Irshad Ahmed (57), a daily wager, and his family left their home in Bhagirathi Vihar in north-east Delhi's Mustafabad area on Wednesday morning. Their home of 20 years was no longer a "safe" place.
The distressed family moved into their relative's house in New Mustafabad, less than 400m away from their home and across the Brijpuri Road, which divides the Hindu-dominated Bhagirathi Vihar and Muslim-dominated New Mustafabad.
Shaken by the violence that unfolded in the area, especially on Brijpuri Road, Ahmed says he just wanted his family to be "safe".
"We quietly left home around 7am. We didn't take anything; just a change of clothes. It is safer to be with your own people (community)," says Ahmed, adding that he was worried about the safety of his daughters, aged 17 and 22. "My son has gone to Aligarh to attend a wedding. I asked him to stay there till the time situation gets back to normal back here," he said.
As Delhi Police officers and paramilitary personnel manned Brijpuri Road on Wednesday, several Hindu and Muslim families crossed the road to be at a "safer location" and be with their "own people".
There was large-scale violence in the area on Monday and Tuesday as rioters ran amok pelting stones, ransacking shops and setting shops, houses and mosques on fire. The streets, on Wednesday, lay deserted, littered with bricks, stones, charred vehicles, broken bottles, tyres and shoes of people trying to escape the mobs.
The tension and fear were palpable. Shutters of shops were down; some half-burnt, others broken. It was a common sight in all the riot-affected areas such as Shiv Vihar, New Mustafabad, Prem Nagar, Chaman Park, Bhajanpura, Karawal Nagar and Dayalpur.
Tightly holding the hands of his five-year-old twin granddaughters, Chaman Lal (60), along with his two daughter-in-laws and son, walked towards the Pushta Road. He requested the police to allow them passage, as he was sending his family to a relative's place in Harsh Vihar.
Lal, a carpenter, however, chose to stay back. "I have to guard my property. I know of someone whose house was ransacked by rioters. I can't take a chance," he said.
Lal's friend Suresh Gupta's home was ransacked a day earlier. "After the violence, we shifted to a friend's house. But the next morning, my house was ransacked. We have lost everything," Gupta said.
Recalling what he saw on Tuesday, Lal said he has never seen such destruction in the area, "not even when the Babri Masjid was razed in Ayodhya in 1992".
In Shiv Vihar near Gokalpuri, it was the same story. Asma (32), carrying just a small bag stuffed with clothes, along with her mother and brother's family, was dropped off by a police vehicle at riot-ravaged Muslim-dominated Chaman Park around 5pm Wednesday.
The two families were rescued from nearby Hindu-dominated Shiv Vihar where people said violence was still on. A drain separates the two neighbourhoods.
An exhausted Asma walked up to the entrance of the colony, barred by a large bamboo stick by residents to keep the mobs out. Finding the area relatively safer, Asma and her mother have come to stay with her brother who has a house in Chaman Park.
She said houses were burnt in the area by a huge mob Tuesday night. "I can't believe I am still alive after two nights of just seeing houses going up in flames and screams of people running for their lives. The Hindu families in my lane saved us from the mob. They hid us inside. It was only today that we mustered the courage to step out," Asma, who owns a rented accommodation in Shiv Vihar, said.
In neighbouring Prem Nagar, Hindu families safeguarded the few Muslim families in the colony from the mob. "There were just three Muslim families in our area. They wanted to go to their relatives' homes. So we contacted the police for help," Babloo Goswami, a resident of Prem Nagar, said.
On Wednesday, Rapid Action Force personnel escorted these families to Mustafabad.
Mohammad Hanif, 45, a resident of Karawal Nagar, said his grocery shop was burnt by rioters on Tuesday. He locked his house and came to stay at his brother's place in New Mustafabad. "I have got my wife and children here. I don't know what happened to my house back there. We just wanted to save our lives first."
Nisha, a homemaker and resident of Bhagirathi Vihar, left her home with her three-year-old daughter and husband to stay with her sister in New Mustafabad. "They are burning homes and shop. They are not from our colony, but outsiders. It is not safe for anyone, neither Hindus nor Muslims," she said.