Community initiative helps Godhra put its past to rest

The town’s name has become synonymous with the trigger that led to one of the worst riots of the country’s independent history, but 11 years since the burning of a train, residents of Godhra are making efforts to put the scars of the riots behind them and bridge the communal divide.

“Informal education”, an initiative by a local doctor and a few teachers, shortlists students from both the Hindu and Muslim communities who cannot afford after-class private tuitions and help them get to grips with their subjects.

Nine-year-old Nisha Bagabhai, daughter of a rickshaw puller, has dreams of becoming a doctor. Though not born at the time, she has been hearing constantly about the burning of the train and the subsequent riots that had charred the bridges between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

However, when Nisha enters a local temple where private tuitions are conducted after 5 pm, her focus has been on mathematics and English subjects she is learning from the teachers there.

Children like her are forgetting the riots and setting their sights on personal development, the only way to put the past to rest.

When Sujaat Vali, a local doctor, came up with the idea of conducting private tuitions for students from economically backward families of both the communities, he did not find much help.

“It was very tough in the beginning,” Vali admitted.

 “In fact nobody wanted to rent out the premise, we had proposed to start it at a temple near the huts, but the residents objected as the teacher was a Muslim.”

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