Azar Mody,14,was just one of many children and adolescents who went missing from the burning Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad in February 2002. Some were in the age group 0-10 years,some 11-20,and all but one remain missing.
The exception is Muzaffar,son of Jebunnissa and Salim Sheikh,who was two when he disappeared,and who,following the efforts of an NGO,was found growing up as Vivek in the home of a fish-vendor.
The Indian Express filed an application with the Gujarat Police for details of those missing from several districts. The data show 351 missing,most of them from the seven riot-hit districts,and with 317,mostly under 30,from Ahmedabad.
The special investigation team investigating riots cases does not put a priority on probing what happened to these missing children and youths. Asked if the police feared any of them had been turned into terrorists,a Crime Branch officer said,No one directly affected by the riots was in the list of accused in the 2008 bombings in Ahmedabad and Surat. So we dont suspect this.
Shadab Khan Pathan,then 4,was born in Gulberg Society but was living with his grandmother Sairabibi Sheikh in Dariapur. I was lonely after my husbands death,so my daughter Sajida left Shadab with me, Sairabibi said. It was Bakrid,two days before the riots,when Sajida came and took Shadab with her for a brief stay. She and her husband Akhtar were killed. Someone managed to save Shadab,I heard,but never brought him home. Shadabs younger sister Afreen,now 11,now lives with her.
Shah Rukh Sheikh,6,went missing from Naroda Patiya on February 28,2002. His father,Zakir Sheikh,a tailor who has two other sons and two daughters,wishes he instead of Shah Rukhs uncle Abdullah,25,had held the boy in his arms. Zakir had run to one side with his pregnant wife,and Abdullah to the other. We waited for six months at a relief camp but Abdullah and Shah Rukh didnt come. Police gave me a death certificate without even tracing his body… Im certain he is alive.
Some recount having seen children being whisked away in a van. Abdul Shakeel Chaudhary,13,was taken away from Naroda Patiya. He was at the shop; I had gone out, said Halim,his father,who runs a grocery at Citizen Nagar with others relocated. Neighbours saw him being dragged by the hair into a van.
Teenage girls were picked up in trucks and vans from Hussainnagar,Jawaharnagar,Masjid ki Chali,Gulberg Society and other areas like Vatva. There is no news of any. Halim says some parents lodged complaints,some parents were dead and some didnt complain because theer were no witnesses. Some parents console themselves in the belief that their children have grown up and prefer not to come back.