Twenty three-year-old Amirul Sheikh has vague memories of his house being burnt during the 2002 riots, “the tempo” in which he was fleeing with his parents being overturned by the attackers and him hiding in the farms behind his house. He also remembers losing sight of his brothers Moeen, 18, and Imtiaz, 19, and finding himself alone at a temple on the banks of river Ghuma for three days and a woman who took him to another temple in Kalol town. It was at this temple where his fuyee (father’s sister) found him and united him with his two brothers.
Their parents — Razzakbhai and Mumtaz — were among the 14 killed by a mob outside Ambica Society on the main road in Kalol town when they were fleeing from the attackers from their village in Delol on February 28, 2002. All the deceased were members of one large family who resided together. The trial in the case, investigation into which is alleged have been botched up since the beginning, is still going on.
This was among the first case where a sub inspector R J Patil was arrested for shielding the accused.
The three brothers have no idea about the case and they don’t wish to pursue it. “We don’t have any feelings now. Our memories have turned vague over the years. We were given shelter by our fuyee and we live peacefully. We couldn’t study much because of various factors, including financial constraints. We make a living by running a vegetable cart, but the income is not enough,” said Amirul. He adds, “We were very young to understand the events that unfolded before us. Although we feel angry at times during discussion at home, we cannot do anything about it.” Amirul married two years ago and has a child.
Amirul recollected that the incident had happened in the evening on February 28 in 2002 when his family along with others were fleeing in a tempo and a group of people stopped them in front of Ambica Society, a Hindu ·residential society. The mob started turned the tempo upside down. Imtiaz recalls that he broke his leg in the incident and some people dragged him out and ran.
According to Amirul, he received about Rs 4 lakh compensation in 2003-2004. He spent most of the money on himself ·and his two brothers’ upbringing and some amount he used last year when he got married. “My· two brothers are grown up now and will soon be married. They need a roof over their head,” Amirul says and recalls that he cried when he got married and when he became a father, remembering his dead parents.
Amirul says he has a small piece of land in his village Delol where he grows seasonal vegetables. “Last month I went there just to check my farms. We don’t want to go back there as no one from our family lives there anymore.”
The victims of what came to be known as the “Ambica Society massacre” were rehabilitated at Qasimabad Society in Kalol town, about 5 km away. With riots spreading to various other parts of the Panchmahals, more and more affected people arrived here in the relief camps. After 15 years the relief camps have turned into a colony, now known as Qasimabad,·about 10 km from Delol. There are roughly 250 houses and majority of them are riots victims. Faizan, Amin, Junaid and Adil Sheikh, who are cousins and all in 20s, have similar stories. They all lost their fathers in the mayhem. For them, they say, “the good thing is that we don’t remember the incident so we don’t feel anything about it.”
On February 28, 2002 about 25 houses of Muslims of Delol village were attacked by a Hindu mob. After the attack victims tried to run away. A group of them fled using the Ghuma river while a group tried to escape in a tempo. They found the highway blocked with ·boulders· opposte Ambica society·, a Hindu neighbourhood,· where a mob was waiting for them. They were attacked in which 14 persons were killed. ·The case was investigated ·by IPS officer N·ee·rja Gotru ·Rao. More than a dozen persons arrested including several members of RSS and VHP·, and Patil·. The trial of the case is still going on. One of the victims Madina Sheikh, who now lives in ·Q·asimabad and mother of Shakeel, said “N·ee·rja madam recorded our statement but after that we haven’t been called for our statement in the court. We are still waiting.”
A group of youngsters, many who lost at least one parent, have a vague recall. “I was too small to remember the incident. I have vague memories of running around in the farms behind our houses. But I know that my father Yakub Sheikh was killed in riots,” said Shakeel Sheikh in his early 20s. He said that his mother-Madina, had run away with him, his brother and two sisters from the clutches of rioters, while his mother saw his father getting killed
“I have grown up seeing my mother crying on every auspicious occasion in the family that how we lost our father. He was a farmer and also used to run auto-rickshaw,” he said. Shakeel has done diploma from an ITI and works in a tyre manufacturing company in the nearby locality. He adds that his mother somehow managed to raise him and his siblings by doing odd jobs and through meager widow pension of Rs 800 per month. His mother Madina breaks down while narrating the incident. She said that the mob tried to kill her also and shows marks on her hand allegedly inflicted by a sword.