Her father, she says, returns home only in her dreams. Mention Ayodhya and Vrushali Amare thinks of her father. Of the morning of December 7, 1992, when he set out of home never to return. Of her teenage years minus her father.
Of all the Ayodhya talking heads on TV, one face was missing: that of the children who lost either father or mother or sibling in the riots triggered by the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The toll was 3,000 plus, The Indian Express caught up with just a few who have come of age in the post-Babri years. And asked them to interpret the noises from all sides:
• ‘There should be no mandir, masjid’: Vrushali was 11 when the Babri Masjid fell. Her father never returned from his weekly darshan of the temple. They found Suresh Amare’s body two days later at the J J Hospital in Mumbai, a victim of sniper fire. Vrushali and her two younger brothers have been roughing it out ever since: she says she cries when she sees a complete family. Today, her brothers are jobless and she doesn’t have the money to apply for a hotel management course. ‘‘This wouldn’t have happened if Dad were around.’’ Mention Ayodhya and she can’t hold back tears: ‘‘Nothing will come out of this. Only politicians will benefit and you will have more orphaned, truncated families like mine. There should be no mandir, no masjid there.’’
• ‘It’s dirty politics’: Mohammed Usman Qureshi will never forget December 7, 1992. That was the day Mumbai police had come to Shivaji Nagar looking for his younger brother, Mohammed Arif. ‘‘My brother was barely 18 years, gainfully employed as a tailor.’’
Yet police picked him up for no reason.’’ That was the last he saw of his brother. Till date, the Qureshis have not even recovered the body of Mohammed Arif. They have given up the hunt: both for Arif and justice. The Rs 2 lakh he received as monetary compensation couldn’t be encashed because the money had been deposited in the name of his late father, Mohammed Usman Qureshi.
‘‘I complained to police, pleaded before politicians, even cried; but I never found my brother or his body. Everytime I see Ayodhya on TV or read about the Babri Masjid, I can’t help thinking of my lost brother. It’s of no use, it’s dirty politics at work. We are the only sufferers. In the name of God, just seal that place.’’
• ‘As long as their are netas, forget it’: Their father never got to see them: Mohammed Imran is 11, born a month after his father was felled by police bullets in Kanpur, the afternoon the Babri Masjid came down. His mother Quamar Jehan, who had gone to pieces after her husband’s death, died when he was two. But so many years later, relatives are still fighting for possession of the poor, little orphan. Because guardianship will get them riot compensation of Rs 10,000. In another part of town lives Shantanu whose father Shyam Singh was the first to fall to police bullets.
Shantanu says he wants to stay away from Ayodhya: ‘‘As long as there are netas, this issue will never get resolved. Neta log kursi ke liye sab karte hain.’’
• ‘Let there be a hospital there’: Mohammed Manjur Alam was 14 when the Babri Masjid fell. It also destroyed his little world — his brother Maqsood died in police firing.
Today, as he sits at his paan shop in Tangra in east Kolkata, Alam says he has a solution to Ayodhya: ‘‘I don’t want a mosque at the disputed site. Let there be a hospital. Because it’s all a game of politics. They fight among themselves but it is we the poor who die. My father could never recover from the shock and died a broken man. Let there be no more riots.’’