Over 18 Years On, Gujarat Riots Victims Continue to Live Miserable Life

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The riot-hit families live in ill-equipped rehabilitation colonies

The riot survivors vowed to intensify their long-drawn fight for their fundamental rights and urged the state and Central governments to evolve a comprehensive rehabilitation policy

Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India

AHMEDABAD – More than 18 years have gone by but the 17,000-odd hard-pressed victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat surviving on a wing and a prayer continue to run from pillar to post for jobs, loans and homes of their own.

About 80 of the 3,500 dirt-poor, displaced families, all Muslims, living in subhuman conditions in tumbledown temporary shelters at 83 ill-equipped rehabilitation colonies in various parts of the state after the bloody communal riots gathered at a community cluster in Nandasan village in northern Mehsana district last week to voice their three main age-old demands, besides countless others.

The 500-odd riot survivors who attended the meeting vowed to intensify their long-drawn fight for their fundamental rights and urged the state and Central governments to evolve a comprehensive rehabilitation policy encompassing housing, education, basic facilities, livelihood, health services and entitlements.

Men and women who lost their dear ones, homes and properties in the three-month-long, barbarous Hindu-Muslim clashes were in tears as they narrated their tale of woe at the informal get-together organised by the Minority Coordination Committee (MCC) on the United Nations(UN)-declared International Day to Commemorate the Victims of Violence Based on Religion or Beliefs, which passed off without fanfare in India.

MCC convener Mujahid Nafis told Clarion India that the riot-hit families were compelled to live a wretched life in unhygienic conditions in their ramshackle, claustrophobic dwellings in 83 relief colonies resembling shanty towns in eight districts of Gujarat as the state administration had not stirred a finger to offer them alternative homes.

Mujahid Nafis

“The colonies for displaced families were built by charitable organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Islamic Relief Committee, Ahmedabad Sarvajanik Welfare Trust (ASWT) and philanthropists as temporary shelters but the government was unmoved”, said Nafis who has been mobilising the minorities to fight for their rights bestowed upon them by the Constitution of India in order to bring forth an equal and just society.

Some 2,000 men, women and children, mostly Muslims, were killed and about 200,000 people were rendered homeless in the 2002 riots that also saw destruction of 302 dargahs, 209 mosques and 13 madrasas, not to mention loss of property worth Rs 2.44 billion for the minority community, all this under the watch of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister.

Nafis said that the violent communal conflagration that erupted on February 27, 2002 and spread throughout the state after 59 Hindus were burnt alive in a train fire near Godhra railway station in central Gujarat was a perfect example of persecution on the basis of religion, which, according to the UN, is violation of international laws.

Social worker Wahab Ansari wants the Gujarat government to spare a thought for the riot-hit

 Social worker Wahab Ansari, who spent five years breathing down the neck of government officials to bring about a semblance of basic amenities in colonies of riot-ravaged people in Nandasan, Vijapur and other Muslim ghettos, told this correspondent that the BJP regime in Gujarat had just announced plans to accommodate migrant workers in its countless vacant flats but had not spared a thought for the families displaced by the religious massacres in 2002.

“They can be easily accommodated in low-income housing schemes named after the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister’, suggested Ansari, adding that they should at least be given ownership rights for their current houses situated in squalid surroundings stinking to high heaven.

While social worker Mohamed Kasam Vora said that the riot victims had been deprived of loans for a dog’s age as their property documents had been burnt to ashes in 2002, Afzal Memon whose trust, ASWT, had constructed the 40 homes of the Nandasan colony, said that proper approach and liaison work by dedicated volunteers with the powers that be could do the trick for the riot victims.

High Court Advocate Shamshad Pathan sees no improvement in conditions of the displaced families

Gujarat High Court advocate Shamshad Pathan, whose NGO, the Alpasankhyak Adhikar Manch (Minority Rights Forum) recently mobilised the minority community for challenging the hatemongers in print, electronic or social media by filing hundreds of police complaints, said that thanks to ṭhe saffron administration’s lackadaisical attitude toward the riot-affected people, there was hardly any improvement in their condition, leave alone help for employment and financial aid.

Arjun Modhwadia, Gujarat Congress ex-president and former Leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly, opined that the state government took only half-baked measures by distributing peanuts as compensation, and added that it never framed a rehabilitation policy not only for the unfortunate riot victims but also for those displaced by construction of the gigantic Narmada dam and monstrous Statue of Unity.

Human rights activist Gagan Sethi, who has been taking up the cudgels for the riot-hit, said: “Living conditions in many of the 83 colonies were now better because of our constant follow-up with the government but jobs and loans are a pipe-dream.”

In sum, despite marathon efforts in the past by true-blue NGOs like Jan Vikas, Alpasankhyak Adhikar Manch, Minority Coordination Committee, Jan Sangharsh Manch, Niswan, ANHAD and Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, etc, the cash-starved victims of Gujarat’s 2002 riots continue to live a dog’s life and are hoping against hope for a bonanza from the Gujarat government.

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