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Riot victims afraid to leave

india Updated: Feb 28, 2010 00:25 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

The 2002 Gujarat riots, which claimed about 1,180 Muslim lives, has so scarred the community that its members are not willing to give up their ghettoised existence, not even to step out of slum areas and into government-built resettlement colonies in better localities.

About 500 Muslim families have been ordered to move out of Ahmedabad’s Khanpur Darwaza, a Muslim-dominated slum area.

The plan was to rehabilitate them in resettlement colonies in the Hindu-dominated Isanpur and Vivekananda Mill areas.

Their relocation, along with 20,000 others (both Hindus and Muslims) from various locations along the river, will pave the way for the Rs 1,200-crore Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project.

Some Muslim families were initially open to the idea to moving but later backed out.

Saira Sheikh, 47, who was allotted a house in the colony, said she was threatened by Hindus of the Vivekananda Mill area when she went there on February 16, 2010, along with another allottee, Saira Iqbal, 40, to check out the new houses. “They (Hindus) did not even allow our rickshaw to enter the colony. Marne ke liye aa rahe hain kya (Are you coming here to die), they asked us,” Sheikh said.

Others claimed stones were thrown at the houses allotted to them.

Police, however, denied that any such incident had taken place. “No one has filed a complaint,” said Inspector M.M. Sunesara, the officer-in-charge of Gomtipur police station, under which the Vivekananda Mill area falls.

But the fear factor remains.

“We do not want a repeat of what happened in Naroda (one of the areas worst affected by the riots), where we (Muslims) were segregated and butchered. Instead of taking us to areas surrounded by Hindus, relocate us to places where we can feel secure,” said 48-year-old Mohammed Aslam, a religious leader.

The community wants to be resettled in Vatva, a Muslim-dominated area in Ahmedabad, where some of the oustees have been allotted houses.

They have even written to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders, but are yet to hear from them.

“Going by past experience, our demand is justified. If they are not met, we will resort to a agitation and also approach the high court,” said Rafiq Ahmed, a leader of the Youth Congress, one of the leaders voicing the demand for alternative houses.

But the authorities have said they cannot help. “Why are people giving the issue a Hindu-Muslim colour? They (Muslims) are being provoked by some political parties to make such demands,” said Kanaji Thakore, the BJP mayor of Ahmedabad.

“It’s a computer-based draw (for allotment of houses). We are following the directions of the high court (which the oustees, both Hindus and Muslims, had approached in 2005 over compensation and rehabilitation). They (Muslims) might not agree, but obviously, we cannot take a community-based approach,” said I.P. Gautam, commissioner of the BJP-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.