Godhra Give VHP
The Cold Shoulder
22 October, 2003
year-and-a-half ago, the Mahadev temple at Ramol Janata Nagar used to
resound with bhajans the evenings. This was the place where the VHP
and Bajrang Dal held meetings and persuaded many residents to join them
in their yatra to Ayodhya.
Of the 38 residents
who went to Ayodhya in February 2002, only 28 returned. Ten were killed
in the S-6 compartment of Sabarmati Express which was torched at Godhra
on February 27, plunging the locality into grief. A lot has changed
since, says Prakash Chodagar, a rickshaw driver who lost his wife
in the Godhra train carnage.
Not a single
VHP or Bajrang Dal activist has set foot here since the tragedy. They
have nothing more gain from here. Prakash has also registered
a drop business as the school rickshaw that he drives now ferries only
Hindu children. The Muslim and Christian children would not come
in my rickshaw, he says.
The VHP and
Bajrang Dal are deluding the people with promises of the Ram temple.
They will never construct it and it will remain an issue, kept alive
to create votes. This yatra killed so many and achieved little.
Its all politics, he says. Incidentally, the four persons
who moved a petition in the Supreme Court this week, seeking to expose
the VHPs role in the Ayodhya agitation and to move the Godhra
court case outside Gujarat, also belong to this locality. A feeling
of bitterness about the Ayodhya cause, as espoused by the VHP, pervades
the entire neighbourhood which derives its name from the God in whose
name the whole agitation has been built up.
Shrutika Mhatre, 14, has nothing much to say. No one from my family
would with the VHP ever again. My mother died in the train carnage.
She used go to the temple and was promised paid trip to Ayodhya. I dont
want say anything more on the subject, says Shrutika, who now
has a stepmother. Never trust the VHP, says Ankur Pandya.
Four members from his family had joined the VHP Ayodhya campaign in
2002. They all came back.
My mother was injured
and has recovered. But the horrifying images still haunt her. The Godhra
carnage, the riots... they all have vitiated the atmosphere. It has
created disharmony and rift, he says. His mother Renuka agrees.
I went with them (the VHP) because they promised me a paid pilgrimage.
When the train was attacked, they just disappeared. The riots created
more problems. Many of our family members were harassed by the police
and we had to take refuge at relatives home.
Asked whether she
still wants a Ram temple at Ayodhya, she snaps back, All this
temple business is nonsense. When I went to Ayodhya I did not find single
local person there wanting temple, so why should we all sitting here
in Gujarat create all this ruckus? Vibha Shah, another resident,
says her 18-year-old brother Rukesh went with the VHP to Ayodhya, and
barely survived the tragedy.
But now our
family would never want to be associated with VHP activities,
she says. Pandya introduced to this correspondent her neighbour Noori
Mansuri and says she has the best relations with her. Why should
there be such mindless violence, she asks.