One of the goriest reports that emerged from Naroda Patiya after the riots was of a young nine-month pregnant womans stomach being slit open,the foetus pulled out,and the woman set on fire. Kausar Bano was found lying half-burnt and naked outside her house.
As 32 were convicted for the Naroda Patiya killings today,her husband Firoz broke his silence of 10 years. My wife who was nine months pregnant was raped,cut and burnt. It was my biggest failure that I couldnt save her. I have never spoken to anyone about her after her death, he said.
Jisne uska balaatkar kiya woh insaan nahin the. Jalladon ko bhi thodi sharam aa gayi hoti,lekin inko nahin aayi (Those who raped her were not human. Even executioners would have felt ashamed,they didnt).
Firoz,an autorickshaw driver,cut off ties with old friends and relatives at Naroda Patiya after the incident and now lives a quiet life at Vatva. Remarried,he has three children with his new wife.
It was just a year before the riots that Firoz and 22-year-old Hina Kausar alias Kausar Bano had got married at their native place in Karnataka. Firoz used to work as a labourer in a factory in Patiyas neighbourhood.
On the afternoon of February 28,2002,he was on his way home for lunch,but couldnt enter the narrow bylane of Naroda Patiya as it was blocked by over 600-700 rioters near the Noorani Masjid.
Some men were running out screaming riots. I saw the Noorani Masjid burning. I froze that moment… did not know what to do. I just wanted to save Hina as I knew she couldnt run from there. Three-four times I tried to enter,but failed… Hina did not know anything about this place,people and never picked up the local language. She was raped outside our house by men who pulled her out,pulling out her clothes in the verandah. She was totally helpless because of her pregnancy.
Five other members of Firozs family died in the riots that day,including his sister,one of his uncles and Kausars brother Zahids wife and two children. Zahid and Kausars father Khalid Noor Mohammad,who were visiting Kausar for a godh bharai (baby shower) ceremony,managed to escape.
Also an autorickshaw driver,Zahid lives in Citizen Nagar the second rehabilitation colony for the 2002 riot victims in Ahmedabad after Vatva. He hasnt spoken to Firoz since that day,blaming him for not saving his sister.
Zahid has no relations with me at all. He has also become short-tempered and starts beating up people when someone asks him about the Naroda Patiya riots, Firoz said.
A witness in the case,Noor Mohammad shifted base to Karnataka two years ago due to pressure from political groups. For Firoz,it was a second blow.
Abba was the only support I had after Hinas death, he said. I lost my faith but he was not deterred. He used to live in a separate house in the relief committee homes in Vatva. He got constant threats to retract his statements,take back the rape complaint and many from the jamaat (community) also bullied him… I advised him to go back to our native place.
He is also angry about the fact that the rape charge was dismissed by doctors who did Kausars post-mortem. There are witnesses to Hinas rape. Her womb was cut. Her father saw her getting raped. When her body was taken from the spot to hospital,her womb was missing, he claimed.
The riots didnt just take away his wife and unborn child,but his whole life,said Firoz. The job at the factory paid him enough to support his family,but he now struggles to make ends meet. I dont like to work like this. Sometimes there is money,sometimes I borrow, he said.
Firozs second wife Shahida Begum said he still bears the scars and doesnt like to talk about the riots. He told me only once after marriage that the riots should not be discussed ever, she said.
We want to leave it behind, added Firoz.