A massive fire destroyed a Rohingya refugee camp in the Indian capital, New Delhi, leaving hundreds of people homeless. The blaze broke out at about 11:30 pm on Saturday and quickly spread through the camp, reducing 55 ramshackle shelters to ashes in the Madanpur Khadar area in the capital city’s south. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported in the fire – the second time the camp has been reduced to ashes since 2018.
The fire service department of the national capital said that it put 15 fire tenders into service and brought the blaze under control in about six hours. “We rushed to the spot quickly and started dousing the flames,” Sandeep, an operator at the Delhi Fire Service, told Al Jazeera by telephone on Sunday.
The fire tore through the camp, home to 55 families – filling the sky with plumes of smoke and flames as refugees scrambled to safety, crying for help.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees, many believed to be undocumented, live in camps across Indian cities, including Jammu, Hyderabad and Nuh. The United Nations refugee agency has provided some of them with refugee cards, which helps them to access some basic services and is supposed to protect them from police action.
Reports claim that the fire took place due to some short circuit issues. However, refuges say the possibility of the camp having been “deliberately torched” could not be ruled out, as men belonging to Hindu right-wing groups have previously been accused of lighting fires in the camp. Khatoon, the refugee who escaped with her mother and child, said the hut where the fire originated had no electricity supply or cables. Another Rohingya, Mohammad Farooq, 38, said that hours before the fire, some masked men had arrived at the camp and told the refugees to vacate the land. They brushed it off, thinking it was just another warning that they face regularly.
This is the second time the settlement has been entirely burnt down by the fire. The last time it was entirely burnt down in 2018. Although the police reports say that the incident is an accident but similar accidents happening over and over again not only describe the negligence of the authority but also their indifference towards the refugees. These are UN registered refugees and as humans, they have the right to life and shelter but the Rohingya refugees in India have been victims of torture and threats by the right-wing Hindu groups many a time. There is also a lot of prejudiced notions and misinformation about the refugee with other muslims group being tortured in the name of being Rohingyas.