According to a report by Fact-Finding Committee on the North-East Delhi Riots of February 2020; the nature of attacks on women were not only verbal, but physical and psychological. On top of that, the social security of the victims were robbed.
A woman in the report narrated how slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Mullon ko Maaro’ (Kill the Muslims) were normal all around. She added that rioters wielded verbal weapons only alongside physical ones like lathis and swords.
The rioters were found yelling; “Bahut see Sakeenaayein aaj pakdi jaayengi.” (A lot of Sakneenas [Muslim women] will be caught today).
Several testimonies, According to the report had to say that, rioters we continuously abusing women; words like Mother f***** and Sister f*****. Sloganeering of Muslims getting killed today could be heard all over.
A woman had narrated an incident, documented in the report that, that when the mob arrived she had to run for her life. The situation had turned so bad that her kids did not stop crying for days. She was absolutely clueless about how to ask them to stay silent when she herself saw the houses burning across the street.
She had no choice but to lock her children inside and even she avoided going to the market to get home essentials.
In another incident reported in the testimonial, one lady had to hide her children. As the rioters entered her house on February 25, they understood that she and her family were already terrified.
In this incident the lady feels lucky that her house was not burnt but only looted. She also has to add upon that hardly anything was left with them now as every possible thing was stolen.
In another incident reported, one person recounted the horror of losing her child and feels that no compensation can ever replace her loss.
She further adds that all the compensation she has received so far has been in the form of bullets. She wonders if she even has a house to go back to anymore. Being looked as an ‘outsider’ in their own country is an added trauma.
Mothers stated that as their children were left with nothing to eat, babies were also starved for milk as the houses turned into ashes.
At least for the three days, as violence continued in the Eastern part of the Delhi, several women had become homeless and were forced to live on the streets or in relief camps.
For most of the women who had lost their children, husbands and their source of living. Deliberate targets thought out from before so that houses could be burnt and jewellery could be looted. Essential documents were also lost.
A mother, who had saved Rs. 10 lakh for her daughter’s wedding and had a total savings of Rs. 60 lakh from her husband’s retirement, lost everything. A young girl’s marriage was fixed but it was cancelled because she had lost everything.
A single mother from Shiv Vihar stated that all her belongings were burnt and her money and pieces of jewellery were looted. 30 grams of gold, 750 grams of silver and 30,000 rupees cash which were all looted.
Now being popularized in the main stream politics, if the exercise of NRC (National Register for Citizens) is implemented all over India, those whose relevant documents were burned to ash face more trouble.
Role of Police
Protests in the Chand Bagh area had a different story. Male Police had taken a charge to move the lady protesters. The brutality had lead to a lot of chaos leaving several women injured. Among these was a pregnant lady who received 35 stitches after being hit by the police on February 24.
The very same she pleaded to police that she was pregnant and to be spared as the tear gas explodes right in front of her. Echoes of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shree Ram’ were chanted by mobs as an old lady got beaten up by the mob right in front of her.
The women said their protest was peaceful and it was the police which fomented chaos and violence.
Another woman from the report had stated that, mobs had deliberately hidden their faces so that they couldn’t get identified. She adds up saying that she woke up to slogans like “Mullon ko “maaro” (Kill the Muslims) and “Hum Denge Azadi” (We will give freedom). When she looked out of her window, she saw that the rioters had all kinds of weapons and saw acid being thrown on girl’s face.
Victims ran for their life and continuously tried to call the Police, but no one picked up their calls. When they finally did receive the calls, the victims’ plight was not their priority.
Sexual Assault and Gender-based Violence
In the incident from Shiv Vihar, a Muslim woman’s testimonial showed how several women had no choice but to leave their house protecting their men in the family.
As they stepped into violence affected areas, they were physically assaulted and sexually harassed by the mob.
Several women stated how the mobs used word “Azadi” (Freedom) and said if they want “Aazadi” they would give them aazadi, using the word as a metaphor for sexual assault.
In one of such incident, women shares that it was Police who had pulled their pants down and pointed their genitals towards the women stating that their midsection was freedom.
Another woman reported an incident, where a mob forcefully entered her house and tore her to shreds.