Five days from now,it will be 10 years since these four families of Ode called a village home. Having lost 23 in the riots of March 1,2002,they feel safe only in their fields outside Kanbhaipura village.
A two-three kilometre walk down a dusty road,cutting through a tobacco field,gets them to their houses. For every small errand,they have to make this trek to the closest village of Bhalej,without any streetlights. When it rains,the field is rendered a slush but the former residents of the prosperous Ode see no other way.
Aiyub Pathan lost seven family members in the riots,and was only one of the seven people to survive when the mob attacked his two-storey building near Pirawali Bhagol in Ode this was the only such tall structure in the Muslim locality and around 30-35 members of the community had taken shelter there. There was another massacre in another part of the village,Malav Bhagol,that night,leaving three of a family dead.
Trial in the Pirawali Bhagol case is under way at a special trial court in Anand,but Pathan,an eyewitness,doesnt believe there will be a closure. Forty-seven people,all Patels,are facing trial while two accused are believed to have fled abroad.
Many accused from the village are being prosecuted. You never know what happens once the verdict is out. We do not want to take a chance and therefore dont go to our native village, says Aiyub. The other three families living in the fields with him are those of his cousins Rasoolkhan Pathan,Hasankhan Pathan and Mohammedkhan Pathan.
Ode has a population of around 18,000,with landowners Patels and Patidars dominating. There are around 1,100 Muslims,apart from Christians,Dalits and Devipujaks.
Aiyub and his relatives make a living growing tobacco in their fields. Since their houses lie off the village centre,civic amenities are non-existent. Waste is collected in soak pits while water meant for irrigation is used for drinking purposes.
Aiyubs children too dont go the government school in Ode but to a school in Bhalej.
His relatives who chose to stay back in Ode dont ask them to return,Aiyub says. They are living there because they have no other option. They are also apprehensive about security but,unlike us,they dont have an option to move to.
Rashidkhan Pathan,among those still living in Ode,agrees,hoping to move out as soon as he has built a house in his fields. Whenever there is communal tension anywhere in Ahmedabad or Vadodara,we are scared, he says.