Photographer: Zishaan A Latif
Title: The Art of Hatred : 21 months later.
Location: Shiv Vihar, North East Delhi, India
Period: 03/2020 - 11/2021
Category: Spot News

21 months later, the traumatic aftermath of a riot, a horrific pandemic, many national and personal tragedies in between, I finally managed to get to Shiv Vihar again on the 16th of November 2021 with the help of a dear friend and colleague, Aditya Kapoor.

We reached Madina Masjid early morning, the exact spot where I had started making images on my phone on the 3rd of March 2020, exactly a week after one of the worst sectarian riots the national capital had witnessed in decades erupted in this friendly neighbourhood of coexistence in the North East district of Delhi.

The riots were instigated by non-local right wing nationalists who managed to penetrate even the most amicable neighbourhoods. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived walls apart peacefully for decades without any external interference or force to break this bond, but the riots in February 2020 stood out. The anti-CAA protests gathered steam which took the incumbent government by surprise, fuelling an open disdain for Muslims, leading to agitations, tensions and violence which got out of hand in this neighbourhood in February 2020, scarring families - Muslim families.

My second trip to Shiv Vihar was important on many levels to undertake, to dignify the people I had imagined to meet, the stories I had imagined to hear, instead I was greeted by an eerie silence in these empty charred homes which I photographed in March 2020. Stories of desperation were very clear in the darkness of these homes I walked through, but I needed to put faces to these breathing spaces, and we managed to find them on this trip.

With printed photographs as evidence, we set out to find these homes, and their original inhabitants, a few chance encounters, word of mouth and we located all one by one, even google maps assisted to a point navigating us through these tiny bylanes in this packed neighbourhood.

I feared my presence and my curiosity would remind them of their trauma, but I was told “…nobody can make us feel that fear again as we have lived it and continue to…”, they were grateful that their story was not forgotten, and was being honoured with questions about the present condition of their lives, which had improved from how I had experienced it back in March 2020, but with half baked promises only came a percentage of relief from the local government, they still await money for restoration and rehabilitation they were guaranteed after many FIRs filed with the police, but the fatigue of waiting bent them, exhausted their enthusiasm to chase, so they built most of their homes with donations from muslim organisations and their own savings, making a fresh start never seemed tougher.

These riots have changed their lives forever, the most damaging has been the psychological impact it has had on families with many members developing undiagnosed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), complex grief, depression and anxiety that has manifested into physically altering diseases like diabetes, in one particular case, which affected eyesight and eventually their profession, a vicious cycle they are forced to realign their lives to, leaving them burdened and broken as they struggle with making basic ends meet.

These rebuilt homes give them a sense of stability, normalcy and some safety for now, they were lucky to have survived this time, but that unrelenting emotional toll it has taken, the deep shock and fear has no resolution in sight.

At the end of this trip I was still left with many unanswered questions, especially about strained relationships between Hindus and Muslims in the neighbourhood , which was met with a shrug, “….we have always lived with harmony, just that today the way one uses a Hindu salutation like Ram-Ram or Jai Shri Ram might have its own hidden connotation but overall we are good friends and life continues…”

In this trip I did not feel the tension in the air, but I did feel an overarching sense of loss, of what was, will never be again, relationships, ideologies, all an undercurrent to rebuild a new state, more traumatic than healing.

This followup chapter is to bring these stories to light with an aim to show the impact that hatred has on individuals, families, communities and a country in the hope that, no one ever chooses the art of hatred over love and justice.



21 months later.

Mohammad Anis s meat shop was vandalised and looted on the 24th of February 2020 but burnt the following day when the mobs became lethal and aggressive towards any minority business in the neighbourhood Mohammad shared with me a copy of his FIR First Information Report that he lodged with the police and seen here is a list of every possession in his shop that was lost or destroyed in the riots for which he still awaits a large percentage of the original value of loss as compensation he was promised by the authority br

21 months later.

Gulzar Ahmed is a landlord his entire building block was vandalised and burnt but his family and he escaped unhurt after breaking a part of their roof to sneak out of just then they were spotted by VK a right wing nationalist neighbour and childhood friend VK gave them refuge for an hour and a half before another right wing nationalist neighbour saw VK giving Gulzar and his family safe cover soon enough VK was cornered to ask Gulzar to leave and they escaped once again Gulzar takes his time to express this traumatic experience behind a photograph of what his building looked like post the riots as seen a part of this followup chapter br

21 months later.

This was Gulzar Ahmed s apartment before the riots and is now rented out to Shahbaz Khan and his family They were forced to leave their last home after the riots brought about tensions between Hindus and Muslims so Gulzar offered to help Shahbaz and his family with a place to stay post the riots Shahbaz s frustration is palpable post the riots no one is renting any properties or shops to muslims how are we supposed to make a life anymore how do we survive This is only widening the divide in society with further ghettoisation br

21 months later.

What was Gulzar s apartment is now Shahbaz s new rented home still picking up pieces a time unforgettably static br

21 months later.

Old story new people Shahbaz s family runs the meat shop on the ground floor and lived in a different locality before the riots but were forced to leave the old house to start afresh in a more conducive environment in regard to a common faith Islam as they sensed safety in numbers and convenience in a post riot world Shahbaz writes systematically describing the events that unfolded on the 24th of February 2020 hours before and after his family took decisions to save their lives over the loss of possessions that were left in their shop br

21 months later.

Gulzar a landlord who s entire building block was brutally vandalised and burnt rented out two floors to Majid a gymnasium owner who suffered major damage and loss to his equipment and interiors including all the glass in this two storey fitness studio post the riots Now Gulzar occupies one part of what remains of the studio as his own home and has salvaged parts of the glass to give back to Majid who still awaits a large percentage of the original value of loss as compensation he was promised by the authority br

21 months later.

One floor of Majid s fitness studio in Gulzar s building is now rented out to a new tenant post the riot with Gulzar occupying the other floor as his home Majid who has moved onto a different locality still awaits a large percentage of the original value of loss as compensation he was promised by the authority

21 months later.

Rani Mansoori the elder of the two daughters to Mohammad Saleem and Husanara is emotional after seeing a photograph of what her parent s home looked like post the riots She broke down thinking of the nightmare her family endured during those hours on 24th February 2020 when right wing nationalist barged into their home demanded that they quietly leave without locking up and never return so they can do and take what they wanted The daughters weren t harmed but all the savings their parents had collected in jewellery and cash for both their daughter s weddings was all looted before burning down the entire house to ashes to restart our lives post the riots and to handle our parents was the hardest is what Rani wrote behind a photograph of shattered glass and shattered dreams because she had to quit a steady job and was forced to drop out of her college as they couldn t afford anything post the riots

21 months later.

Husanara a wife a mother a riot survivor and now a patient of undiagnosed depression suffers every day thinking of those horrific days pre and post the riots the looting of her home of near death of losing everything one stood for and now rebuilding on a shaky foundation with less to no support from the authorities

21 months later.

Of life pre and post the riots of life resuming in these quaint by-lanes of Shiv Vihar where it witnessed pain and pleasure depending on which side of the street you sit