Gurgaon: Gloomy faces are scattered under Gurgaon’s grey skies. They reflect the ordeal people – particularly Muslims – have been facing in the area since the Nuh communal violence on July 31.
Since then, shops, homes and places of worship belonging to Muslims have been vandalised, set ablaze and looted. The state has responded by demolishing properties and filing a spate of FIRs. Tensions are high and the hate feels palpable. Seeing all of this, the region’s Muslims have either locked themselves inside their homes or fled to Delhi or other locations.
In the Badshahpur area, The Wire visited a cluster of slums inhabited by migrant workers from West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. While these workers belong to both Hindu and Muslim communities, Muslim migrant workers have been fleeing these slums ever since the violence began.
The Wire also spoke to Gurgaon’s Muslim residents living in high-rise societies, which have often been touted as signs of ‘development’ in the city.
‘We need to leave’
Four years ago, when Mouni Alam’s husband told her that he had found a job as an electrician at a gated, 15-floor society in Gurgaon’s Sector 70A, she thought it was the chance her family needed to break free from poverty.
But today, she is frantically dialling numbers to connect with her husband back home in Kolkata. Alam has already sent her daughters to a relative, because she believes “they will be safer there”.
For all the migrant workers who live in Badshahpur’s slums, and pay a sum of Rs 2,000 per month for a pigeon-hole tenement, living in this area that lies next to high-rise societies meant being able to earn enough for two meals a day.
After the violence that unfolded on July 31, Alam says, the slum cluster in 70A has seen men dressed in ‘white kurtas’, who cover their faces in ‘white’ arriving and threatening the mixed-community population ‘not to speak to the media’ and ‘remain quiet’.
These men, Alam and other remaining Muslims claim, have threatened to burn Muslims alive in case they decide to stay back. “We have to leave anyhow, this is not the same place anymore, we came here to earn, but we can’t even live here now,” she says.
Manoos Begum is another migrant worker who is agitated because she is being forced to leave a life where she was earning independently. “Either we leave or they burn us, our employers will not stand for us, we only have each other now,” Manoos says sadly.
Lateef, another resident who has been living here for four years now, says that at least 100 Muslim families have escaped the slum cluster in the last seven days. He has seen his Muslim neighbours leave one by one, and is also thinking of leaving soon.
Muslims not allowed
Deepa Mondal from West Bengal’s Malda is another slum resident and a domestic worker in one of the societies in sector 70A. Since August 1, Mondal has been told by her employers that she should not visit the society for work, considering the tense atmosphere. Her employers transferred her wages to her. “Though I am a Hindu, the society I work in has asked Muslim staff to refrain from entering the society. So none of the staff are reporting to work,” Mondal says.
On the other side is Abid*, a resident of one of Gurgaon’s well-known societies. His neighbours, he says, openly threatened him and his family, saying they must leave. Not only has Abid’s family left the society they had called home for more than a decade, but they also had to sell their property in distress and move to a Muslim ghetto for ‘peace of mind’.
Also escaping Gurgaon is Tabrez Khan, who is ready to board his train for Moradabad, leaving behind his wooden cart on which he sold fruits. Khan had a routine of selling fruits outside high-rise societies in Badshahpur. “I have not sold fruits for a week now, and I was called by a society watchman who told me not to come to their society now. I’m leaving because I can’t earn here anymore,” says Khan.
After a sea of stressed Muslims left Gurgaon, Hindu residents of Gurgaon have raised their voice – about the lack of domestic help. A video circulating on Twitter showed residents of Tulip Orange, a society in Gurgaon, lamenting that Muslim staff had fled in fear and this had resulted in housekeeping issues. The Wire also visited this society to speak to the residents, who said that they were stressed out about the situation as there was no staff coming in for housekeeping and garbage disposal. The residents also said that had there been a good population of Hindu workers, their dependence on Muslim workers would have decreased.
But in another residential society, residents have been comforting each other. Saba Khan has seen support from her non-Muslim friends nearby. Khan says that in tough times, her non-Muslim friends have been checking in on her, but she fears for Muslims in Gurgaon’s markets who are deeply scarred and have decided to leave.
“I live in a society where I have always felt safe. We celebrate all festivals and we live peacefully with each other. This time, for the first time in my 23 years, the main gates of our society were shut because of the mob violence taking place in parts of Gurgaon. People are scared. Muslims have closed their shops and are leaving Gurgaon. Section 144 has been imposed and yet large meetings are being held by certain organisations. My question is, why they are not being stopped?” she asks.