Life was going on on as usual in the lanes of the slum behind Shardaben Hospital at Saraspur, Ahmedabad, untouched by the verdict on the Gulberg Society massacre.
A pair of charpoys nearly blocked the way to the present home of Vivek Patni, formerly Muzaffar Shaikh. A woman engaged in household chores answered nonchalantly when asked about Vivek. The boy was away from Gujarat and wouldn’t return for a month, she said. “Vivek is on summer vacation with his sister and sister-in-law,” she said, refusing to share further information.
Muzaffar of Gulberg Society was two years old when he went missing following the massacre that left 69 dead. He had become Vivek when he was found in 2008, shortly after a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team had taken charge of nine riot cases. Vivek was growing up in in the home of Veena Patni, a fish vendor.
Veena’s husband, Vikram Patni, had reportedly found him standing on the road. When Vikram took the boy to Veena, she apparently refused to give him away to an orphanage or an NGO and decided to raise him as Vivek. Vikram has since died.
When he was traced in 2008, it resulted in a long legal battle between his foster parents and his biological parents, Zebunnisa and Mohammad Salim Shaikh. Too young when he had gone missing to remember his biological parents six years later, he did not want to go with them. Gujarat High Court eventually refused custody to Vivek’s biological parents. It directed the two sets of parents, however, to cooperate with each other in the interests of the boy. Four years ago, Vivek started to visit his biological parents on Sundays, as Muzaffar.
“If I remember correctly, Vivek hasn’t been visiting them for the past six months,” said Madhuben Patni, his aunt by virtue of being his foster mother’s sister. She sells fish near Soni ni Chali in Rakhial. Veena Patni, who too sells fish at Soni ni Chali, could not be contacted.
“Vivek doesn’t like going there,” Madhuben said. “Initially, he got confused when the story came out. During those days, he would get angry but even then he never said he would go back to his Muslim parents. He finds their food and culture different.”
Madhuben said Vivek, now 16, failed in two subjects in his Class X board exam; the results were announced recently. She revealed that the vacation with his sister is in Patan, a three-hour drive from Ahmedabad.
She had no idea about the verdict on Gulberg Society. “Will it create trouble for my sister and Vivek?” she said.