On Sunday, following the maghrib (evening) namaaz in Signal Falia locality of Godhra, members of 11 families resolved to fast and pray ahead of the upcoming verdict on a set of appeals in Gujarat High Court involving 11 men who, until then, were on death row in the Godhra train burning case.
And when their sentences were commuted to life Monday, Signal Falia went largely silent, with members of most of the convicts’ families shutting their doors and refusing to speak to visitors.
Signal Falia is the locality where most of those convicted hail from.
“If we say anything, the police will come to question us tomorrow,” said a resident, on condition of anonymity.
Among the few relatives of convicts who did speak was Yusuf Kurkur, 65, whose elder brother Razzak Kurkur is among the 11 whose sentences were commuted. “We prayed to the Almighty Allah. We have faith in him and his decision,” said Kurkur. All families with one member in jail had decided collectively Sunday to observe the fast, he said. They remained indoors Monday and watched news about the judgment on television.
Sunday was also the wedding of the sister of Mehboob Khalid Chanda, another one among the 11. He had applied for parole for a week to attend the wedding but it was not granted, said Ilias Chanda, 39, Mehboob Khalid’s younger brother.
“We have complete faith in our courts and the judicial system, and those who are innocent will get justice someday. I welcome the judgment of the high court,” said Ilias Chanda, who is a municipal corporator. “But it seems political, too, because elections are coming. It could have been declared earlier.”
He added, “Nobody wants to look back at that incident. We have sympathy for those who were killed on the train. We have stopped blaming one another and have been working and living together… We elders still live with those painful memories.”
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“Every evening, people gather here at my shop for a chat and not a single day passes without talk about that unfortunate incident,” said Yamin Jujala, 61, who has run a tailoring shop at Signal Falia for the last 20 years. “A lot has changed here, but the pain remains the same for all the families who have suffered.” He said the youth of Signal Falia, however, have moved on, without hostility towards one another.
Faizle Karim, 33, who works in the transport business, said, “I was a teenager when the incident happened. There was a fearful atmosphere here for many years, but now everything is fine… For the last four years, we have been eating together, staying together.”