Feature: Tête-à-tête with Jahangirpuri Boy, the symbol of human misery in the face of bulldozed hopes

Zafar Aafaq

New Delhi:  Visuals of a boy collecting coins from the rubble of his father’s shop razed by MCD bulldozer during a demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri emerged as a symbolic image of the helplessness in the face of state cruelty. Clarion India spoke to the boy named Asif to get feel of the momentum.

On the morning of April 20, Asif, 9, was woken up by the sound of backhoe excavators. As he peeped through the window he found his father’s shop being demolished. He rushed down and went to his mother who was pleading with the authorities to stop while crying inconsolably.

“Don’t worry mommy, everything will be alright. God is with us,” Asif tried to comfort his mother. The next moment as he engaged himself in collecting coins strewn amid the rubble he found himself surrounded by journalists and photographers waiting a defining moment of human misery. In his act they got a price catch they were looking for.

“I did not count the coins. I was in tension,” says Asif.

The family lives in lane-1 of the C block in one of the cramped apartments facing the main road. Asif’s father, Iqbal, ran his shop in a kiosk selling biscuits, juices, candies and other eatables.

Asif says though the attention he is getting from the photographs and the videos gone viral on the social media makes him proud, the next moment the feeling of loss of a family enterprise overtakes the pride.

“This shop was our only source of income. It provided us our daily needs, my school fees, etc.,” said Asif while making an appeal to the government to help them restore their shop.

“This violence and demolitions is totally wrong,” said Asif, referring to the April 16 communal violence during a Hindu rally.

Eyewitnesses allege that the participants in the rally carried weapons and swords and made an attempt to barge into the mosque which triggered clashes between two sides. Eight people including seven cops were injured in the melee. So far, police arrested 25 people, a majority of them Muslim. Five have been reportedly slapped with charges under the draconian National Security Act (NSA).

Subsequently, BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) ordered demolition of shops in the area purportedly to clear encroachment. However, the allegation that the real motive is to punish Muslims for resisting attack on their locality can’t be brushed aside since the demolition drive was preceded by the violence.

Even as the Supreme Court had ordered stay on the proposed demolition drive and maintenance of status quo a day in advance, authorities carried out the demolitions in the area one-and-a-half hour after the court notice. The bulldozers stopped only after seeing a hard copy of the court notice.

Iqbal, said he was saddened by the situation Muslims are facing in the country. “Just because my name is Akbar I have to give proof of my loyalty to the nation. They sound an ultimatum for us: ‘Bharat mein Rehna hai toh Jaishree Ram kehna hai’.” All this, he said worries him. He is especially worried about the future of his children.

“All that I expect from my son is to get education and make a name for himself,” he said.

The family has received a monetary help of more than five lakh rupees from people through a crowd-funding campaign in last two days

Asif aspires to become a lawyer. If the sense of injustice after the demolition incident has anything to do with his ambition, he didn’t say it in so many words, but that’s what seem to be his motivation. Clarion India