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Ten Years of Gujarat: Life and Hope in Surat

Afroz Alam Sahil, BeyondHeadlines

It has been a decade since 2002 riots in Gujarat. However, justice is still eluding.

It started from Sabarmati Express near Godhra where the returning devotees from Ayodha were burnt in the coach of S-6. 54 people died. No one knew immediately why and who alight the coach and the train. But rumor quickly engulfed the locality that people from the other community have burnt down the innocent lives. It was just the trigger to start the riot. Minorities were selectively targeted, humiliated and killed in broad day light even in the presence of the police. Homes, shops all were burnt down. Women and children were not spared. Many were forced and raped. Nevertheless people from the majority also were killed during this three day mayhem. Thousands were killed, more were rendered homeless. The CM who prefers to call himself as the common man, not the Chief Minister, did nothing to protect these innocent lives.  More than 2000 people were killed however, the government report has only recognised the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus.

Remembering the Riots 1992 and 2002

People in Surat still remember the 1992 riots. More than 200 people were killed then and many homes and businesses were looted and destroyed.  Remembering the 1992 riots Mr. Haji Maqsood has become tearful. It was 2002 just before the riots Maqsood was informed by his friend not to venture out of home. Incidentally his  policeman friend is a Hindu. There was another Mulsim policeman friend who lost his sister in the riots. Mansoor Mian feels luckky to have been in Delhi during the riots in 2002.

55 year old Sayyed Khan is now ageing fast. Dry eyes, no frontal teeth and wrinkles on his face is enough to imagine the pain the man has gone through in last ten years. He lost 10 people of his family. Among others his wife, mother and brother were killed. Everything was destroyed and he looks lost in those cruel days of 2002.

Mohd Haneef of Surat does not find words to explain the events of 2002.Even though Surat did not see mass killings as happened in other parts of Gujarat, but it broke the backbone of the Muslim community. The community lives in fear. He tells that Muslims have been always the target when something has happened in Gujarat. Whether it is the bombings of 1992/1993, 2008 or 2011 Muslims were targeted and hundreds of innocent Muslims are still in the jails.

Many people like Mansoor Mian complain that justice has not been done. But still are hopeful that justice will be done in the coming days. Many of them feel that Modi’s dream to become the PM of India is not going to materialize as people have known his real self. Modi is already known as someone who wants to sow the seeds of hate and yield electoral results out of this hatred. Some assert that leave alone PM of India, in the coming state elections Modi is going to face tough fight to become even the CM of Gujarat.

People have got hold of the real picture of his hyped theory of development. Modi has allowed at least 167 corporates who have acquired thousands of hectors of land including the tax exemption in many cases. There is no space for raising voice against these companies. Labour movements have been systematically demolished.  Police is ready to put you in the jail if you raise your voice. Its well known that TATA was welcomed in Gujarat after it was not allowed to start the factory in Singur. The most curious thing is that Gujarat Agricultural University land was given to the Tata nano factory.  Nevertheless, the farmers that have lost their land to the Tata Nano Factory have got high compensations, sometimes four times the market price.

The NHRC response to an revealed that 432 communal riots have taken place during 1993-2009. In most of these episodes of violence neither the government nor the NHRC have been effective to do anything.

No matter who did it and who was killed, the riots can never be justified. Whether it was during the freedom struggle, or killing of the Hindus in Nuakhali, or the killing of Sikhs in 1984, or the killings in Odisha. We as a country have seen several communal riots, most have been covered up to protect the perpetrators and victims have not been compensated. Some are still running from offices to offices to collect the death certificate of their dead relative.  I am still amazed that the common man in Surat who suffered in 1993 and 2002 is still hopeful. I sometimes feel hopeless, but when I talked to these common people in Surat, their hope, gives me hope that justice will be done.

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