Rashid Ali was born in a family of relative affluence — he was one of the few Muslims in Lakh village who had a farm, cattle, a roof over his head, and food aplenty. Ordinarily, with the sugarcane resting in the fields, only to be cut a month later, September was a month of leisure. The rise and fall of the sun didn’t dictate his actions. Time was a friend. But this September, in a district torn apart by riots, his life is dictated by necessity — of food, clothing, shelter.
It’s 8 pm at the Bassikalan refugee camp, and Ali sits with six other people, all from different villages. They tell stories of how they were attacked, the people and livestock they lost. But each knows, that in times like these, they are only fair-weather friends. At 8:15 pm, an organiser calls out that dinner is ready. And as 1,500 people fight their way to the makeshift kitchen, Ali finds his way to the front of the line.
“It’s hard to live like this. Everyone here has a story of the life they left behind. We have to fight to reach the front of the line. They (organisers), try and make food for everyone. But they give bigger portions at the start. This is what my life has come to,” said Ali.
An hour later, there is another battle to be fought. This time, over pillows and a blanket.
“We have to give these supplies to women, children and the elderly first. For the rest, there is no choice but to give it to people who come first. We never have enough. People just keep pouring in,” said Nawaaz, an organiser of the refugee camp.
At 10 pm, as the lights are switched off, the prime focus is shelter for the night. There are three options — under the roof of the idgah, a tent, or