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'Karyavahi chal rahi hai. Intezaar kijiye': First hand account of a female scribe whose house has been burnt down in Delhi

Khushboo Akhtar, Palpal News


My brother Nadeem was woken up with incessant rings on his mobile at 6 am on Wednesday, 30 August, by a neighbour from my home in Sultanpuri in northwest Delhi. It was an unusual alarm to ring on a working day. The voice on the other side said that smoke was coming out of the top floor of our three-storey home located on a wide road. I have been living with my brother and father in a Delhi satellite town for the last two years or so, but have not lost touch with the house and neighbourhood that shaped my childhood and university years. 

By the time my brother and I reached our Sultanpuri house, a huge fire had engulfed and destroyed the entire second floor of my house, neighbours had called the fire brigade office, which doused the fire and left, and the local police had been informed about the incident. 

What I saw when I entered the floor broke me. The tiny floor was full of ash and half-burnt things. The ash from the wood of the two beds kept there was still hot. Two steel almirahs had been broken open and books kept in them were thrown on the floor. Both the almirahs as well as the books were charred. The burnt pages of the Quran would have invoked different emotions in the policemen who visited the spot reluctantly had they also not discovered the burnt pages of the Ramayan alongside. Bamboozled at discovering the evidence of a syncretic India, they tried to make an argument for an accident.

 But, they realised much later that there was no possibility of a short circuit at the house because we had got the power supply disconnected more than a year back. What started afterwards was a long ordeal with the local police. My brother and I spent the whole day at the police station, spoke with the local station house officer, tried contacting the area assistant commissioner and deputy commissioner, who, strangely, were not available on the phone numbers publicised on the website of the Delhi Police, and, in exasperation, called friends and well-wishers in the media fraternity and political circles.

The police know how to break your spirit. All they need to say is “Karyavahi chal rahi. Intezaar kijiye”. The wait, of course, will take hours or days. My brother and I had lost hope that the police would take a serious note of the attack on my house, and, I believe, on my professional concerns as an independent journalist who raises concerns of minorities and other disadvantaged groups. 

We decided to call it a day and headed back when a beep in the phone showed a WhatsApp notification. This was a message from the investigation officer (IO) of the Sultanpuri police station, who had sent a copy of the first information report. The charge invoked was “Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.” 


In the meantime, we had taken to social media about the desperation we found ourselves in. Thankfully, we found enough support on these platforms and outside, which I believe was what prompted the IO to press the submit button on the Delhi Police’s CCTN portal after he had told us that it would still take a long time.

This, however, is just the beginning of a long struggle now to get the culprits apprehended and punished. After a few media persons started questioning the local police about the incident, the police swung into action and sealed the affected floor of the house. Its preliminary investigation has not thrown up any clues, or it has chosen not to share them with us. 

In my complaint to the police, I asked them to investigate whether it is a targeted crime. In today’s charged times, I want to stay calm and brave.


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