Sunday, November 25, 2012


By Syeda Hameed

    An all-India team of six women, invited by Janvikas a human rights organization, had gone to Ahmedabad in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots. In Shah Alam Camp, in the
    heart of the city, we
    met the victims of
    Naroda Patia.
    Two women activists, Naseem and
    Mahmuda, met us at
    the gate of Shah Alam Dargah. Wiping their tears, they took us to the women sitting in a stupor on the burning marble slabs These women were witness to brutal killing of their loved ones. With their eyes they had seen gang rape of their teenage girls, who were burnt after the deed. “Baji, as they walked in, we covered them with our dupattas. The men turned away their faces and took off their shirts for us to hide the shame of their sisters,” Naseem, a tall woman, said.
    Some men broke down while they told us how they used newspapers to cover the nakedness of women, wives of their neighbours.
    The floor of the dargah burnt our feet as we threaded our way through hundreds of families huddled in their misery, speechless and numbed by this wave of hatred which, one fine morning, suddenly began to rain death on their ordinary lives in their ordinary chalis. One name was on everyone’s lips, MLA Maya Kodnani, a woman they had seen instigating and leading the butchering mobs.
    The next morning, we went to visit her at her home in Om Towers Apartment, Shahibaug. It was the dreariest Sunday of my life driving over one road in Shahibaug. After the mobs had destroyed the grave of the Sufi saint-poet Wali Gujarati, a road had been built overnight to remove every trace of the maqbara. Our driver (a Hindu), when he reached the site, skirted to a side stopping a minute; folding his hands, he bowed his head towards the spot of the razed grave. I don’t know why but I always recall the cool glasses of nimbupani which were brought to us while we waited for Kodnani. I also recall thinking of the victims who when they wept for water were given diesel to drink. I was conscious of being a Muslim in a place where Muslims had been killed for being Muslims.
    The lady denied everything; she was not in Naroda Patia that morning. She was at the hospital receiving burnt bodies of the Karsevaks from Sabarmati Express. Discounting all newspaper reports and photographs; she said, “All lies, all doctored.” The only point which she conceded was the anger of the Hindu masses which had found expression in the Naroda killings. Her words were: “Yes, people retaliated. Ab aise kahoon ke Gujarat ki prakruti hi kuch aisi hai, ke log uttejit ho jaate hain.” Ten years later, justice has been done to the 97 victims, girls and boys, men and women, and even fetuses. In terms of justice, this is not just another example of der ayad durust ayad. This is special. One judge took pains to go through mountains of documentation and deliver a landmark order. Nothing can now stop the course of justice which has begun; it will undoubtedly reach its logical end. Maybe now, the sorrowing families will sleep in peace. It is Faiz’s anthem which comes to mind:
Hum mazloomon ke paaon taley jab dharti dhad dhad dhadkegi Aur ahle hakam ke sar upar Jab bijli karh karh karkegi Hum dekhege.
Beneath the feet of us oppressed, when the earth will reverberate Over the head of the oppressors when lightning strikes and strikes Then, we will see
(The writer is a member of the Planning Commission)