Monday, May 27, 2024

“BJP doesn’t want our vote or presence; Congress knows we have no choice. We vote for Congress out of necessitude,” Gujarat genocide survivors

Fatima Beavi, a victim of the Naroda Patiya massacre, says: “I don’t know whether the government will change or not. But there should be a government where we can live peacefully without any fear or violence.” Photo: Sahid Faris/Maktoob

Twenty-two years after the Muslim genocide in Gujarat, the Muslims of Gujarat still live in fear. The survivors of the Gujarat Muslim genocide told Maktoob that the BJP, which orchestrated the pogrom, neither wants their vote nor wants to see them, while the Congress understands that the Muslims have no other option. “We are voting for Congress out of necessity,” say the survivors.

A distinct difference can be seen between Old Ahmedabad and New Ahmedabad, separated by the Sabarmati River, which divides the city into East and West. A new wall further splits this cosmopolitan city into the “New City” and “Old City.”

Although Ahmedabad has a long history of communal tension, the violence in 2002 severely impacted the Muslim community, leading to their ghettoization and the polarization of city areas along communal lines—a situation that seems almost impossible to reverse.

A police station has been established every 500 meters specifically to monitor the Muslim-populated alleys of Old Ahmedabad, indicating the government’s special interest. However, the conspicuous absence of schools, hospitals, and other essential services is very evident.

Gujarat is going to polls on 7 May.

Salim Bhai, an auto driver in Ahmedabad and a victim and eyewitness of the Naroda Patiya massacre, says, “I am still staying at Naroda Patiya. I am afraid, what can we do? If we leave Naroda Patiya, then tomorrow we might have to leave Ahmedabad. If we leave Ahmedabad, we will have to leave Gujarat and then India. Can we just run away?”

He went on to say, “Whether Congress comes or BJP comes, we are not safe here. There were anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat during the Congress period in 1969 and 1993. Moreover, Congress was in power for 10 years after the 2002 genocide, and now BJP is putting everyone in jail for petty cases. If there were no such big charges against BJP. If all the accused of the Gujarat genocide had been arrested and jailed, if they had tried to do justice, the Congress would not have suffered such a big setback.”

Salim Bhai, an auto driver in Ahmedabad and a victim and eyewitness of the Naroda Patiya massacre, says, “I am still staying at Naroda Patiya. I am afraid, what can we do?” Photo: Sahid Faris/Maktoob

“At present, the BJP is very confident of victory and the Congress party knows that. They are not interested in doing more work and are standing apathetic,” he added.

Fatima Beavi, another victim of the Naroda Patiya massacre, says: “I don’t know whether the government will change or not. But there should be a government where we can live peacefully without any fear or violence. We cannot live in fear. Now when Hindu festivals like Ram Navami and Ram Kshetra Inauguration are happening, we used to leave and go to distant relatives’ houses. And we will come back when their celebrations are over. We don’t know when violence will happen against us.”

“There is a minimum cost of five hundred rupees per person for each trip. Besides food, how can we afford such expenses as poor people? Look, the BJP does not want our votes and does not want to see us. In the case of Congress, when the time of voting comes here, they will promise to repair the road, provide water, and repair the house. They will not say anything about the violence against us, or about getting justice for it. They know they will get the vote anyway and we have no other option. We are voting for Congress out of necessity,” she said.

Rafiq Mansouri, the survivor and resident of Gulberg Society, part of the 2002 Gujarat Muslim Genocide, recounts his experience. “The court-ordered security was withdrawn by the government, along with the security for all genocide victims. In 2002, my entire family of 19 was killed here, yet we still haven’t received justice. No government has supported us. Now, with elections approaching, it’s crucial for the government to change as everyone here is suffering.”

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