Deserted roads, eerie silence in Ahmedabad’s Juhapura-Sarkhej

July 27th, 2008 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rafat Quadri
Ahmedabad, July 27 (IANS) The eerie silence in the Juhapura-Sarkhej belt on Ahmedabad’s southwest periphery is unnerving. Witness to one of the 20 blasts which ripped through Ahmedabad, this Muslim-dominated area wears a deserted look in sharp contrast to the usual bustle. Fear is omnipresent and few want to talk what exactly happened Saturday evening.

The blast in Sarkhej took place opposite the Sangam Talkies on a main road that connects to the highway from Ahmedabad to western parts of Gujarat.

It was near here that a city bus became the target. The bus on route Number 150 was on a longish route coming in from the industrial belt of Odhav in east Ahmedabad and close to the places where most of the 19 blasts, which claimed at least 45 lives, took place.

The bus was on its last leg when the blast ripped through it, claiming one life and injuring eight passengers. This was the only blast in the city which took place in a moving bus.

Just a couple of yards from the blast site is the Jameah Darul Quran Madrassa, which has more than 375 students.

“Whoever has done this unholy and inhuman act should never ever be forgiven. The severest of the punishments should be meted out to the guilty,” said Maulana M.A. Sheikh, a senior teacher at the madrassa.

Speaking in measured tones, he added, “Whatever has happened in Ahmedabad is heinous, unforgivable and Islam does not allow anyone to even think of any such act.”

“Yeh to insaaniyat ki katl aur maanavta ka janaaza nikla hai (This is murder of humanity and funeral procession of humaneness),” Sheikh told IANS Sunday.

It was only last Saturday when the madrassa organized a workshop on “steps to be taken to build bridges between the Hindus and the Muslims”.

Small booklets prepared by the madrassa in Gujarati language “Aap ni Amaanat - Aap ni Seva ma” (Your Belongings in Your Service) were also distributed in the nearby areas populated by Hindus.

“We had even gone to the Swaminarayan temple where we got a very warm welcome and a very good response. Now see what has happened,” Sheikh said in a sad tone.

The big open grounds near the blast site is also used as a parking lot by hundreds of truckers plying between different parts of the country and the Saurashtra peninsula in western Gujarat.

If the blast had taken place moments later it would have resulted in a much bigger tragedy as these loaded trucks could have caught fire.

Somewhere in his forties, Pinttoobhai who runs a taxi service in the area, said: “I was just sitting at the Anmol Hotel (very near to the blast site) when I heard this big blast. I felt like my brain had been torn to shreds and my ears pierced with something hot and heavy.”

“I saw people running around everywhere. I saw a scared man running towards me. He was the driver of the bus and from his looks he appeared to be a Hindu. I quickly took him to the Sarkhej Police Station in my car.”

Pinttoobhai added that the driver was so traumatized that he was crying incessantly and while he was taking him to the police station had pledged that he would never ever drive a bus in his life.

Pinttoobhai’s friend Altaf Shaikh, a Sarkhej-Juhapura resident in his early thirties who witnessed the blast, said: “I was standing very close to the spot and when I heard the sound and saw the flames, I thought the CNG cylinder in the bus must have burst.”

Fear still lurks in the eyes of Nitinbhai Patel, the young caretaker of the Anmol Hotel and Lodge. “Since last evening, my business has been hit for most of the trucks have taken a detour of the area and fear seems to be in the eyes of the people.”

This area is predominantly Muslim area but there are Hindu establishments on the main road. When asked if he was feeling scared himself, he said he did not want to comment.

Fatima Bibi, a woman in her thirties and residing in the Dhal area near to the blast site, is worried over losing her daily wages. “I go to the city area to make rakhis with a Hindu organization. But today I had to take a day off as my husband and young children felt scared.”

Gaffar Sira, another resident of the area, said: “If it is the handiwork of the so-called Indian Mujahideen, then I think the blast in Sarkhej-Juhapura must have been planned to show to the outside world that even Muslim areas have not been excluded.”

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