Justice tastes bitter to village

Justice tastes bitter to village

It was a decade back, when peace in this small village was shattered. For years till then, Muslim families lived with their Hindu neighbours in peace and harmony. But the 2002 Godhra riots, considered as India’s worst outbursts of violence between Hindus and Muslims, changed it all.

The mob torched a three-storeyed house of Anwar Khan in Ode village. Caught inside were the 23 people including nine children. As the house was razed to ashes, inside laid the charred remains of the riot’s hapless victims.

With trust and confidence shaken, the Muslim families fled away from the village to take refuge to safe havens. “Our trust was completely shattered. We had never thought that our own neighbours will do this to us,’’ recounts Majid Miyan, a survivor of the carnage.
But struggle for survival ensured many families to return back to the village; and as the investigators arrested the accused one after another, a fragile peace clung to the place.

Ten years later when the special court sentenced life imprisonment to 18 accused who had carried out the worst ever massacre, the Ode village remained tense. A heavy contingent of policemen was deployed to prevent any untoward incident. The Hindus, mostly Patels, in the village, were reluctant to talk about the judgment. To avoid any friction, there was no celebrations amongst the Muslims. But victims were satisfied that ultimately, law had taken its course. Dipsha Patel, daughter of one of the accused Harish Patel said, “The verdict proves that the investigation were biased and a fair trial was not conducted otherwise how can someone like my father be punished and be jailed for life for just being a bystander.”

Ode is dominant with Patels who are primarily landowners; this is one village where families of the victims continued to live even after the riots. Although a relief colony was constructed at about 20-km from this village, but members of the minority community preferred to stay back. The village has as many as 262 minority households.

“Initially, we were hesitant but later we realised that if we shift to another locality, then we would end up losing our livelihood,’’ said Rashid Khan one of the villagers. Khan, a businessman by profession. “Now, there is a police point in the village. Even though the fear still lingers, there’s some sense of security,” he said.

But there are some who wants to move higher courts like Chaitanya Patel, the nephew of Dilip Patel, one of the accused. Chaitanya said, “this was a verdict that could not be accepted”.  

While widespread gloom covered the atmosphere inside the residences of the accused, family members of the victims said that their “prayers have been answered”. “We’ll not get our loved ones back but there is definitely a sense of relief amongst us. Although we had to wait for 10 long years, those guilty have finally been punished,” said Piru Khan.

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