“I have been asked not to speak to anyone. My husband is a sakshi (witness in the case). We were all here during the riots,” a Muslim lady, in her 40s, says, refusing to disclose her identity. Her house, which has been built recently, stands in the Jawaharnagar locality of Naroda Patiya, close to a school run by a Muslim charitable trust. A few metres down the lane from the house is an anganwadi, which was built two years ago, and marks the end of the Muslim part of the neighbourhood.
Yasmin’s chicken shop is the last before the anganwadi and she is busy picking mint leaves from a bunch. A goat casually strays inside the shop. “I was born here; have been living here for the past 30 years, but now I am busy with my work. I don’t like to get into other people’s lives,” she says when asked about the locality.
Sixteen years ago this day, a violent mob had attacked the Muslim-dominated neighbourhood, killing 97 people that included women and children. Most of the victims were from Jawaharnagar and Hussainnagar.
Residents in the area are still suspicious of visitors and afraid to speak out.
Rambhaben Sureshbhai, who belongs to the Chhara community, a denotified tribe, claims hers is the only “Hindu family” living in Hussainnagar, among the Muslims.
“I was not here during the riots. But we have been living here ever since I got married. We live in peace and have no problems with our Muslim neighbours. Although our house was also damaged (in the riots), we got nothing,” she says.
On one side of Hussainnagar, stands the State Reserve Police headquarter on the Narol-Naroda main road. Renovated with a fresh coat of paint, the building was a refuge of Muslim residents who had tried to seek shelter after they were attacked by the mob.
On the other side of Hussainnagar and Jawaharnagar, stands the workshop of Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC).
Following the riots in 2002, police had set up an outpost at the entrance of these neighbourhoods. But nowadays, the police-chowki remains closed for most part of the day.
In the same locality lives Gita Rathod, who is among the 29 whose acquittal in the Naroda Patiya massacre case has been challenged in the Gujarat High Court.
“I don’t want to talk to you, I have to go out for weddings. I am busy,” she says as slams the gate of her two-storey house, situated right opposite a temple. A tin banner hangs on a wall adjacent to the temple with Hanuman chalisa written in Gujarati “Jai Shri Ram”.