The Pogrom In Making - Prayers Of Peace
A pogrom is distinct from a general sectarian riot because it involves the targeting of a particular minority group and a certain degree of complicity of the state. The culmination of the period of unrest during the anti-CAA protests was a brutal pogrom that started in Northeast Delhi on February 23, 2020. An analysis of the data on death toll reveals that there is a clear religious disparity in the people who died in the pogrom. Nearly 51 people lost their lives, out of which only 13 were Hindu and 38 were Muslim. The events were set in motion when Kapil Mishra, a BJP leader who had just lost his seat from Model Town in Delhi assembly elections, sparked the violence by inciting a Hindu mob to violently remove a group of Muslims who were blocking a road in north-east Delhi in protest against the CAA. Addressing the peaceful protest, Mishra issued inflammatory remarks to attack Muslims which resulted in a massive eruption of violence, and arson. The pogrom spanned over four days with the Delhi police seen complicit in the violence witnessed. During the pogrom, Muslim-owned businesses and property were set ablaze, their shops were demolished and many Muslims were killed while others were beaten up by Hindu mobs. The fact finding reports submitted by the Delhi Police to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) termed anti-CAA protestors as 'antiHindu' and 'Left-jihadi' elements who were conspiring to create unrest and resentment. The police displayed gross negligence in putting a halt to the violence. Let alone controlling the violence, the police allowed CAA supporters to hold a counter protest very close to the anti-CAA protest site and overlooked Kapil Mishra's inflammatory speech. There are numerous accounts of people calling the Police for help when goons were trying to break into their houses or beat their family members, but the police remained a silent onlooker to the pogrom. Additionally, the violence could have been avoided or controlled if the Rapid Action Force was deployed when violence broke. Now, about 7 months after the pogrom started, the Muslims of Seelampur, Jaffrabad and other localities in Delhi are still reeling with the shocks of the dark days in February.
The Indian Housing Crisis
The Supreme Court passed an order on August 31 for the demolition of jhuggis along the 140km of railway tracks in Delhi. There are large clusters of shanty settlements alongside the tracks in the city, amounting to nearly 48,000 jhuggi jhopdis. There is severe uncertainty over the rehabilitation prospects of these inhabitants due to the involvement of various stakeholder organisations including the Central Government, Delhi Development Authority and Northern railways. The government has ensured that they won't demolish the jhuggis unless the rehabilitation measures are in place. However, the tussle or shared responsibility of this situation paints a rather grim picture for the future of these people. During a raging pandemic where livelihoods have been severely affected, the government has not only failed to control the rising unemployment or failing economy, it has rendered the fate of these people hanging in uncertainty. Thousands of families are at the risk of being evicted without a suitable housing alternative during dire times. The screeching sounds of the railway track fills these jhuggies just as uncertainty and hoplessness loom above these innocent lives. These are the worst affected communities by the pandemic who aren't left with much to hold on to in the first place. At such a time, destroying their homes is a severe blow to the faith these people put in the political parties that pander them for votes for a few days every five years.
Bhalswa landfill is one of Delhi's primary dumping grounds for dealing with the city's massive waste output. Following heavy overnight rains on August 13, 2020, a portion of the landfill collapsed, injuring three people and destroying jhuggis (shanty settlements) in the neighbouring region. Looking at landfills as a part of our 21st century modern cities gives a harsh perspective on the gaping inequality and disparity. These landfills are a reminder of our fragmented society; the 'have's and 'have not's; the mountains between the privileged that live a few miles away from these towers of waste, and the destitute workers who live in these polluted areas and make a living off waste segregation. Landfills are perceived with repugnance and distaste by city dwellers, but they fail to recognise and accept the grim reality of our lives which suffocate the planet and the poor everyday. As the mountains of waste gain higher peaks, the struggles of life for the people living in the shadow of society and those mountains rise at a higher rate.
THE SHRAMIK (WORKERS) FAR FROM HOME- Shram Ko Naman
The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the existing gaps in social class and privilege. The faultlines of class in our society that run deep and wide are clearer now, more than ever. While the quarantine is taking its toll on almost every citizen, certain sections of our society are still vexed with access to food and basic necessities. During this state of uncertainty and global turmoil, migrant workers are perhaps facing the most pressing adversities of all. 'Migrant workers' are often described as those workers who migrate within their own country or outside it to pursue work with no intention of staying permanently at their area of employment. Due to the way it has been defined, the term 'migrant worker' cuts across people in different industries and income groups to encompass a large section of the society that has changed addresses for work. However, people with higher-income and stable jobs enjoy many privileges that have made the lockdown quite comfortable. Only a subset of the group of migrant workers is facing woes of the pandemic. This subset includes seasonal workers, manual labourers and individuals characteristically involved in physical labour in low paying jobs. These are the migrant workers that need government support and attention. During this outbreak, work and employment have not come to a standstill for many people. The workfrom-home policy being adopted by many corporates is offering saving grace to multiple employees. However, due to the physical and manual nature of their job, migrant workers like construction workers, domestic help, street hawkers, manual labourers etc. are unable to resume their work at full swing. For instance, most construction projects have been brought to a temporary halt, and subsequently, demand for physical labour has fallen. Thus, the pandemic has brewed a state of intense uncertainty for these daily wage workers who have been now pushed to the margins. The problems faced by the migrant worker seem endless. The absence of employment has cut off their source of income and livelihood. Their low incomes and wages generated little or no savings in the past to fall back on during these rainy days. Access to basic necessities is a struggle while these workers wait in long serpentine lines for government support and rationed food. In the midst of these existential perils, other problems surround these workers. For instance, the issue of travel. During these perilous times, many workers would prefer to be back in their hometowns with the rest of their families. However, travel restrictions and lack of money to explore more expensive alternatives forbid that from happening. Moreover, migrant workers often do not have stable and proper housing in their city of work. Thus, the question of home and housing arises for them as well. The government is trying to offer relief and aid to such migrant workers, for instance, through relief camps. Unfortunately, these solutions come in a package with long lines and bureaucratic red-tapism. Battling the issues of survival and livelihood, clad in face masks, the migrant workers patiently wait for the times to improve.
Masked Heroes- Shram Ko Naman
Amidst the rising death toll due to COVID-19, the cremation of Corona-affected bodies has become the task no one wants to take up. As a result of their marginalised status, the migrant workers have drawn the short stick as they brave their way in crematoriums across the city. This photo essay seeks to capture their story and draw attention to their a valuable contribution to society while working at crematoriums in this pandemic. They say Superheroes have capes and suits, so do these workers. Behind the green masks are faces of warriors fighting the virus and taking on challenges no one wants to. Unfortunately, like their faces, their identities and contribution also remain hidden and masked. Salute to these hidden heroes and their brave contribution to our society.
Narratives of Resilience-Shram Ko Naman
As the economy tries to get back up on its feet, the stories of resilience run across demographics. From sex workers to business owners, the pandemic has, albeit disproportionately, brought a storm of economic concern in the lives of the people. Amidst uncertainty and naive optimism, all economic actors are responding differently. As gym owners protest and demand the re-opening of gyms and unions fight for job security, hotels breathe a sigh of relief with permission being granted for hotels to reopen. Migrant workers rush back home, local businesses get back up on their feet and sex workers find aid in the hands of NGOs. After 7 months of the pandemic, some journeys of struggle and hardships are reaching a sweet end, while some are reaching a climax. Each narrative of resilience tells a different story; some of gracious help at the 11th hour, some of a ray of hope, and some of bravery and courage in voicing dissent. In an amalgamation of hope and despair, communities are coming together to unitedly face the storm; be it NGOs stepping up, unions setting to the streets or migrant workers taking the same bus back home. As the pandemic plays out, these stories are yet to finish
Bittersweet Days-Shram Ko Naman
Migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh would find rich employment opportunities in the Sugarcane belt around Pune. As migrant workers scurry back home amidst coronavirus concerns, jaggery production schedule has taken a different turn. This small-scale business is working on diminished capacity as only 10% of migrant workers decided to stay back. Now these workers burn the midnight oil as production facility runs 24 hours a day, with workers working in 3 shifts. As Maharashtra, the government allowed over 1 lakh cane-cutters to return to their hometowns, the workers face a dilemma — to continue sugarcane cutting over virus fears or risk-taking the virus home with them. The promise of some employment offers respite, but the days are still only bittersweet. Facing the uncertainty and trials of seasonal employment as the sugarcane season passes by, the migrant workers from UP are caught between a rock and a hard place. With the fear of the virus looming over them and the closure of many sugarcane mills for the time being, the migrant workers are weathering this storm to the best of their abilities.