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Fear lurks behind facade of normalcy in Godhra

This small town, epicentre of communal violence in Gujarat, appears normal, superficially.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2002 14:35 IST

This small business town, the epicentre of the February quake and the communal violence that followed in Gujarat, today appears completely normal, at least, superficially but an undercurrent of fear is said to pervade among the minorities as the Dec 12 deadline approaches.

People go about their business as if nothing has happened but a little conversation with anyone on the street brings out the divide, writes a PTI correspondent on election campaign trail.

Worries about security are palpable if one looks at the teeming policemen deployed in the town ahead of the elections.

In minority-dominated Signalfalia locality facing Godhra railway station, Ahmed starts closing his shop as he sees a an approaching car full of people.

"We are very scared. The BJP candidate has said he will make a cricket ground of our locality," says Bilaal Hussain, a garage owner who claims to have called the police when trouble began at the station on February 27.

More people join him as he starts recalling that fateful day- February 27- which changed the life for him and many others. "We are opposed to the anti-minority policy of the government. Most of us voted for BJP in the general elections but not any longer."

In the same place, with a population of around 8,000-10,000, Gohil, a Hindu, says he lives in harmony with his Muslims neighbours and will vote for the party chosen by them. A wall separates Signalfalia from the station, a few feet away from which the burnt bogey still stands. Gohil may be among the few exceptions.

Harish Bhatt, BJP's candidate for Godhra, a former Bajrang Dal leader, says his slogan is "its our own Godhra, Let us make it a beautiful Godhra".

Asked about reports that he threatened to make a cricket ground out of Signalfalia from where some arrests were made in connection with the Sabarmati Express massacre, he says "people say all sorts of things. But it's an election and everything is fair".

Several local people parrot the aggressive Hinduism of Togadia and Modi. "For Hindus to be alive, we need BJP."

First Published: Dec 03, 2002 10:34 IST