New Delhi: Broken benches, burnt books, charred school bus — the scene that meets the eye inside Arun Modern Public School in East Delhi's New Mustafabad is nothing short of a dystopia.
As tales and evidence of rampant violence and vandalism unfold across north-east Delhi, one of the most heartbreaking stories comes from the private school in the Muslim majority neighbourhood of Mustafabad which was torched to nearly a crisp by rioting mobs on Tuesday. The school was empty at the time, save a security guard who escaped from a back gate when the arson started.
"At around 4 pm on Tuesday, mobs entered the premises of the school and started torching classrooms," the school's principal Asha Rani told News18 while surveying the damage.
The school was founded in 1986 and is owned by a Hindu family. The son of the school's owner Abhishek Sharma, who spoke to News18 on Thursday, said that both Hindu and Muslim students from the vicinity as well as other parts of Eats Delhi studied there. He said what happened was beyond his wildest imagination. "Something like this has never happened before. We have always been a peaceful neighbourhood with both Hindus and Muslims," Sharma said.
While it was too soon to ascertain the exact damage to the school, Sharma estimated that property worth at least Ra 1.5-2 crore was gone. "They either burnt or took away the printers, computers, even the tank. They even vandalised the bathrooms," Sharma said.
After the riots, none of the school's records and documents remained. "We don't know where to start rebuilding from," Rani said between worried smiles.
According to the school's owners, the rioters mixed toothpaste with petrol in alcohol bottles and threw them inside the school. Hundreds of discarded toothpaste boxes lay strewn in the school's courtyard and parking lot where a school bus as well as two cars that belonged to the school were set on fire. Empty skeletons of the vehicles are all that now remain of them.
All Records Burnt
Neetu Chuadhary, the cashier of the school, stood in front of her former office with a bunch of admit cards in her hands. According to her, the fire department took at least five hours to arrive. "I could see the flames rising from my own home from 4 pm onwards, that's how big the fire was," Chaudhary, a Mustafabad resident herself, recalled. "However, no fire department authorities or police arrived till 8 pm. There was no assistance," she continued.
The school is close to the Faruquiya Jama Masjid on the nearby Brijpuri crossing that was also torched by violent mobs some two hours later. About 40 children who studied at the madrasa were inside the seminary when the attack took place.
Locals claim that police response to the violence was almost nil. Meanwhile, the school which had over a thousand students and a 70-member staff, has suffered irreparable damage. "They went inside the records room, broke the cupboards and purposefully burnt all documents. Why would anyone do that?" Chaudhary said.
As of now, she and the CBSE affiliated school's staff are trying to contact the parents and students whose admits cards are still with the school. "The area has been tense since Sunday night so many class 10 and 12 students did not come to collect their admit cards. We want to have it sent to them in some way so that they don't miss their examinations," the school's principal said.
Following an order by the Delhi High Court, The Central Secondary board of Education recently postponed the Class 10 and 12 examinations in East Delhi.
The Vidhan Sabha constituency of Mustafabad saw repeated incidents of violence and arson starting Sunday when violent started clashing with anti-Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 protesters. As per official records, at least 42 people were killed in the violence that ensued with several instances of communally motivated attacks.
Meanwhile, locals in Mustafabad have started to pitch in for the reconstruction after the school managed to file an FIR on Thursday. "The school has been around for decades and was a pillar of our harmonious community. It is unthinkable why rioters would destroy an education institution," Md Sheikh, a 45-year-old local who lived in the vicinity and was helping with clearing up the debris outside the school, told News18.