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Godhra riots: Tears in eyes, man prays for return of son who disappeared 20 years ago

While the police and other investigating agencies declared his son presumed dead, the family refuses to give up hope
Last Updated : 28 February 2022, 16:34 IST
Last Updated : 28 February 2022, 16:34 IST
Last Updated : 28 February 2022, 16:34 IST
Last Updated : 28 February 2022, 16:34 IST

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February 28, 2022 marked 20 years of a relentless search for his teenage son, Azhar, who disappeared in the frenzy of communal violence unleashed on the residents of Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad. Years later, a movie "Parzania" was made on Dara and Roopa Mody's plight of finding the whereabouts of their only son while depicting the communal violence that had rocked the state in 2002.

While the police and other investigating agencies declared his son presumed dead seven years after his disappearance in accordance with the law, the family refuses to give up hope.

On Monday, as few residents and survivors of the massacre visited this ill-fated society to offer prayers for the departed souls, Dara Mody quietly took the stairs to reach his flat on the third floor, where he lived with his wife Roopa, son Azhar, 13, and daughter Benaifer, 11, till February 28, 2002.

He took out a bunch of keys from his pocket and slowly unlocked the grill door. The bare flat has its wooden doors and windows broken, pieces of concrete slabs fallen from the walls and ceiling are spread across the rooms and corridors. Mody said that he had repaired the windows several times but miscreants broke them every time.

Not just Mody's flat but the entire society gives a "ghost-like" appearance. From his balcony, the house of ex Congress MP Ehsan Jafri is visible. Jafri was dragged out of his bungalow and killed by a violent mob on this day 20 years ago. One of the most posh Muslim localities in Ahmedabad, Gulberg Society was the worst affected places during the communal violence where 69 residents including men, women and children were killed.

In what used to be Modys' bedroom, an open briefcase has a few notebooks covered in thick dirt. The first page of one of the notebooks has dates "28/7/2000 and 19/1/2001" scribbled for English tests. The other part of the floor is covered with clothes, most of which belong to Azhar, in thick layers of dust.

"Everything belongs to my son, Azhar. There were many other belongings which we took back to our present house," Mody tells DH. He finds from the heap of clothes, a dust covered plastic ball that Azhar used to play with. On a wooden door, there are cut-out images of WWE wrestlers still intact.

With his eyes filled with tears, Mody touched each of the posters fondly with his hand and kissed them. "Azhar was fond of this game. These are his posters," he says while choking back tears.

"No matter what others say about my son, I still have hope that I will meet him. For the past 18 years, I have been visiting Udvada (the site of the Parsi community's holiest fire temple nearly 350 km from Ahmedabad) every month and will keep doing it. Even during the complete lockdown, I manage to visit. On one occasion, I was not allowed to enter the temple so I just touched the wall, prayed and came back," he said while lighting a pack of small incense sticks for offering prayers.

"All I ask of God is to make me see my son even once. When I am out on the street, I keep looking at my son's lookalike. I keep imagining that he would come to me," he said.

Mody worked as a film projectionist in several single screen cinema halls in the nearby locality and moved to the Thaltej area, a Hindu locality, after the riots. "I got a job at Science City in Ahmedabad where I worked for over 18 years. They terminated my service only last month accusing me of inciting a protest among the employees who are being sacked."

On the way back to the ground floor, Mody showed the wall close to the stairs on which "Benaifer Gandi hai (Benaifer is mad)" is scribbled." "This was written by some kids for my daughter, who lives in Australia now. The society was so full of life back then," he said as he left towards the mosque in the society where other survivors had gathered to offer prayers.

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Published 28 February 2022, 16:27 IST

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