Rohingya refugees in fire-gutted Delhi camp say concerted effort to render them homeless

Photographs By
15 June 2021
A child looks around what once was a refugee camp for Rohingya people in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar area before it was gutted by a fire on the night of 12 June.
CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan
A child looks around what once was a refugee camp for Rohingya people in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar area before it was gutted by a fire on the night of 12 June.
CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan

Around 11.30 pm on 12 June, a fire broke out at a Rohingya refugee camp in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar area razing over 50 makeshift shanties and leaving about 270 residents homeless. The next day, residents told me that most of them lost all their possessions to the fire, including identity proofs such as cards given by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “We barely escaped with the clothes on our back,” Saleema Begum, a 22-year-old resident, said. While no one knew how the fire began, many refugees said there was a concerted effort to harass them. They used to earlier stay in a camp in the adjacent Kalindi Kunj area, till it was burned down in 2018. According to activists I spoke to, the Madanpur Khadar camp was built on land owned by the Uttar Pradesh government’s irrigation department, which wanted to evict the refugees.

Many children lost their school books and certificates in the fire. The set back to children’s education due to the fire was one of the main concerns of the residents of the camp.. CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan Many children lost their school books and certificates in the fire. The set back to children’s education due to the fire was one of the main concerns of the residents of the camp.. CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan
Many children lost their school books and certificates in the fire. The set back to children’s education due to the fire was one of the main concerns of the residents of the camp.
CK Vijayakumar for The Caravan

No deaths or injuries were reported from the fire, but residents told me about the  losses they had endured. When we met on 13 June, Begum was among women and children who were huddled under a shed next to a mosque at the camp, taking shelter from the scorching afternoon sun. “All of us broke our backs trying to rebuild our lives here, saved up money for our children’s education, bought expensive things like coolers so our children can live comfortably through the summer,” she said. “Now all is lost.”

Chahat Rana is a reporting fellow at The Caravan. 

Keywords: Rohingya refugees
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