Ground Report: Delhi's only Rohingya refugee camp burns down; families recall ordeal, cops yet to find cause of fire

Fifty-five Rohingya refugee families have been rendered homeless after a massive fire broke out in a settlement colony on Sunday at Kalindi Kunj in Delhi. The fire, the source of which is presently unknown, charred fifty-five houses along with all the families' belongings.

The fire broke out around 3 am. No casualties have been reported yet.

Mohammed Johar, who is a resident of the colony, said, "I was asleep in my tenement when the fire broke out. It did not begin from any home but from a corner of the colony where there were common bathrooms. Within minutes, the fire engulfed the entire colony, turning everything to ash. None of our belongings could be saved.”

Recalling how people were saved from the fire, Mohammad Ashrafullah, another resident of the colony, said that the residents were fortunate to spot the fire in its early stage. He has said that if that had not been the case, it would have been impossible to save the children and women sleeping in the tents.

 Ground Report: Delhis only Rohingya refugee camp burns down; families recall ordeal, cops yet to find cause of fire

The colony at Kalindi Kunj after the fire. Kangkan Acharyya/Firstpost

“It was a very small fire in the beginning. So, we tried to douse it with water. We also informed the fire brigade. But within seconds, the fire took gigantic shape. So, we helped people out of their homes through doors and windows,” he said.

More than 200 people reside in the colony.

The colony also had a mosque and a madrasa, both of which were completely burned. Most of the tenements in the colony were made of wood.

The refugee colony was built and looked after by Zakat Foundation led by social worker Zafar Mahmud. He told Firstpost that the NGO jumped into action soon after it came to know about the fire.

“Since all their belongings have been destroyed, we have taken measures to rehabilitate them. We have arranged for a tent, water and food for them for the time being. We are also planning to provide permanent shelter homes for them,” he said.

The civil defence department of the Delhi government has also provided the victims with food and other necessities.

“We are also carrying out a survey to assess the losses incurred by the residents in the colony. After the assessment, they will be provided with compensation,” said an official in the civil defence department. Amanatullah Khan, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Member of Legislative Assembly from Okhla, has already declared a compensation of Rs 25,000 for every family affected by the incident.

Minnatullah Khan, AAP leader, said, “The MLA is presently on a tour of Rajasthan. He will soon visit the spot and hand out the compensation.”

This was not the first incident of fire that the refugee colony has faced in the six years of its existence. The refugee colony has been repeatedly facing such incidents.

“Similar fire incidents happened earlier too. In those incidents as well, the fire did not begin from any tenement, but from the bathrooms. So we kept a vigil at night. For the last one month, there had been no vigil, and this incident occured,” said Mohammad Johar.

Residents of the colony suspect that the fire was caused not by accident, but by miscreants. Dhal Singh, Assistant Commissioner in the Delhi Police said, "We have registered a case regarding it. A team of forensic experts will soon visit the site to inquire into the cause of the fire.”

Zafar Mahmud of Zakat Foundation too rules out the possibility of miscreants having lit the fire.

However, many residents in the colony suspect that that the fire might have been caused by miscreants as an attempt to make them vacate the land on which the colony is situated, and then grab it.

The patch of land belongs to Zakat Foundation.

Updated Date: Apr 16, 2018 08:25:37 IST