 22 to attend a wedding. Fearing violence in the area, they did not return until March 24, which was when the lockdown was announced. Eventually, when they returned, they saw that their entire house had been looted. As a result of the lockdown, they couldn’t submit a police complaint in March and when the lockdown was eased, she went to file her complaint on June 4. Then when Afsanawent to the SDM’s office, she was informed that the office had not resumed its functions.

When Afsana went to the SDM’s office, she was informed that they was not accepting compensation forms as the last date was March 20. The SDM’s office had arbitrarily decided on the final date without an official memo. That is when Afsana decided to approach the court. She wanted the court to direct the SDM’s officeto accept her compensation form.

“After the first hearing of the case, the SDM was directed to accept her form, yet it took more than three more visits to the SDM’s office for it to be finally accepted. Now, it will be reviewed,” said Neha.

Sameer’s house was looted on February 25, after they had left their homes. “We had left Rs 1.75 lakh in the house and that was stolen. Our motorcycle was burnt. We had a textile machinery factory and my father used to run a wholesale bakery. Both the establishments were looted and burnt. Our family lives in a three-storey building and it has all been damaged. We continue to live here because the SDMs have not come to assess the house. We have gone several times to the SDM’s office, yet they haven’t come. Unless they come, we can’t do anything as otherwise they will oppose the compensation due to us,” underscored Salman.

Both Sameer and Ishaan’s family called the police several times, but they got no response on the night of the pogrom. According to Section 357-A of the CrPC, the state must award compensation if the police and the state did not do its job of protecting citizens. The law states that if the offender has not been traced, but the victim has been identified, and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependents may make an application to the State for compensation.

National Herald called three SDMs; only the SDM of Karawal Nagar Puneet Patel responded. “Our offices were not open in June due to the lockdown. We just opened and we will process the compensation forms. We can’t estimate now how long it would take to process all of it. There are several other SDM offices dealing with the compensations too. We will verify injuries and damages and award compensation accordingly,” said Patel.

As GTB Hospital doctors were reluctant to conduct the surgery, the family took Aamir to Al Shifa hospital in South-East Delhi’s Okhla. After two more surgeries, the bullet was taken out from his body. Aamir can’t walk unsupported yet. “The family was able to arrange some money to save Aamir’s life. Now they need the compensation to pay back the money,” said Neha. They are hoping to file the petition in court by next week if the SDM doesn’t process his compensation form.

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Published: 24 Jul 2020, 9:15 PM