Communal harmony gets a leg up in Guj with shoe store

The name Qutubuddin Ansari will not ring a bell in anyone’s mind, and the same will hold true for Ashok Parmar alias Mochi. But if shown the pictures — Ansari with folded hands begging for mercy and Parmar sporting a saffron bandana and holding a sword in one of his hands — it will be crystal clear where the images came from. 

These pictures were shot during the 2002 post-Godhra riots and were plastered in newspapers and magazines across the country. The helpless victim and the crazed rioter came to symbolise the excesses of one of the dark chapters in Gujarat’s history.

But the events of 2002 are behind Ansari and Ashok, who have now reconciled and have emerged as unlikely spokespersons for the dangers of communal violence. 

On Friday, Ansari inaugurated Mochi’s shoe store named “Ekta Chappal Ghar” (Unity Shoe Store) located in Delhi Darwaja area.

City-based activist Kaleem Siddiqui said Mochi had been assisted by Kerala’s CPI-M in setting up the shop. 

Siddiqui has been bringing the two men together on various forums. The first time he brought them together was in 2012 in Kerala, where they participated in a seminar.

“The idea is to show that communal politics doesn’t take us anywhere,” said Siddiqui. “Ashok Parmar became an icon of aggression but he lives in absolute misery. He doesn’t have a proper home. The CPM bore the expense of his new shop.” 

Ansari prayed for his friend. “I hope Ashok does well in life. We have seen tough days in the past,” he said.

Ashok, 45, said it was the “biggest moment” of his life. “I don’t have a home but this shop might provide me with one in the future,” he said.

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