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For demanding graveyard,Shias forced out of Gujarat village

Even during the 2002 Gujarat riots when eleven people were burnt alive in neighbouring Sardarpura,this village with a...

Written by Syed Khalique Ahmed | Kharavda |
September 21, 2009 5:15:14 am

Even during the 2002 Gujarat riots when eleven people were burnt alive in neighbouring Sardarpura,this village with a population of over 3,200 remained an island of peace,the bond between majority Hindus and minority Muslims here unshaken. But seven years later,that has changed completely.

All 85 Momins,a Shia sub-sect,have quit Kharavda,blaming the Chaudharies who make nearly 50 per cent of the village population.

The Momins have sought refuge in a Jamaatkhana at Vadnagar,40 km away,and say they will never return to the village. And it is all because the Momins sought one acre from the village panchayat to bury their dead — burials so far were being done in Kharta Parsa,30 km away,and it was not easy transporting bodies.

The Momins first approached state Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel who recommended their case to Momin leader Hyderbhai on July 23,asking him to approach the District Collector with a letter. The matter was raised again on August 8 during a Lok Darbar in the village where Anandiben and the Collector were present. She gave verbal instructions to the Collector to look into the matter.

Since the panchayat had over 150 bighas of non-agriculture land,Collector Ajay Bhadu asked the Visnagar mamlatdar to “take appropriate action”. But the panchayat split on the issue and,at a meeting on August 15,sarpanch Maadhubhai Jisangbhai Chaudhary turned down the request for land.

According to Hyderbhai,the Chaudharies called another meeting after the mamlatdar and village talati left. That meeting on August 17 called for the economic boycott of Momins and imposed religious restrictions. “We were told by the sarpanch to stop azaans,stop wearing topis or taking out tazias. We were also told to shut down the madrasa if we wanted to stay in the village,” alleged Hyderbhai. “Simultaneously,an economic boycott was imposed — no hiring Momins for agricultural work,no hiring their jeeps for local transport,” he said.

The elderly Rahim Chacha,who worked at the village water works for Rs 1,900 a month,was made to resign. For 30 years,he had voluntarily conducted ‘prabhat pheris’ at 4 am,singing the Ram Dhun — it was the village morning alarm.

Kulsum Ghulambhai Momin,a widow who worked in the fields,and Zainab,an aaganwadi teacher,said they could not move out of their houses after the ban was imposed. “We did not feel safe because we had seen violence in Visnagar and Deepda Darwaza area,” said Kulsum.

Hyderbhai said the Momins accepted the religious restrictions for a few days to buy time to shift the women,children and cattle. “On August 24,we packed our household belonging in our jeeps and told the villagers that we were leaving the village. To ensure no one attacked us,I also apologised to the sarpanch and others,telling them I had made made a mistake by demanding land for the graveyard,” he said.

Before he left,Hyderbhai sent letters to everyone he could think of — the

President of India,state DGP,National Human Rights Commission,National Commission for Minorities,District Collector and SP — and narrated all that had happened.

Residents of the village refuse to discuss why the Momins left. Sarpanch Chaudhary denies the allegations against him and his supporters — they have been named in a complaint by Hyderbhai to the district police chief.

“What can I do about the land when the entire panchayat rejected the proposal?” Chaudhary said. On the economic boycott of Momins,he said,“It (the allegation) is totally baseless… there is no threat to the Muslims,they are welcome to return whenever they feel comfortable.”

District Collector Bhadu said he had spoken to both sides to sort out matters. “While the panchayat has now agreed to allot the land,I am trying to convince the Momins to return… we have assured them protection,” he said. Mehsana SP Raju Bhargava said the police had received a complaint and would take action.

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