New Delhi, March 29— “No one else showed the courage to take us to Safety. This Sikh gentleman and his son saved us by taking us on their bikes.” “He saved everyone’s lives.” “We wouldn’t be alive today if the Sikh gentleman hadn’t helped us.” “Our Hindu neighbours saved us.” These are different words of survivors of the massive violence that Delhi witnessed in the last week of February this year, but point to some good Samaritans for their heroic deed.
In February 2020, India’s capital city saw violence break out in northeast Delhi that has largely crowded, working-class neighbourhoods where people of all religions have traditionally lived cheek by jowl with each other.
What started as a fight between two groups – those supporting and those against India’s new citizenship law (Citizenship Amendment Act) – quickly turned into sectarian riots that were widely seen as instigated by outsiders. Over 50 people died and hundreds were rendered homeless in the violence.
From this gloom emerged a few selfless heroes who saved lives and brought succour to the victims – irrespective of their religion and social background.
“Community and religion were not in our minds at that time. It is our responsibility to save people in front of us,” says Mohinder Singh, a local resident, while recalling the horrific time.
In riot-hit Gokalpuri, Mohinder Singh and his son Inderjit used their motorcycle and scooter to ferry 60-80 Muslims to safety.
By tying turbans over the heads of Muslim children, they took them away from the scene of the riots.
“We saved a few children by tying turbans over their heads. I had only one scooter at that time. I told my son to come as well with whatever he has so that we can take the people out of here as soon as possible. We took around 20 rounds in 1-2 hours and rescued around 60 Muslims. There was tension and people in a nearby mosque were in panic. Lots of people came forward to help. Many Hindus helped their Muslim neighbours and vice versa”, says Mohinder and wants that these people should be presented as example for the society.
In Ambika Vihar of Karawal Nagar area, Naina and her son were saved by their neighbour Hindu priest.
“The violence began on 24 and 25 February. Our family was up all night. We were all here. We thought they will remain downstairs only and not come up. But we were wrong. When the mob came up to break our gates, we screamed for help from our Hindu neighbour. She let us in and hid us in her home. She let us stay from 11 in the morning to 12 at night. They were family of our neighbour Pandit ji. Her brother called the police at night and the police rescued us”, said Naina.
Several individuals and organisations came post-riot to provide a healing touch to the victims. People from Holy Family hospital, Ghaziabad and even doctors from Ajmer came here to help people.
Holy Family, a Christian organization, ran a relief camp to help the displaced people.
“We came here on 25 February, the second day of the riots. When we came here, the riots were on and many people were injured. They had burn injuries and head injuries. Many people’s hands were fractured and many others’ legs were fractured. All these things required urgent medical care. I approached the Archbishop of Delhi and he immediately agreed and called Holy Family director Father George, who was in the US then. But he immediately arranged for two ambulances. We first started treating the women and children. We treated about 700 people in two days,” says Anshu Anthony, a relief camp worker.
Extending hand, hope and help to the people who are victims of riots transcends religious boundaries. No religion teaches hatred for the other and India’s future lies in unity in diversity.
These good Samaritans show how to love and heal in the midst of hate and prejudice.
“Relief and support have no religion or community. It’s only the community we belong to whatever we do should be in the name of humanity,” Anthony said.
“If my turban saved lives, then I believe it only adds to the pride of my turban,” said Mohinder Singh
“If humanity like this prevails, then such incidents would not happen,” Naina said.