March 1, 2003
Time heals, they say. But time can heal only wounds, it can’t piece together charred parts, nor can it bring back trust betrayed. Probably that’s why a year after 42 people were burnt alive by a mob, Gulbarga Society remains a ghost town.
Not a single family has returned to live in the society. A few did arrive on Friday, but just for a prayer meeting that lasted for an hour. Of the 19 houses which bore the brunt, just one has been repaired. But that too remains unoccupied.
| ANAND: With about 50 victims and complainants presenting their cases, the Anand leg of the hearings into the post-Godhra riots, turned out to be a little more busy affair than the Nadiad sittings, for Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice K.G. Shah Commission. Victim after victim narrated how difficult it was for them, even a year after, to return to their homes and lands in the villages — all because the police were not helping them. The complaint of threats from Hindu villagers to withdraw the cases lodged in courts or with police were so rampant that Justices Nanavati and Shah had to call the concerned inspectors and chide them for not heeding to the requests of the victims. The 20 Muslim families of Sunaav village have been asked by Hindu residents to first withdraw the complaints against them in an affidavit, before safe return to their homes.
The cross-examination by the public counsel sometimes bordered on the comic, as for instance, when he asked Anwar Ismail of Sunaav what was the fear in returning to the village. The judges stopped the counsel from asking such questions. (ENS)
Elsewhere, people are trying to piece together their lives putting the past behind. In Naroda Patiya, about 80 per cent of riot victims have gone back to live in their houses after repairs.
But Gulbarga Society stands out as a sore reminder of a gory past with its skeletal buildings and empty lanes. The reason, residents say, is fear. Surrounded by members of the another community, the society is vulnerable to attack, they feel. And trust, communal amity and harmony are good words to be used for a prayer, but not to be applied in real life, they say.
‘‘I do not stay here, but I will not sell off this house. There are a few residents of the society, who want to sell their houses and settle elsewhere. I will repair this house and settle here later on,’’ says Tanvir Jaffri, son of former MP Ehsan Jaffri, who was among those killed.
‘‘There is an underlying fear among the people that they will be targeted yet again. Also, many think that those who stayed at Gulbarga were rich and can repair their houses while the fact is that many families lost everything they had,’’ Jaffri said.
Sharif Shaikh, the only one who has repaired his house, said: ‘‘I have tried my best to convince people to come back, but they are not interested. Many even are thinking of selling their houses.’’ Shaikh’s family stays at Juhapura now.
Imtiyaz Hussain, who now stays at Saraspur, says he sees no reason to return. ‘‘Can anyone guarantee that the society will not be attacked again? For hours, people called for help, but the mob was allowed to wreak havoc. I am planning to sell my house,’’ he said.
Perhaps, that is why no one apart from Tanvir Jafri and Sharif Shaikh was present at the Society during the day, except for the brief prayer meeting in the morning.
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