How Mustafabad’s Al Hind hospital became a refuge for displaced Muslims

29 February 2020
Around thirty Muslims, displaced from their homes in the Hindu-majority neighbourhoods of northeast Delhi, have sought refuge in Al Hind hospital, in Mustafabad.
Ishan Tankha
Around thirty Muslims, displaced from their homes in the Hindu-majority neighbourhoods of northeast Delhi, have sought refuge in Al Hind hospital, in Mustafabad.
Ishan Tankha

Around thirty Muslims have sought refuge in the Al Hind hospital in Mustafabad, a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in northeast Delhi that has seen some of the worst violence in the ongoing, targeted communal carnage in the national capital. The Muslims had been displaced from their homes, situated in the Hindu-majority areas surrounding Mustafabad, such as Karawal Nagar, Shiv Vihar and Govind Vihar. Many of them said mobs shouting “Jai Shri Ram” had vandalised their homes and set these on fire. On 26 February, many Muslim locals from these areas moved to Al Hind, a hospital that was already facing an influx of more patients than it had the medical or physical infrastructure to support, ever since the violence began.

In the immediate couple of days after their homes were set ablaze, their Hindu neighbours had provided the Muslims shelter. But they soon had to leave because the rioters threatened to destroy the homes of all those who provided refuge to Muslims. The ones who came to Al Hind included individuals who had suffered grievous injuries as well as those who did not have any other place where they could seek shelter. The stories of their struggle to reach a place of safety and the hospital administration’s determination to accommodate them give a glimpse into the desperate circumstances of the victims of the violence.

Amjad Khan, a resident of Govind Vihar who was seeking refuge at the hospital, recounted the events that led him there. “When the riots started on 24 February, I came home and there were crowds of young men roaming around with weapons creating mayhem,” Ajmad said. “We got scared and locked our house from inside. They started banging on our door. So our neighbours rescued us by getting us to climb on our roofs and into their homes. The rioters came to know the next morning and they pressurised our neighbours to give us up. We had to move to another neighbours’ home.”

However, it was not possible for Ajmad’s family to survive with their neighbours’ protection for long. “On the third day, everyone in the colony got to know that we are hiding and the Bajrang Dal people told our neighbours to send us away or they would set fire to their home too,” he said, referring to members of the militant wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “We had to shift back to our home. We are only two Muslim families in that galli. Our neighbours stood guard outside and told us that as long as they are there they wouldn't let anything happen to us.”

Ajmad’s brother, Salim, recalled the family’s fear those two days. “When we were hiding, we felt that the mob would find and kill us and burn our homes,” he said. Ajmad said that they had repeatedly tried calling the police for help, but to no avail. Ultimately, they only managed to escape after they called a journalist, who spoke to the police on their behalf, following which they were able to leave their home unharmed. “The force came and extricated us on 26 February at 4 pm. I don’t know if they were Delhi Police, but they had machine guns and were wearing helmets. There are 22 of us in two families.” Since then, the family has been at Al Hind.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Delhi Violence Al Hind hospital Mustafabad communal violence Displaced persons