In Gujarat: Victims Of A conspiring State
By Vidya Bhushan
08 September, 2007
Bi lost her eyesight three years back after three of her sons were arrested
under the notorious Prevention of Atrocities & Terrorist Act (POTA)
after the Sabarmati Express, was burnt by the miscreants in Godhara
railway station in February 2002. Today, Nafisa, 60 is completely blinded
in her isolated home, which used to have a bakery. There are 11 such
families living in Rehmat Nagar area of Godhara who have lost everything
after their male members were arrested and kept in prison. Charges have
not been framed yet, said Rehana Bi whose husband Shabir Hussein was
a conductor in a private bus and was randomly arrested along with other
'conspirators' for their alleged role in the incident. The meager earning
were not enough to sustain their family of four. Her younger daughter
Shamim Bano was not born yet and has not seen her father so far. Rehana
does not have any other members to support and is earning her livelihood
through domesticated work at the houses of nearby Muslim locality of
Boharas. " I go at 8 in the morning and return at 12 pm. They give
me the left over food, which I eat and bring for my children. In cash,
I just get Rs 250/-. My husband was getting Rs 1,200/- as monthly salary.
How can my family survive in a meager Rs 250/-, she asks. No body comes
here to ask us about our problems. A few social work organizations were
here for some year but now they too have left leaving us in lurch. We
have no clue about when our people will be released from the jail, despite
the fact that we are informed that Supreme Court has ordered them bail,
Gujarat has witnessed systematic isolation of the Muslims in the past
10 years. Their movements are traced and livelihood shattered. It is
very difficult for them to get even the work in the Hindu households.
Even if the community wants to restart its life forgetting the past,
there is no certainty whether the product that they make would sale
in the market or not. Efforts were made by many NGOs, which failed because
of the un written economic blockade by the powerful group of the Hindutva
brigade. In fact, the tribal and Dalits face the same wrath in the village
if they ally with any likeminded organizations which talks of their
identity and rights.
The pain of Nafisa bi needs
to be understood in terms of the ailing Gujarati society and the crisis
Muslim women face in Gujarat. With most of the male members gone behind
the bar, these women today face the uphill task of reviving their lives
in a deeply polarized and hostile atmosphere. Rehmat Nagar area reflects
the mood of the state government and their zeal to isolate Muslim further.
There is no activity in the area, which is completely cut off from the
main high way. No link road and if it rains then perhaps it would become
nearly impossible for these women to go to earn. Most of the women are
surviving on the alms which their employer give them apart from a salary
of Rs 250/- per family per month.
Activists come and promise
that our people would be released soon as the Supreme Court has ordered,
said Rehana Bi. But Nafisa Bi seems to be resigned to her fate. 'It
is more than three years that I saw my sons. Now even if they come,
I would not be able to see them.' Neighbors inform that Nafisa weeps
all the time. Her husband divorced her long back without caring their
children. Fortunately, her sons were hardworking and earned their livelihood
well to take care of her. Today, she is thoroughly dejected at the plight
of her sons who she alleges were beaten up mercilessly in the police
lock up. Her son Shabir Anwar Ansari have three sons and one daughter
while Alauddin, the other son got married the same year. The locality
is about 5 kilometers away from the railway station where the Sabarmati
Express's coach were burnt. ' The police came in the evening with their
face covered and asked the male members to accompany them to their bosses
office', say Rehana. She further added that there were no women police
personnel when they came. They were all men showering the choices abuse
Fakharuddin Yusuf was a Bus
driver. He was arrested as soon as he returned from his trip. He was
put in Sabarmati jail where he died one year later. He was beaten up
mercilessly in the police lock up. Obviously, the Gujarat police whose
track record is worst while tackling with the minorities cannot escape
the blame. Many young children who were born after their father was
arrested often ask their mothers when would their father return.
The police and administration
has become so nasty that it does not even allow the detainees to meet
their ailing parents even when they were waiting for a peaceful death.
Rehana's mother in law died weeping and crying to see her son who could
not come to see her before her death. Payroll was granted to Rehana's
husband three days later after his mother was cremated. Mother and son
did not see each other for three years says Rehana wiping her moisted
eyes. When the Gujarat police come here they do not bring any women
constables and on our defiance we are beaten up. She was arrested for
one day. Rehana is outspoken when I ask about who burnt the train. "
we did not know about the burning of train before the police came and
started arresting the people. They informed that all the male members
would be required to go to SP sahib but once they were put in the police
vehicles they never returned and families only came to know about the
whereabouts of their male members about three months later when they
started writing to them.
' I too was arrested but
they released me the very next day but my father was kept up in the
lock up for six days', she says. Her moist eyes narrate the innocence
inside her ', we do not burn even the dead, why would we burnt people
A total of nearly 100 families
are charged under POTA in Godhara. The eleven families whose male wards
have been arrested immediately after the train was burnt hail from this
locality of Rehmat Nagar which is located on right hand side of the
Godhara-Badodara high way. There is no connectivity road to this locality
and one has to take off from the vehicle to reach here. The narrow muddy
lane is the only way for you to reach the place. None of the man in
the area has any work. In fact, they do not get any work outside. Tragedy
is that Nafisa and like her many women's pains and agonies are compounded
with the fact that with in their own community they have lot of resistance.
When there is no work, man have no work to do and mere domesticated
work in nearby locality of the Bohras cannot make them survive. It is
ironical that many of the women are being pushed in the flash trade
since there is virtually a crisis of survival. Immediately after the
riots, many NGOs started working among the victims but two-three years
after the incident when they are faced with a hostile state administration
which is hell bent on keeping the Muslims in particular and minorities
in general out of the mainstream, organizations winded up their charity
work. Of course, some of them are still working creating awareness in
an otherwise thoroughly communalized atmosphere of Gujarat.
The Modi government kept
quiet and even the press has not been able to follow up all the cases.
How long the select few would come every day to expose a government,
which has been corrupted at every level. The water in Rehmat Nagar area
is totally contaminated, as there are factories in the area, which release
chemical waste every day and therefore have turned the ground water
totally undrinkable. The families go to fetch water from high way, nearly
half a kilometer away from the area. Most of the families, which lived
here before February 27 th, 2002, have now left for other areas leaving
11 of the families here in complete isolation.
Rehana's mother in law died.
When she was on bed, her husband applied for a payroll but was denied.
He came to see his mother three days after her death. That is the tragedy
of the entire incident. Says Rehana,' Narendra Modi is not a married
man. Had he been married and had some children, he would have been sensitive
to the issues of family, pain of a mother or anguish of a wife or cry
of the children who miss their father. How would he explain to a mother
who died crying without seeing her son?
In the global war on terror,
it is very clear that it is the educated elite, which is now becoming
a tool in the hands of the deeply religious fanatics. Poor were actually
never were part of it. They might be looked down upon as 'fundamentalists'
but never as 'terrorists'. In this age when war are psychological as
well as more so on modern techniques, a look at the profile of 11 POTA
victims would tell how government was hell bent on making the innocent
Shabbir Hussain was bus conductor
with a happily married life with children has been arrested. Shabbir
Anwar Ansari and Alauddin Ansari were brothers with their families.
Both were with their mother and running a bakery shop. Sadiq Khan Sultan
Khan was a painter. Shamsher Khan is brother of Sadiq Khan. Yusuf Khan
used to make bamboo Pinjara while Feroj Khan was working with Yasin
Habib in a hotel. Feroj Khan was working in a steal company and Jabir
Binyamin was working with a dairy. Fakhruddin Yusuf was working as a
driver and was not even in the town. He returned in the evening only.
The work profile of all these people may not suggest whether they had
time to conspire against people. He has six daughters and 2 sons. Now
all of them have left this place, as there was no security of life and
livelihood for them. Jabir's wife Jainab informs how her two children
miss their father. Daughter Saima Bano 4 and son Shehjad 5 have not
got their fathers live as he is in jail. In fact Saima was born after
her father was in jail.
Jabir's brother Ramjani was
a rikshawpullar with a school. He was arrested from school where he
was taking school children. Ramjani has six children with the eldest
daughter Naseem Bano aged 12 and the youngest son Sarfaraj aged 5. Another
brother Habib is also arrested. He has two children Shamir and Ferhan.
The families are virtually living in despair and starvation. All the
women are working as domestic servants in the relatively middle class
Muslim households and get a maximum of Rs 250/- added with left over
food. Irony is that the children are looked after at home by the neighbors
or elders like Nafisa bi and other elderly women who cannot work. Some
of the children go to a nearby school but majority of them dropped out.
Now Gujarat will face elections
and the government of Narendra Modi has started divising methods, which
can create communal wage. Dalits are being charged in false cases. Inter
caste and inter religious marriages are being blown out of proportion.
The state administration is thoroughly Hinduised. Even inside the booking
windows of the railway stations one can find the pictures of Hindu Gods
and Goddesses, which is against our secular ethics. Cases are not registered
for Muslims. Take the case of Jatun Bibi whose house was burnt by the
rioters in village Mirapuri which is about 13 kilometer from Godhara.
They have a total of 12 acres of land in the family of six yet even
5 years after the riots Jatun can not go back to her village. She now
stays in the slums of Rehmat Nagar on a rented house along with her
husband. Jatun Bibi filed a case against Sarpanch and won at the session
court. The case was challenged in the high court where she lost. She
does not even know about the case and files. It was never challenged
later. Her husband says that they will never go back to the village
as the village Sarpanch and his goons would kill them. Today, Jatun
Bibi lives on rent in a small one-room house at Rehmat Nagar. She pays
Rs 200/- per month as rent. Her husband is a labour. She used to own
a Kirana shop in the village. Both husband and wife worked on the shop
and had a big house for them along with others in the family. The three
relatives (brothers and sisters) lived together but now they are not
ready to return. Her husband expresses his fears that if they return
to village, the Sarpanch would kill them. Police does not help in these
matters. In fact, a BJP MLA has been supporting the sarpanch.
Jatun Bibi lost her mother
in the childhood. She has four sisters and one brother. The one brother,
according to her, has turned out to be an anti social element who would
not share his parental property with the sisters. Tragically, Jatun
Bibi has no sources to challenge the high court order. One does not
know what her lawyers are doing at the moment. The condition of rule
of law in Gujarat is that Muslims do not come out in open; you have
to prove to them that you really care for their issues. Such things
may shock people outside Gujarat but this unjust peace in Gujarat must
be opposed. Peace building groups are roaming around but how can there
be peace in Gujarat if the second majority of Gujarat lives in abject
poverty, isolation and complete fear. Can such peace be supported which
prohibit people to speak against injustice?
It is not that only Muslims
are being targeted in Gujarat. The Dalits and tribals are used against
the Muslims and are intimidated if they do not cooperate. Recently,
a tribal leader of a social movement who was fighting for the forest
rights of the tribals was barred from entering into four districts by
the administration. The wife of a well respected Muslim doctor in Godhara
was disturbed so much in the aftermath of Godhara that she shifted from
Gujarat along with her children as safety of the children was paramount
Gujarat is on the verge of
history today. Gujarati's enjoyed the fruits of globalisation. People
greeted them everywhere from Africa to America and England where they
went for their business and succeeded. Today, the same Gujarati's particularly
the Non-resident Indian variety are conspicuously silent on the functioning
of the governance, which want to weed the fellow Gujarati Muslims out
from the state. Often, Gujarati's use Mahatma Gandhi and his message
of social reconciliation for their own benefits abroad particularly
in Africa, it is time, they realize that Bapu's dream of reconciliation
hold true for their own state also. In the so-called war against terror
we should not forget that it also call for a just government. It also
calls for justice against those who are terrorists but not Muslims.
They too are terrorists who kill innocent people, rape their women and
publicly support killing and humiliation of human being who happens
to be Muslims. War against terror should not only be against the terrorists
who happen to be Muslims but all those also who kill Muslim selectively.
If this so-called war has to be won against the evil designs of all
those then those in power or those who wish to come to power must show
their resolve in providing governance and protecting all those who are
citizens of state. One hope our governments in the Center and states
listen to those cries of the victims of the mass killing in Mumbai after
the demolition of Babari Masjid or those killed in Hashimpura, Bhagalpur,
Kanpur and elsewhere. Not only war against terror, we will need to define
genocide in present day term and its linkages to fundamentalist ideologies
supported by the state. All those ideological dictators need to be brought
to book for abetting the riots, supporting the killing or threatening
them with dire consequences. Unfortunately, deeply prejudiced mindset
cannot change. Gujarat needs a strong civil society as well as a strong
rainbow coalition of the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Christians and OBCs
to tackle fascist onslaught on people's right and livelihood. The real
target of the saffron forces in Gujarat is actually not Muslims but
Dalits and Adivasis as we only talks of Gujarat issue in terms of Muslims
but not in terms of socio political issues, which have threatened the
very basis of this government. Adivasis are threatened from their livelihood
as Modi goes abroad inviting big industrialists to suck the blood of
poor Adivasis and Dalits. All Dalits and Adivasis who are trying to
assert are boycotted and pitched against Muslims and Christians. Public
land in Gujarat is being given to private companies and nothing has
been done to eliminate poverty. The only thing Gujarat has these days
is rabid Hinduisation or I would simply say, brahminsation process.
It is sickening to see such ritualistic symbols present in everyday
life from posters in railway stations to Panchayat Bhavans, you will
find not one or two Gods but large number of Godmen. Nowhere, in India
such naked neglect of the secular laws of the country. Why should railways
allow a picture of Hanuman in its reservation counters or why should
the schools and Panchayat buildings have Asha Ram Bapu or Murari Bapu.
If you love so much your Gods please do allow the other gods also. And
definitely, then will have to put a Mao and a Marx also to satisfy the
nonbelievers. This hypocrisy must be challenged. Gujarat is communalized
very systematically and the disease is spreading like a virus.
The answer lies in strong
ties of real Gujaratis who do not have golden plates in their homes
or who do not have NRIs in their family. Yes, Gujarat could be saved
by a strong people's movement involving every segment of the marginalized
sections of our society including Muslims and all those victims of Narendra
Modi's rabid anti Dalit, anti tribal and anti farmer policies. It is
also time to take these religious lunatics head on otherwise they will
deny every one a right to live with dignity and freedom to express.
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