Published: 10th March 2020
How AMU students are balancing college and relief work to help Delhi's riot-hit victims
The students have divided themselves into three teams, three students for relief and rehabilitation, three for legal and three to collect testimonies from the victims
After the Delhi riots ended, students from Aligarh Muslim University went from door to door in every hostel on campus and collected money from the students. The students donated as much as they could afford. After collecting the money, about 15 students got on a train and went to Delhi. From the station, they went straight to the riot-hit areas and have spent every single day there ever since.
The students, about 15 of them, have been working day and night in the relief campus. "We have divided ourselves into three teams, three students for relief and rehabilitation, three for legal and three to collect testimonies from the victims," an AMU student leading the group said. With the money that they collected from their peers in AMU, the students bought sanitary napkins, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste and other materials that the victims need on an everyday basis, the students said. The relief team continues to ensure that the victims have all that they need every day. "There are still some families that are in far-flung areas that have not yet received any material. So we try and find them and ensure they have everything," the student added.
The students said that they are arranging food material for the victims and sending it to the families. They have also provided the families with basic utensils and are sending in cooking materials. "We were getting cooked food but it was going to waste if we were not able to transfer it to the families on time. So it made more sense to get the basic cooking materials," another student who wished to remain anonymous added.
The students also cancelled their annual cultural program and hall dinner so they could instead contribute that money for relief and rehabilitation efforts. Besides this, the students also reached out to donors who prefer to give large amounts of money and are putting them directly in touch with the families that need the money. "There is a man here who was making seat covers for vehicles. whose entire shop and his home were burned down. He said he needed Rs 50,000 to restart his business. So when someone was ready to donate Rs 50,000 we put him in touch with the man and that way we were able to give the man back his livelihood in a small way," another student narrated.
The legal issues team is helping victims assess the damage done and helping them with pursuing any legal matters with regard to loss of property of life. The students are helping out those who do not have access to legal help, "Some people don't know what they can apply for and if they are eligible for any benefits of any sorts. If the victims need to file a complaint then we guide them through it," the student explained.
The other team is collecting testimonies from the victims and helping them file FIRs, "The victims remember everything, they also remember the faces of the attackers but they feel vulnerable, so they don't always reveal it. But in some cases, we have been able to get eyewitness accounts and evidence to corroborate it as well. In one instance, we spoke to all the residents in that particular lane and we were able to file an FIR. Then the persons who had attacked them came and offered to help and they were able to point them out," he explained.
With their testimonies, the relief workers are documenting the riots and helping the victims find some kind of justice. However, visiting these sites, seeing the extent of the violence, burnt homes, bodies and victims, could all be overwhelming for the students. "That's true, it can be overwhelming to see so many lives destroyed and the devastation but that's when we read the testimonies. And we know that we have to help the riot victims get back on their feet and try and find justice. So then we feel motivated enough to go back and do relief work," a student said.
The AMU students also have their exams coming up, and right now while they all huddle at a friend's place in Delhi, their question papers await them in Aligarh, "Some of us will have to leave Delhi and go attend our exams but we have planned everything. When we go somebody else will replace us so we'll keep the relief work going," he adds. Besides the AMU students, students from Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU are also participating in relief work.