18 Years have Passed, Gujarat Riot Victims Still Await Rehabilitation

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Women collect water from a tanker in the Citizen Nagar relief colony for survivors of the 2002 Gujarat riots. — AFP/Getty Images

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

ALMOST 18 years after the horrendous communal pogrom, the woes of the families affected by the Gujarat riots of 2002 continue unabated. They victims are still living in utter neglect.

Close to two lakh people were uprooted by the riots that followed by Godhra train burning incident. These people remained displaced for more than a year before some Muslim relief organisations, along with a few local NGOs, settled 16,087 of them in 83 relief colonies across Gujarat.

What happened to the rest, neither the government nor the NGOs have any clue, none has ever kept any account of such internally displaced people.

Among the 16,087 displaced people, some 200 victim families were rehabilitated at Dhoraji Nagar and Citizen Nagar in Ahmedabad. This was done with the help of local Muslim philanthropists.

Citizen Nagar, a slum of 40 houses popularly known as Bombay hotel area, was donated by the Kerala Muslim League Relief Committee then headed by late E. Ahmed, MP from Malappuram.

Close to both Dhoraji Nagar and Citizen Nagar localities is Ahmedabad’s Pirana garbage dump yard which is one-kilometer long and 50 feet high heap of trash. As the garbage dumping from all over the city continues, its foul smell pervades the atmosphere over these two colonies. The nauseating smell causes breathing problem for the people living there.

A PIL seeking closure of the Pirana garbage dump is pending in the Gujarat High Court and no one seems to be bothered about its impact on the public health.

There is no traversable road to these rehabilitation colonies. During rainy season, the filth from the garbage dump comes inside the houses of these human habitats and continues throughout the monsoon season.

There is no regular outflow of sewage from these localities. Water-borne diseases are common in the twin colonies.  The groundwater is not potable and people have to travel some distance to get drinkable water.

There is no primary health center located in these localities. There is no school for the children there. The children mostly go to the garbage dump yard to pick up rags or something useful that they can sell.

Most men are doing low level menial jobs in the chemical factories nearby. The average income of the family here is about INR two thousand per month. Most of them are daily-wage earners and their earnings are insufficient for a family unit of five or six.

Like all the relief colonies spread across the state, these two rehabilitation colonies were also set up as a temporary camp but now have burgeoned into a permanent slum.

However, the ownership documents of these dwellings have not yet been given to the rehabilitated families. This is a major issue and because most of these people face the problem of getting a PAN card, Aadhaar, passport or even a loan.

The Gujarat government had promised development of these Muslim ghettos where the riot victims are living, but even after 18 years their apathy is palpable.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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