iconimg Friday, August 28, 2015

Harinder Baweja, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, December 16, 2012
In the riot-hit Naroda Patiya locality and Gulbarg (Housing) Society, which go to polls on Monday, few are planning to step out and cast their votes. Few voted even in 2002 and 2007.

Says Shakeela Bano, who lost eight members of her family in Naroda, "Gujarat doesn't shine for us. The BJP does not even bother to ask for our votes and the Congress comes once in five years. Otherwise, we don't exist for them."

A nondescript locality on the northern outskirts of Ahmedabad, Patiya saw the worst violence in 2002, when 97 including 35 children, were killed. It is still nondescript - the labyrinthine by-lanes are littered with garbage and the sewers are overflowing. The 'Vibrant Gujarat' slogan has clearly missed Patiya as a destination.

Narendra Modi, who used the riots to champion himself as a Hindu saviour, is steering clear of any reference to the violence of 2002 and so is the Congress, which believes that Sonia Gandhi's reference to Modi as 'maut ka saudagar' cost them dearly in 2007.

No one from either party is even referring to the important judgment in the Naroda Patiya massacre case delivered only three-and-a-half months ago.

Nobody is even mentioning the name of Mayaben Kodnani, a former minister in Modi's government, who has been sentenced to 28 years in prison. Kodnani was the legislator representing Naroda Patiya and had in 2007 won with a record victory margin of 1.7 lakh votes.

Kodnani has been replaced by Dr Nirmala Wadhwani and the BJP workers take pains to draw similarities between her and Kodnani. "She is also Sindhi, a lady and a gynaecologist," a BJP worker points out.

Tasleem Bano, who left Gulbarg to rent a room in Patiya, which houses hundreds of victims, echoes the "we will not vote" sentiment.

Tasleem lost 19 family members in the mob attack on Gulbarg Society in eastern Ahmedabad. Elections mean little to her. If there is anything she looks forward to, it is justice.