The lanes of Shiv Vihar are ghettoising as fear – and real estate agents – drive families to sell homes.
New Delhi: Gali number 13 is a typical lane in Shiv Vihar Phase-6, a low-income neighbourhood in North-East Delhi. The lane is so narrow only two-wheelers can pass through. Sewage flows in open drains on both sides. On one end of the lane is a Hanuman temple. On the other is the Madina mosque.
In February 2020, this was one of the sites of the worst communal riots in Delhi’s history since the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. Fifty-three people were killed and thousands more were injured or displaced. At Gali number 13, rioters damaged the Madina mosque; and Muslim families’ homes near it were burnt, damaged or vandalised.
One year later, even as communities and courts come to terms with what happened in those harrowing days, a major change is slowly unfolding in these lanes – a change best described by 40-year-old Zubaida Begum. Although her house was spared from violence, and her son narrowly escaped rioters, in July 2020 Begum and her husband Salim sold their house and moved out.
“We were stressed that every other Muslim family from the lane was leaving and we were getting lonely,” Begum told me one morning in February 2021, from a new house she has taken on rent. “We were the last to move out, five months after the riots.” Begum moved within Shiv Vihar, but out of the Gali and near the main road where she says she feels safer.
In the last one year, the number of Muslim families selling their homes in the riot-hit neighbourhoods has increased, shows research recently conducted by Land Conflict Watch, an independent network of researchers studying land conflicts, climate change and natural resource governance in India.