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Plight of Muslim slum dwellers in Delhi
By S Ubaidur Rahman
|Fire, fire, everywhere not a place to hide. Savage fire destroyed some 2000 slums on 25 November in the densely populated area of Yamuna Pushta. Around one fifty people were injured, seventy of them critically. Three have reportedly died so far. Five more are in very critical condition.
It is not the first time when this has happened here. The place is not in the outer world. Yamuna Pushta is in the very heart of the capital, Amchi Dilli. But it is a yearly ritual. It can get you unprepared. Fire of a bit lesser severity had destroyed some 200-300 slum units in the same area on 5 November. Two years ago, a more violent fire had destroyed almost the whole area. It had also killed more than fifty people, injured thousands and made shelter-less almost all.
A small spark suffices to set all the hutments on fire. And if the fire has erupted nothing can work here. No fire extinguisher can work here where most of the shanties are made of bamboo woods. Everything gets lost in fire that erupts from time to time. But these people stay put in the same place. Because they don't have a place other than this to go.
But none cares for them. These are the children of lessor god. Neither common populace cares for these deprived people nor the government. Not bothered to extend a helping hand to these people who are doing petty job for everyone in the Capital. These are people who cleanse the residential flats of big and mighty. Clean the road. Pick the rags from around their sprawling bungalows and the streets. Polish their shoes and perform other small duties.
But none gives a damn look to them. Neither the Jhuggi Jhopdi department of the Delhi government, nor other non-governmental organizations. 'Everyone comes to us when the elections come, they make great assurances promising stars, but none returns before the next rounds of elections' says Jabbar angrily. He adds that 'no one gives any attention to their plight'. They are uneducated, underfed, and neglected.
Most of these dwellers are Muslims, a number of them from Bihar and West Bengal. So these are always an easy target for the people who brandish them as Bangladeshi. These are sometimes called by the police officials and then starts a long ordeal for them. Muhammad Munir who belongs to Malda in Bengal says that 'people like him are always suspected to be Bangladeshis. They are easy targets when the campaign to oust Bangladeshi hot up.'
Shareef Ahmad, a social worker who is actively involved in the distribution of relief material for the affected people says that 'they are always suspected to be Bangladeshis. Even people from Bihar are sometimes branded to be infiltrators. Even after such a big fire no sympathy is being seen for people displaced in winter.'
Shamshad Alam who has been providing relief material to these people says that 'the apathy of government officials for these people stems from the fact that these people can not come on the street to agitate for this step-motherly treatment. They can not lose one whole day's earning by agitating on the street. And who will allow them to agitate?'
It is not only the fire that plays havoc with them. Even water causes no less damage to their petty 'dwelling units'. During rains too they have to search for other options. But as no options are available they have to continue living in their waterlogged slums. They with their children and spouses spend nights sitting in their 'houses'.
It is suffering every other movement. No concrete step has been taken for their welfare. Shamshad Ahmad says that 'instead of their welfare, efforts are made every other day to evict these people from their houses'. He adds that 'no efforts of relocating these people has ever been made'.
Educational facilities are almost non-available here. Healthcare is a big problem. Unregistered medical practitioners are scattered here, but very few registered doctors could be found. These doctors though charge a few bucks but play with the lives of these people. These people do not have any other option either.
This is not the story of Yamuna Pushta alone. Hundreds of such slums are scattered in the Capital, mostly inhabited by the Muslims. Trans Yamuna is another such big area where tens of such jhuggi jhopdi clusters are scattered. They remain deprived. Born in small shanties they also leave their children in the same shanties when they die. None knows them. These are the children of a ‘lesser god.’