Mohammed Hanif's skullcap and long, white beard are juxtaposed comfortably with the red flags emblazoned with likenesses of Hindu gods flying behind him. His 20 x 30 ft shop selling peanuts and other small snacks has held ground for the last 90 years in the predominantly Hindu area of Madhupura. There are at least 300 Hindu shops in the vicinity and statues of the goddess Durga abound.
Fifty-five-year-old Hanif, father of six, has seen his shop being razed no less than eight times since the 1969 riots. Each time, he has quietly picked up the remains of his ‘Hanif Channawala’ signboard and set it up anew.
“It is not the people here who do anything; outsiders came and burnt my shop. It irks them that I am happy in a Hindu locality,” says Hanif. “I attend more Hindu functions than Muslim ones,” he explains.
Before the Godhra riots, Hanif used to live near his shop, but has since relocated to Sahapur, a Muslim locality.
“I moved not because of my neighbours but because of those anti-social elements who don't even live or work here. I will not shut my shop. My forefathers set it up and I will never shut it,” he declares. But after the recent blasts, the fear of another round of riots has been eating at Hanif. He opens the shutters of his shop every day with fear in his heart and a prayer on his lips.
The grandfather of two is firm that he does not want his children to live with the same uncertainty; his resilience has worn out over time. For his two sons — one an advocate and the other, a computer engineer — he dreams of a better life: “They will not toil like me. They will have good jobs and all this disharmony will not affect them.”