The communal riots in Delhi have claimed more than 50 lives so far and the count is only increasing as more and more dead bodies are recovered from an infamous drain in riot-hit area. The riot-torn families are struggling to come to terms with their lives after losing the sole breadwinners of their families to the violence, while there are still a large number of families that are constantly running from hospitals to police stations to lawyer chambers to find their missing loved ones. While the official numbers for the deceased persons are in public domain, the agencies are clueless about the numbers of missing persons. NewsClick talked to the family members of some of these missing persons.
Mohd. Mursaleen, 33, Mustafabad
Mursaleen, a resident of Indra Vihar in Mustafabad, has been missing after he boarded a bus from Murad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh to his home from February 25. He used to work as a salesman selling clothes and other items on his bicycle and would travel to neighbouring localities to support his family. After his disappearance, the family visited Lok Narayan Jay Prakash Hospital and other hospitals in the national capital to locate him.
Talking to NewsClick, his brother Mohsin said that he had to travel several times to the police station even to register their complaint. Interestingly, Mohsin maintains that the Delhi Police has not at all been transparent in terms of revealing the names of the arrested persons. He said, “The police has not come out with its list of arrested persons. Mursaleen's phone number is switched off. We do not know anything about him. Even if the police has arrested him, they should contact the family for further legal counselling help."
Mubarak Ali, 35, Bhajan Pura
Mubarak Ali, a white-washer by profession, had gone to search for work at a nearby labour chowk. He has been missing since the violence broke out. His nephew Abbas Ali told NewsClick, “Ali, a father of three, was sharing his cramped house with four other families.” On being asked about any assistance from the local police, Abbas said, “It has been almost 11 days since Mubarak Ali left home. Had there been any active intervention by the police, we would have certainly located him.”
Farman Khan, 20, New Seemapuri
Farman's mother looked restless and tired outside the mortuary of Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital in Northeast Delhi where this reporter met her. His mother, Shahida, said that he used to repair chairs in offices and homes and had no permanent source of income. Farman had gone missing on February 23 after he left home for work.
As per reports, the Delhi Police have filed 683 FIRs so far in the incidents related to the violence that lasted for over three days. A total of 1,983 people have been arrested or taken in custody. However, the details of the arrested/detained persons have not been issued so far.
Ehtesham Hashmi, a lawyer working for the riot victims, told NewsClick that the conduct of Delhi Police has been highly unprofessional. Hashmi said, “The concerned police station/ police officer should immediately inform the family about any arrests. Let me tell you a personal account. I called a Station House Officer who was not cooperating with a family in lodging a missing persons report. When I rang this officer, his reply stunned me. The officer told me ‘how can I believe if you are a lawyer?’ I am handling several cases and it becomes impossible to visit police stations. Mind you, this is just about a registering a missing complaint."
He added, “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution makes it mandatory for the state to protect life and personal liberty of a citizen and no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. What we are witnessing is contrary and unfortunate."
Sunil Kumar, secretary of All India Lawyers' Union Delhi, told NewsClick that the intent of action by Delhi Police appears to penalise the victims who have already lost their dear ones and property. He said, “Legally, the victims have options to file a habeas corpus petition in courts or to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) but, where is the sensitivity that officials claim about. I have a victim who is running from pillar to post to get her complaint registered. We will be moving to court but should citizens expect such insensitive behaviour from Delhi Police?”
Also read: Delhi Violence: Shattered Hopes, Destruction and Courage