A year on, life is a struggle for Mohammed Zubair, who was beaten and left for dead during the violence at North East Delhi

Published : March 10, 2021 17:05 IST

The February 24, 2020, photograph of Mohammed Zubair being beaten by a mob that indulged in violence against those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in North East Delhi. Photo: DANISH SIDDIQUI/REUTERS

A year after the February 2020 pogrom, Mohammed Zubair, who became the emblem of hate violence in North East Delhi, continues to be in dire straits. Left for dead by a hate-filled mob then, he is yet to receive any financial aid or job from the government. There is nobody to foot the constant medical expenditure of the 38-year-old man who has a wife and three children to support. He still struggles to stand or sit without support for more than a few minutes. He can barely walk as his knee, which was brutally hit in the attack, is not able to take his body weight. Zubair's head has constant pain and he has unclear vision at times. “There is a blurring every now and then,” he says, “Doctors have advised long and expensive treatment which I cannot afford.”

Still too scared to talk of his attackers, it is left to Zubair's brother-in-law, Aslam, to provide the complete picture. Says Aslam, "After he was discharged from Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital shortly after the mob attack, he spent a lot of money on his treatment. It burnt a hole in his pocket. Some money from Good Samaritans which was given to help him set up his air cooler business was spent on his medical treatment. Today, he has no job or business to sustain himself. He is dependent on his younger brother. Zubair is often too scared to receive a phone call or a visitor.”

After the attack last year, Aslam had taken him to his house in Inderlok in Delhi to help him recuperate. Now, Zubair is back at his own Chand Bagh residence in North East Delhi with barely a steady source of income. “I cannot bend my knee. I cannot hold much weight with my hands,” he says, explaining his lack of employment. He was into selling air coolers in summer.

Most would recall seeing a photograph of Zubair last year in which he is seen crouching on all fours as nearly a dozen men rain blows on him. The Reuters photograph showed men hitting Zubair with cricket stumps, hockey sticks and iron rods even as he lay on the ground bleeding from his head and hands. The mob, raising slogans of Jai Sri Ram, hit him till he fell unconscious near Bhajanpura, not far from his residence. The mob, taking him for dead, dumped him across the road.

His life was saved when some passerby heard him groaning in agony and rushed him to Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital. The doctors managed to save his life; Zubair, though, needs more than a helping hand to recover fully and earn a dignified living for his young family. A year after he was the victim of an unprovoked attack, he is still to come to terms with the reality. “I had hurt nobody. I was coming back from ijtema (religious gathering). They [the men who attacked] did not know me. They hit me because of my identity.” On the fateful day, Zubair wore a salwar-kameez and a skull cap, apparel that proved a red rag to the rampaging mob.