Chronicling Truth, Countering Hate: Responding to the violence and state
action in North-East Delhi in February 2020
A report by Karwan e Mohabbat

 

Press note | 11th July 2020

It has been four months since North-East Delhi had been engulfed in communal violence. When the first reports for violence came in, a team of over thirty young volunteers assembled to track and respond to calls of rescue and support. This subsequently expanded to detailed work on the fronts of rescue, medical, legal, relief, and mental health support in the weeks immediately after the riots. “Chronicling truth, Countering Hate: Responding to the violence and flawed state action in North-East Delhi in February 2020″ is a report that chronicles the violence and its aftermath in North-East Delhi in Feb 2020. At a time when a very different official narrative of the violence is being constructed, this report helps us understand what truly transpired during the time and its lasting impacts on the community, from the eyes and hearts of the young volunteers who contributed hugely to rescue and relief when the state largely
abdicated its duties.

This report was released through a webinar on 11th July 2020, at 11 am. It was presented by Sasikanth Senthil and Suroor Mander, joined by a panel consisting of Dr, Neera Chandhoke, Dr. Syeda Hameed, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti and Ambassador Deb Mukharji. The short documentaries ‘Cry My Beloved City’ and ‘Best of Luck for Your Exams, Ayesha’ by Karwan e Mohabbat were also screened.

While presenting the report, Suroor Mander noted that ‘What began that afternoon with two injured patients when the first distress call was documented, by the time the ambulance arrived was 22 injured and 5 dead bodies. It also dawned on us that this affected more than one police station and thus decided – ambitiously, maybe recklessly – to move the Delhi High Court… What bound all of us – judges, policepersons, lawyers, court clerks, volunteers – was our love for our country, our constitution.’ Ex-IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil, who was a part of the relief efforts, remarked ‘I came across a perfect system of youngsters receiving, verifying and forwarding rescue pleas to the police. I was blown away by the way these youngsters worked…The government in Delhi thought this was just a police-related matter happening in Delhi, which the police ought to control. In fact, this was a man-made disaster…In riot situations we wonder what can be done. This report needs to go to the people, because Civil Society did all the work of rescue and rehabilitation. Others have to learn.’

After hearing the presentations on the report, political scientist Dr. Neera Chandhoke said ‘In December we were pleasantly surprised with all sorts of student organisations come up. They spoke the language of solidarity. Students said we will be affected if our fellow citizens would be affected. They embodied the principle of justice that we owe each other. A new language of protests took shape. The protests showed a shift from the idea of paper citizens to performative citizens.’ Dr. Harjit Bhatti, who provided emergency healthcare during the riots remarked ‘In my life as a medical professional I had never seen this kind of brutality and such hatred between humans, despite the fact that as doctors we are used to see death and suffering … ‘Doctor’ is a gender and religion neutral term. But we were asked to send non-Muslim doctors to rescue people, as Muslims were at risk from the rampaging mobs. For the first time in my life I was looking at my phonebook in terms of religion.’ Ambassador Deb Mukharji argued that ‘What is required is a commission to look into the shortcomings of what the police did not do and could have done, and whether police acted as an extension of the executive.’ Activist and educationist Syeda Hameed said ‘These young people who came together and gave up their sleep and peace of mind, are we going to call them for help every time? If the state wanted this would never have happened… What power does the individual have against the might of the state? The only hope for me has been the young
lawyers, doctors and psycho-social workers who stood up and continue to stand up.

Six Million Meals Campaign

Solidarity Feeding by Karwan e Mohabbat for India’s Dispossessed

SCALE OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

The Covid-19 pandemic has emerged not only as a health crisis but also an immense humanitarian and economic disaster. In India, the countrywide lockdown, announced with barely 4 hours’ notice on 24 March, 2020, left millions of daily wage labourers and working-class people stranded without access to work, home or food. The intense suffering of millions of working and farming people, especially migrants, casual workers, the self-employed poor, waste gatherers, single women headed households, the destitute and disabled poor, persons with disability, stigmatized people, survivors of targeted violence, and others was going to be further compounded with the extension of lockdown upto 3 May. As cases of Covid-19 infections rise, there remains uncertainty about when the lockdown may actually lift.

RELIEF EFFORTS

Team Karwan e Mohabbat and a country-wide group of volunteers have been providing meals and food packages to homeless, daily-wage and migrant workers from the start of the lockdown. Our network of volunteers are working in Delhi NCR, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Besides supporting the urban poor in cities like Delhi NCR, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai, including migrants, workers in MSMEs, casual daily wage workers, ragpickers, refugees, sex workers and homeless people, we are also focussed on the distress of the rural poor – farmers, daily wage and migrant labour in Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, UP and Haryana.

We receive hundreds of SOS messages every day from various parts of the country of food supplies running out among stranded people and try to respond to them through our networks.

The relief is provided in these 3 ways:
1) Cooked meals for homeless men, nomadic groups, elderly and disabled and stranded migrants.
2) Dry food ration kits that have supplies for 100-150 meals and is able to sustain a family of 5 for 10 days or longer.
3) Money transfers to far-flung ration shops from where people who are difficult to reach by our volunteers can procure food supplies locally; and also sometimes for health emergencies.

We also continue to advocate and support state governments in various states, pointing them to families and clusters of highest need.

At the start of the lockdown, we had set for ourselves the target of distributing one million meals. Then as distress grew, we raised our goal to three million meals. Through these efforts, we have in the first month of the lockdown, provided over three and a half million meals to the poor and needy. But with the extension of lockdown and mounting hunger and suffering, the graph of our efforts continues to rise, but we need to strive even harder. Our target now is six million meals. With volunteers and systems in place, and a generous flow of solidarity donations, we hope now to supply six million meals in the coming weeks of the lockdown and the intense economic crisis even after its lifting.

TEAM KARWAN E MOHABBAT

Team Karwan e Mohabbat is a large open platform, devoted to the values of solidarity, compassion and justice. For the feeding solidarity program in times of the COVID 19 pandemic, Karwan e Mohabbat is supported by several hundred individual donors from India and around the world and some leading philanthropic organizations. The team includes volunteers and staff of Aman Biradari who work for healing and justice with survivors of violence; volunteers and staff of the Centre for Equity Studies who work with homeless people and various other disadvantaged groups; volunteers and staff of Rainbow Foundation India who take care of formerly homeless children; older children and young adults in our care; and a range of other young volunteers including students and young professionals; and volunteers from the homeless population.

FUTURE NEEDS and AIMS

As stated, the scale of hunger and deprivation is growing exponentially with the possibility of extension of lockdown in many states. Even after it is lifted, we recognize that the economy will take very long to revive, leaving millions of the poor working people extremely vulnerable to hunger. We intend to raise further resources and build capacity and reach to be able to provide at least 6 million meals with dignity and honour to those most in need, while the impact of the lockdown continues.

VIDEOS

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Voices From The Margins – daily wage labour

A #Lockdown Bereft Of Empathy And Compassion

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The Endless Walk to Reach Home

Reaching the Last in Line-the poor and homeless

One Million Meals : Naseerudin Shah’s appeal

Nandita Das Appeals

Sushant Singh Appeals