Justice eludes Gulbarg, Naroda Patiya survivors

A thick growth of shrubs covers one of the most gruesome tales of murder in the country’s history.

Parvin Salimbhai lost her family in the 2002 Naroda Patiya killings. Hanif Sindhi

Behind the cover, lies the remnants of what used to be the Gulbarg Society, a minority- dominated residential colony on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

Ten years ago, a riotous mob attacked the society, massacring 69 innocent people, including a former Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri.

A decade on, an eerie silence continues to haunt the society. The 40 olivestay here have shifted to safer places, except Qassim Mohammad, who returned a year after the incident. Qassim says the scars are far too deep to be forgotten.

“I have seen mobs burning down houses and people, everyone has left,  but the burnt houses stand as grim reminders of that night,” said Qassim.

For Qassim, what aggravates pain is, none of the accused have been punished so far as the trial is still on. Majority of the accused are out on bail and the victims only hope and pray justice will be done. For those who had left these burnt homes, the memories haunt and a return seems improbable.

“We cannot go back to those houses again where all the good memories existed and then it turned out to be the worst night of our life,” says Dara Mody, one of the former residents, whose son Azhar went missing from the society and was presumed dead seven years later. But Dara has still not given up hope of his return. Both, Mody and Ehsan Jafri families have moved out leaving their homes which are now house to stray animals and wild weeds.

Not far away from Gulbarg, the narrow bylanes of Naroda Patiya have similar tales to narrate. Over a 100 people were killed here in the post-Godhra carnage. The victims are still awaiting justice.

Like the Gulbarg case, the trial is on in this case as well. Though some of  the families have shifted to the resettlement area a few kilometres away from Naroda Patiya, others have decided to stay put, saying that the damage has already been done and they had nothing more to lose.

Gauri Qureshi, who lost seven members of her family, now lives with her son who had managed to escape from the mob that killed his brothers, sisters, father, uncle and aunty. Qureshi herself had been injured on the head with swords and the scars are evident not only in her lifestyle but on her hands and legs as well.

“I just have my son left with me  and the ten years have been too long a wait and we are now pinning our hopes on the verdict,’’ said Qureshi. Apart from her son, Qureshi also shelters 38-year-old Parveen Salimbhai, whose entire family, including husband, was wiped out by the rioters.

Parveen, who now lives with Qureshi, says she has no other option left with her. “The images of the gory night cannot be wiped out of my memory and the scars all over my body are a reminder of the mindless violence of that incident,’’ said Parveen.

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