We were wandering the streets, waiting: Family of Shahid Alvi, who was shot dead in northeast Delhi

In the afternoon on 24 February, images of a man who had been shot began circulating online, in which he could be seen bleeding profusely from his side. The Caravan has identified the man as 23-year-old Shahid Alvi. According to his family, Shahid was shot dead while returning home from the dargah, amid the violence that engulfed northeast Delhi. Violence in the area began on on 23 February, when right-wing mobs arrived to oppose the peaceful sit-ins against the CAA in the area. Mohammad Meharban
25 February, 2020

Late in the morning on 25 February, in street number 17 of Delhi’s New Mustafabad, a group of women and men had gathered under a cloth canopy. They were in mourning. Shahid Alvi, a 23-year-old resident of the nearby house number 1715, was shot dead the previous day, in the violence that engulfed northeast Delhi.

An auto driver by profession, Alvi was returning home after offering duas—prayers—at a nearby dargah, when he was shot in the stomach twice, at around 3 or 4 pm. The shooting took place near the Mohan Nursing Home on the Wazirabad Road, the main thoroughfare that divides the predominantly Muslim localities of Chand Bagh and Mustafabad from the Hindu-majority neighbourhood of Yamuna Vihar. It is unclear whether Alvi died on the spot, but according to his family, two strangers took his body to the nearby Madina Charitable Clinic. “I was at home yesterday and my brother was coming from the dargah,” Shahid’s brother Irfan said. “When he reached Bhajanpura”—referring to the area near Wazirabad road— “rioters shot him in the stomach. He was on the road. Some Muslims took him to a private nursing home. He was declared brought dead.” Irfan added, “We don’t know exactly when he died, but I suspect he passed away immediately after being shot.”

By then, pictures of Alvi’s bloodied body had begun circulating on social media. In one image, which did not identify him by name, Shahid can be seen bleeding profusely from his side, as some people appear to be taking him down a step ladder. His sister, Sitara, came to know of her brother’s injury through these images. “We had no idea that Shahid had been shot till I saw his pictures on WhatsApp. I rushed to Madina Clinic and brought the body home,” Sitara told me. She reached home with the body at around 7 pm. Soon after, Irfan took the body to the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, in the nearby Dilshad Garden area, for a post-mortem.

Violence erupted in northeast Delhi, where protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act had been taking place, on 23 February. That afternoon, a mob of people supporting the CAA—predominantly Hindu men, chanting slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram”—arrived in the Jaffrabad-Maujpur area. The mob and protestors against the CAA reportedly pelted stones at each other. The violence escalated the next day, spreading to surrounding localities such as Chand Bagh, Yamuna Vihar and Bhajanpura—according to eyewitnesses, the Hindu mob attacked passers-by, and set cars, shops and buildings on fire, with support from the police. At the time of publishing, at least eleven people injured in the violence had been declared dead. Several families told The Hindu that their relatives had died due to bullet injuries.

The Alvis are from Bulandshahr district in Uttar Pradesh. Their father died some years earlier, and their mother lives in Dibai village. Shahid got married two months ago to 20-year-old Saziya, who was sitting outside the home with the group of women, in purdah. He earned about between nine and ten thousand rupees per month. “He was not involved with the protestors or the crowd in any way,” Sitara told me.

Irfan said that the family reached the GTB Hospital around 7.30 pm. At the hospital, “they said they will do the post mortem and hand over the dead body to us by 10 or 11 am today. In the morning they said the PM would be done by 2 or 3 pm today. Now they are saying it will happen tomorrow. This was told to me by a sub inspector and a doctor,” Irfan told me. “The reason they are giving is that a team of five doctors will do the PM, and that they are not ready yet. I don’t know why they need five doctors.”

“We have a problem now. All our relatives have reached and we have to take the body home for the final rites,” Irfan continued. “His wife is also in a bad state and she is pregnant. Yahan koi sunwai nahi hai”—no one listens to us here. “I also called 100”—the number for the police—“there was no response. The police chased us away last night, we were wandering the streets outside GTB. We will have to stay here another night tonight.”

I asked Sunil Kumar, the director of the surgery department at the GTB, about the delay. “We have done a couple of post mortems, but our first priority is to minister to the people who are injured and are being brought here,” Kumar said. “There are more than one hundred and fifty such cases of injured people who need medical attention.” When I asked about the status of Shahid’s post-mortem, he said he was not at liberty to discuss individual cases.

Mohammad Iqrar, who lives next door to the Alvis, said that the entire neighbourhood was awash with shock and grief. “Since yesterday, the whole area has been tense because of the riots. But we never imagined that Shahid would be shot dead,” Iqrar said. “We didn’t even have time to commiserate because everyone was holed up inside their homes throughout the night.” Anis Ahmad, Shahid’s cousin, said that the family had no idea who fired the shots that killed Shahid.

The women sitting under the tent with the family, expressing their condolences and mourning, told me that they were part of a protest against the CAA the previous day. They blamed the police and the mob of unidentified Hindu men for the violence that erupted the area. One of them described these men as “Kapil Mishra’s men”—on 23 February, Mishra, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had issued a call for those in support of the CAA to reach Jaffarabad, where a sit-in against the act was ongoing. Mishra issued an ultimatum to the police to stop the protest.

“I was sitting in the anti-CAA protest yesterday when we were attacked by the police at 9 am,” Samina, an elderly woman who was among the women mourners, told me, referring to 24 February. “Is this any way of treating people, especially women? We are fighting for our rights, we are fighting for the nation.” She added, “The police lathi charged the men, injuring a lot of them. There are many men with head injuries.”

Gulshan, a resident of Mustafabad who also sat in mourning, said that the women of their area and Chand Bagh had been protesting against the CAA for the past two months. “This is Kapil Mishra’s doing … he and his men attacked us from behind. If he has guts, he should come and talk to us face to face,” Gulshan said. 

Both Mustafabad and Chand Bagh were ostensibly tense. People had been holed up in their homes all night and had stepped out in the morning to stock up on essentials, fearing that they may not be able to leave again. As I walked through both localities, I could see people rushing to buy essentials—milk, vegetables, fruits, rice and the like.

I visited the protest site, located on Wazirabad main road. It had been burnt. Nearby, I saw at least three burnt vehicles and a gutted car dealership. I had asked the mourning women if they would continue their sit-in against the CAA. “We will die protesting,” Afsa, another woman among those grieving with the family, had replied.