Home»Gujarat»Ahmedabad» Gujarat Polls: Will Forgive Narendra Modi If He Gives Us Jobs, Say 2002 Gujarat Riots Victims

Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims

  • Ankur Tewari, dailybhaskar.com
  • Dec 10, 2012, 00:19 AM IST
Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
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Ahmedabad:In February 2002, 28-year-old Qutubuddin Ansari hid in a windowless room, 
shielding his family while shots rang outside his half-burnt house in Rehmat Nagar near 
Naroda Patiya.
 
This was the day when a large chunk of his neighbours were butchered by an 'angry mob of 
right-wing Hindus'.  
 
As Gujarat goes to polls this week, Ansari -- whose life changed after a photograph of him 
crying for help became the face of riot victims -- still feels 'betrayed and cheated'. 
 
10 years on.... Ansari now runs a tailor shop, his family includes his wife, two daughters aged 14 and 7, and an 8-year-old son. The eldest daughter aspires to be a teacher.
 
In 2002, Godhra communal riots reportedly claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Muslims. Shafiq’s neighbourhood Naroda Patiya was among many other areas attacked by Hindu mobs.
 
We travelled to the serpantine alleys of Gujarat to hear from the people whose lives were 
pulverised in the violence. 
 
Here are excerpts from the interview:
 
 

 

Find out more by clicking on the following slides

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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Dailybhaskar.com managed to talk to Ansari, who is extremely hostile to the media and has 
    been living an isolated life in his new house at Sone ki Chal near Odhav.
     
    When we reached Ansari's home, he seemed to be scared at the very sign of a mediaman. 
    "Please go, I don't like interviews." (Long pause)
     
    He then stops us. "Please don't bother me in future... I respect a guest, so ask what you want."
     
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    After 10 years, what issues concern you the most? "I just want aman, shanti and rojgar 
    (harmony, peace and employment) in Gujarat. I don't care whether it's Narendra Modi or Congress, I want jobs for our neglected kids."
     
    On Modi, an emotional Ansari says, "Peace returned to Gujarat because of Gujaratis not the 
    government. We stood united. But, I am ready to forgive the CM if he seeks forgiveness."  
     
    "I am a tailor and make both ends meet with Rs 1,500 a week... We have got no compensation 
    from the state and Union governments. Be it BJP or Congress, whosoever wins, I want them to bring some development in my chaal as well. That will be the real Gujarat. Right now, only 
    elite are prospering in the state," concludes Ansari with tears rolling down his eyes.
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Fatima Bibi, who enjoys a celebrity status in the area for 'infinite' interviews to the media, has also got a story of horror and neglect to narrate. 
     
    The abhorrent memories still sting her. 18-year-old Shafiq Ahmed, who lives with his 
    grandmother, along with his sister, says, “I don’t remember what happened 10 years ago, I 
    was told my parents were charred to death in the riots.”
     
    Though Ahmed is an introvert, his granny is more vocal.
     
    "It is like a horrendous nightmare... My sister Khudrat Bibi and her family members were murdered. Only two kids, now 18 and 16, survived and are now being taken care of by me. Though my family survived the attack, I still can't forget the grisly past. My house and shop were set afire, we were in a relief camp for seven months," recalls Fatima Bibi as she bursts into tears.
     
    “I am still not been able to resuscitate. The scars will never heal. They will continue to hurt the future generations. My sister was chopped and push in bonfire. They kept throwing one 
    member after another in the fire. They did not listen to any pleas. We want to leave this haunting place, but can't due to livelihood," adds the 50-year-old who runs an 'atta chakki'.
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    On who she thinks will win the 2012 elections, she quips, "For us, it hardly matters. One of the 
    two, BJP or Congress, will come to power. They all are hand-in-glove, no one is better. When it 
    comes to befooling people, they all are the frontrunners."
     
    About a common perception that Muslims are angry with Modi, she says, "We are not against 
    anyone. We are just miffed with the system. He claims to have brought Gujarat on top of the 
    global map, but what about our miseries? Do we not have the right to live with dignity in 
    Gujarat? Are we not Indians? Are Muslim youth not educated enough to get government jobs? 
    What have we to do with good roads when we don't own cars? Who will answer these 
    questions, tell me?
     
    "Just look at the dismal roads in the locality. The edges are crumbled, the roads are full of 
    potholes. Modi once tried to be our messiah during Sadbhavna fast, but had he been our 
    friend, he would have never refused to wear the skull cap... It hurts us, seriously. We are not 
    stone-hearted people, we are not aliens either. When Kutch was jolted by earthquake, we went to donate blood. We didn't discriminate between Hindus and Muslims, then why this step-motherly treatment is being meted out to us."
     
    "We just want jobs for our kids and a decent livehood. Modi's hat-trick will neither make us 
    happy nor sad."
     
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Like Fatima Bibi, her 35-year-old neighbour Shakeela Bano Ansari also can't forget the horror of that 'dark February'.
     
    "I still wonder why that mayhem had to happen, what wrong had we done? My eight family 
    members were killed. My elder brother was charred and the youngest was hacked. They didn't even spare the three-month-old baby of my brother. Our house was burnt, valuables were robbed. Police also spared none, hurled abuses, beat us black and blue when we asked for justice... It's surreal.
     
    "The cops used to show us Godhra pictures stating we would also meet the same fate if we don't shut our gob."
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    She then falls silence. She cries her heart out and her husband does his best to console her. 
     
    An emotional Shakeela then wipes her tears and shows the picture of her killed family 
    members. "It pains, it really pains. It is killing us... We want the perpetrators to keep 
    languishing in jails so they also come to know how painful it is to live without dear ones. Such 
    was the fear post riots that our relatives didn't visit us for years. We lived an islolated life. They 
    still don't stay at our home. 
     
    They come in the day and leave by the evening. They are too scared even after 10 years."
     
    On Modi, she says, "He is pro-rich. The CM has not even bothered to meet us. This speaks volumes about his inner feelings. He showcases development to the world, but that's also a way of shifting focus from the riots."
     
    "We want jobs, jobs and only jobs, whether its Modi or Congress," continues Shakeela, who  handles small stiching business. 
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Narora Patiya and Naroda Gaon had around 2,000 daily wage-earning Muslim inhabitants in 
    2002. Most of them had migrated from Karnataka and Maharashtra.
     
    Noor Mohammad, 39, like many other survivors, thinks they received the raw end of the deal. 
     
    “We weren’t the ones who committed the crime in Godhra. You can punish them. Why kill 
    innocent people? My father Ismail Bhai Mansoori is still missing. The magnitude of loss was huge. My house in Hussain Nagar was set on fire. Valuables were looted," he says, with his voice hoarse from tears.
     
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    On being prodded, he adds, "I saw Mayaben Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi leading the mob of angry people. Rest all had kesari (saffron) veils on their faces."
      
    He, however, is confident about Modi's hat-trick. "Though I think its highly exaggerated, Modi 
    has impressed everyone with development. If god wants, he will win... We just want a dignified life and employment so that we don't migrate from Gujarat."
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    10 years later, Maszid Bhai, 45, still shivers when he thinks of that day. "I can't forget the day 
    when I lost my sister, her husband, three kids and in-laws to a murderous mob. It was terrible. 
     
    "I still miss them. But I am proud that victims have been able to make a good life for their 
    families," says Maszid, who owns a tea shop besides Hotel Milan near Noorani Maszid, which also suffered the wrath of the irate mob in 2002.
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Pesh Imam at Noorani Masjid, Maulana Shamshuddin Sheikh, says, “Muslims want a good 
    livelihood, nothing else. It would help them make peace with the loss. What happened was 
    wrong. But I don’t think badly of all Hindus. I can't be angry with the entire community.”
     
    "Modi is a good leader. He has good administrative skills, but it is the right of our children to get 
    jobs. It is his duty to give us jobs." 
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    Too late, but not little
     
    The first verdict in the case was handed down on August 29, 2012, by special trial court that 
    convicted BJP's sitting MLA and former Minister for Women and Child Development Maya 
    Kodnani, Bajrang Dal politician Babu Bajrangi and 30 others of criminal conspiracy and 
    murder.
     
    Though the victims hailed the judgment and celebrated, they want exemplary punishment for 
    the killers and stringent laws to punish the offenders.
     
    "The order took 10 long years, but we won't say it's too little too late, rather it's too late not 
    little. Most of such cases get lost in the labyrinth of legal process... In our case, the media, along with us, played an active role. These days, the media is omnipresent. Else the cases would have been frozen into brick and mortar," says Tanveer Jafri, the son of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was among the 69 people killed in the Gulberg Housing society massacre in 2002.
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    About the horrid past, 50-year-old Tanveer says: "Whatever happened will never obliterate 
    from our memory. My parents were alone at our Gulbarg Society house at the time of the 
    incident since I stay with my family in Surat and my sister Nishrin Hussain in Delaware, US... My ammi (mother) told me there was an obstinate refusal by the police to comply with their 
    request. They made a god-awful mess of it. The cops turned a deaf ear to all the requests to 
    station a strong police contingent in the area."
     
    "My father was burnt to death in his own home by a group of rioters... It was preposterous. We had lost the zest in life. Then my mother Zakia plucked up the courage to fight the case. She 
    filed the protest petition against the SIT report, on the basis of which the court absolved Narendra Modi of all charges. The Metropolitan Court has allowed her to make oral submissions on her objections against the SIT report. We will get justice one day."
     
     
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    Gujarat Polls: Will forgive Modi if he gives us jobs, say riot victims
    According to 14-year-old Noor Bano who lost her father in the riots, "I want to see all the accused punished before I pop my clogs. If they are not punished here, they will be taken to task in hell. In God's home, there is delay but not denial." 
     
    "We are extremely grateful to victims' lawyer Teesta Setalvad who has stood by our side. Had she not been there, we would have not got even this much."
     
    'Padma Shri' Setalvad, the granddaughter of India's first Attorney General MC Setalvad, has accused the Gujarat government of being collusive in the rioting and made serious personal allegations of complicity against Modi. 
     
    Though justice still elludes them, the bravehearts have learnt to smile once again. They have shown the world 'LIFE MOVES ON'.
     
    Jeena isi ka naam hai!
     
     
     
    Photos courtesy: Ankur Tewari

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