Twenty two-year-old Mushtaq Khan has spent the last four days running in and out of hospitals and police stations, trying to get the body of his 27-year-old brother, Ishtiyaq, who was shot dead just 200 metres away from their house in Kabir Nagar during the riot in north-east Delhi.
Amid unending paperwork and a string of phone calls, one worry constantly bothers him — how will he take the body back to the area where his brother was murdered?
"I have been coming here every day at 10am, while my family waits for Ishtiyaq's body at home. Some family members do not want us to get the body home, fearing that the others in the house will also be targeted," said Mushtaq.
Ishtiyaq's brother-in-law said that the family has lived in Kabir Nagar for five generations, but the recent violence has instilled fear in them. They just want to get the body and "get done with the last rites at the earliest".
Many families, who were spotted outside the Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) hospital mortuary, feared the worst after bodies would be handed over to them.
The violence in their neighbourhoods may have subsided, but the atmosphere there continues to remain tense. Along with mosques and religious shrines, the rioters have also desecrated a graveyard in Gokalpuri.
Sanjay Kumar, whose 34-year-old brother Deepak Kumar was killed in the riot, shared a similar fear of taking the body home. He said that usually a final procession is taken out in the Hindu tradition, but he was unsure if that would be possible in his neighbourhood now. Deepak worked in a factory in Jhilmil, and is survived by a wife and child.
"I don't think Deepak will get a final procession. We are not sure if we will be able to perform the last rites the way it should be. Who knows what these rioters will do next? I just hope his soul rests in peace," Sanjay said.
Rahul Solanki, a civil engineer, was also among the 34 people who lost their lives in the communal clashes. After a wait of three days, Solanki's family were handed over his body on Wednesday.
"His last rites was done very quickly, in a hush-hush manner. We did not want any more trouble," Hamir Singh Chauhan, Solanki's uncle.
Arif Ali lost his younger brother, Mehtab, on Monday. Mehtab was undergoing treatment for a mental ailment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS). This was the reason he could not gauge the gravity of the situation outside, when he stepped out to get milk, Arif said.
The past few days have been a roller-coaster of emotions for Arif, anger on the hospital staff and police, guilt of underestimating the violence at his doorstep, and grief of losing him. When left alone at the mortuary gate, tears rolled down his cheek but he keeps getting distracted by other family members, media and politicians visiting the hospital.
"In our faith, we do not keep bodies for long after death. His body has already been in the mortuary for four days. We are thinking of taking the body directly to the graveyard. We have also asked for police protection to accompany the ambulance till the graveyard," Arif said.
On Tuesday, a mob of around 200 masked men entered a Muslim graveyard and damaged its boundary walls, offices and other structures. Suraj Pal, the caretaker of the graveyard, said that it was the "most horrific" sight he had ever seen.
"They had hatred and disgust in their eyes. They have pulled out gates and smashed concrete structures. They even set some portion of the graves on fire, but that was unsuccessful," Pal said, adding that though Gokalpuri and Jyoti Nagar have been among the worst affected, no family has come in to this graveyard for burial so far.
Shafiq Ahmed, a social worker, has been helping the violence-affected families arrange burials. Ahmed on Thursday was seen with a family of four women and a nine-year-old child, who had lost their sole male member, 35-year-old Musharraf.
"To get out of their colony, these women had to apply sindoor (vermilion) to hide their identities," Ahmed said.
He has been coordinating with his colleagues to constantly assess the situation in the areas around to decide where the body can be taken once released from the mortuary.
Ahmed said that one government graveyard at Old Seemapuri caters to about 15,000 residents of Dilshad Garden, Sunlight Colony, pocket E-slum cluster, Jagatpuri, Welcome, Nand Nagri, Kardampuri and Ganga Vihar.