Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fear, relief in Patia on judgment day


Ahmedabad: It was a day that people of Naroda Patia had been waiting for since the bloodbath in their locality on February 28, 2002. Children were not sent to school and most men preferred to take a day off work, as families residing in the area were glued to TV sets since early Wednesday morning.
    Many of those who lost people close to them in the killings moved to other parts of the city for the day fearing a backlash over the verdict. As soon as news of the conviction of 31 people, including BJP MLA Maya Kodani and VHP leader Babu Bajrangi, flashed on TV screens, however, most people bore a look of agreement.
    “It was a long battle. We are thankful to the judiciary and are happy that even those in powerful positions have been convicted. We want the court to give them the severest punishment, because what they did is not taught in any religion. We will move the high court against those who escaped conviction, including police officers,” said Mohammad Rafiq, 63.
    Rafiq was a witness against two of the convicts and lost a cousin in the riots. Many in Patia, like Shabana Kureshi, couldn't sleep the night before the verdict. Shabana lost her mother and sister in 2002.
    “I could hear the screams and relived those horrifying moments again. I began my day praying that the rioters get the most severe punishment. After the riots, we lost faith in the government but the judiciary has reinstated my trust in the system,” said Shabana.
    She said she still can't look at the open plots around Patia from where mobs poured into the locality. The area's rampant real estate development though, has now dotted a lot these open plots with new apartment schemes. Security in the area was tight, with personnel standing guard at all lanes of Patia and continuous patrols by RAF and CISF jawans.
    “A week before the judgment we submitted an application to Naroda police station about our security. Police assured us that no untoward incident would happen and that we should feel safe,” said Mohammad Hanif, who testified against three convicts. A police post had been built just outside Patia soon after the riots.