| Soldiers keep vigil as people come out on the street after curfew was relaxed in Muzaffarnagar. (PTI)
Muzaffarnagar, Sept. 10: Khairunnissa lost her brother-in-law Dilshad to the clashes but has gained a “younger brother” — a fellow survivor called Anwesh Singh.
“He helps me take care of my two daughters,” the 40-year-old said from her hospital bed.
The violence has ripped apart years of concord. But away from the seething theatre where groups have turned on each other with guns, bombs and sickles, anything that could inflict hurt, the local hospital in this west Uttar Pradesh town is a picture of kinship.
“They all share the same grief after having lost family members,” said a doctor who has been attending to victims since Saturday.
Sisters Ajra, 10, and Aksa, 5, suffered splinter injuries after being caught in a mob attack in Bahuri, a village about 190km from Delhi. Both are being treated at the hospital’s ophthalmology ward.
| Sisters Aksa, 5, and Ajra, 10, at the government hospital in Muzaffarnagar on Tuesday
|Aksa with her mother Khairunnissa at the hospital, where Anwesh Singh and Chandvir (in the background) are also admitted. Pictures by Prem Singh
Next to them lies Anwesh, resident of Mandor, another violence-hit village. The 30-year-old, who was hit on the head with a sharp weapon, is recuperating — a watchful eye on the kids, one of whom is still in trauma.
“He is like my younger brother. He keeps an eye on my two daughters. He also makes sure they have medicines on time,” said Khairunnissa.
Khairunnissa lost three family members after a mob attacked their home in Bahuri. “Armed with guns, bombs and sickles, they broke into our house and opened fire,” she mumbled between tears.
Before leaving, the attackers burnt down the house.
Her brother-in-law Dilshad, niece Iqra, 11, and mother-in-law Haseena, 60, succumbed to bullet injuries at the hospital.
Khairunnissa and her daughters, Aksa and Ajra, suffered splinter injuries in their faces and other parts of their bodies. “They attacked Ajra with sickles. Aksa hasn’t spoken since that day, she is still traumatised. The mob later torched three houses of my cousins.”
As Khairunnissa spoke, Anwesh and Chandvir, another victim, consoled her.
“Political parties are wholly responsible for this mindless violence and killing of innocent people. Look at the two small girls who have been writhing in pain for the past three days. The younger one is so traumatised that she cries whenever she sees strangers,” said Chandvir, a resident of neighbouring Kankra village.
The 40-year-old was attacked by a mob when he was returning home from his field. His left hand is fractured and on his back is a deep cut.
Doctors at the hospital said some injured victims were shifted from the emergency ward to the ophthalmology ward because of space crunch.
Ninety-four people, most of them rescued by security forces, have been admitted to the hospital since the violence erupted.
Several of them have bullet and splinter injuries. Others are being treated for grievous cuts.
“Except politicians and criminals, nobody wants riots. Who wants to see their homes torched and their near and dear ones being killed? Politicians fan communal passions and try to reap political mileage,” said Aslam, who has been admitted with head injuries.
In the hospital, which has become like an extended home, the victims spend time talking to each other. “We are victims of the same circumstances and are together in this time of crisis,” said Rupa, a 40-year-old admitted with a head injury.
Aslam, Chandvir and Anwesh try to help the women as much as they can.
The survivors blame the local administration. “If the government wants, riots can be handled within a few hours. But the administration was totally ineffective. Political parties have been trying to foment tension among the common people and they have been successful,” said local trader Bhola Singh.
Situation in control
Major P.K. Saran, an army officer overseeing security at the town, said the situation was under control.
“We had a meeting with the district administration in the evening and will take a call tomorrow morning whether to relax curfew. Some pockets in adjoining villages are still tense but no untoward incidents were reported today,” he said.
The curfew was relaxed for two hours in the town this afternoon so that residents could stock up on essentials.