For Ahmedabad’s Muslim residents, 2008 is not 2002

July 30th, 2008 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Rafat Quadri
Ahmedabad, July 30 (IANS) Many of them fled from their homes six years ago but they are staying put now. Even as they recall the massacre of February 2002, Muslims living in Naroda Patiya here have not panicked in the aftermath of the serial bombings in the city Saturday. “How long do we keep running? How and where can we flee? Now we are living here on the mercy of Allah. If we are destined to die here, we would die,” said Naseema Banu, a resident of Hussain Nagar in Naroda Patiya on the outskirts of the city.

Naseema, in her early forties, works in an elastic manufacturing company while her aged mother Jameela Banu works for a Hindu family for past four decades.

“I came to this place from Lucknow with my parents when I was two months old, today my grandchildren are two years and four years old. This is my place where and why should I go anywhere from here,” Naseema told IANS.

They as well as their neighbours look less scared and are not planning to shift away from their Muslim-dominated lower middle class locality after the bombings - which its alleged perpetrators Indian Mujahideen said in an email were in revenge of the 2002 violence.

It was not so six years ago.

A day after a bogey of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire Feb 27, 2002, a mob had attacked the locality, resulting in the worst massacre of the communal violence across Gujarat which went on for weeks.

Many women were gang-raped and at least 83 people were killed, forcing many to run away from their homes without a moment’s delay.

Nazirbhai, 50, a scrap merchant of the same area, said: “However, this time the role of SRP (Special Reserve Police) was different. Last time they were helpful to the killers while this time they were guarding us.”

Residents of different mohallas, or colonies, of Naroda Patiya including Noorani Masjid, Citizen Nagar and Hussain Nagar echo the same feelings.

They said there was initially lot of panic among them on that fateful Saturday evening when 21 bombs went off within a span of about 70 minutes, killing at least 50 people and injuring about 200.

The immediate reason for the scare was that landline telephones and mobiles had stopped working - just like it happened before the 2002 massacre.

Kauserjehan, a 28-year-old homemaker, said: “In any case, we were helpless and had no option but to just rely on god’s mercy. There were news of bomb blasts at so many places including nearby Isanpur and Naroda.”

Their confidence also comes from their faith in judiciary as they have seen justice being delivered in some of the high-profile cases of the 2002 violence.

“Law would take its own course, (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi knows it very well. May be that is why he is talking of communal harmony while last time he didn’t,” said Sajid Hussain, a resident of Noorani Masjid area.

“This time there is pressure from UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” Hussain told IANS.

However, a few kilometres away in Gulbarg Society, which also saw one of the worst massacres in February 2002, the only family that continued to live there has decided to be cautious. In this colony in Chamanpura area of east Ahmedabad, over 250 people took refuge on the morning of Feb 28, 2002 in the home of Ehsan Jaffrey, a former MP. Little did they know that 39 of them would be killed in a matter of hours.

The survivors of the families from 19 bungalows and eight flats have left the place. But Qasim Mansuri, 60, and his young nephews and grandsons use the deserted place for their business - spinning cotton and making pillows and mattresses.

While the younger lot return home after working hours, Qasim, who lost 19 members of his family in that massacre, sleeps in the same place only.

However, for since the serial blasts Qasim has not slept at the Gulbarg house.

“Why should I not use my own place? I have lived here with my happy big family. We had two bungalows in this society - one this and one inside where my mother and my younger brother with his family lived. I have loads of memories attached with this place,” Qasim said, pointing at a coloured photograph, of himself and his wife whom he lost in the massacre, hanging on the wall.

Asked how he felt when he heard the news of blasts, he said: “No innocent should be killed. Each son and daughter died in the Saturday blasts is a genuine loss for me as well.

“Such acts of killing take us nowhere. They only divide us and spread more hatred between the two communities. If it is the handiwork of Muslim fundamentalists is it any way going to get back my dear ones? Was it meant for us?” he said.

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