Godhra riots' iconic faces open 'Ekta Chappal Ghar'

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.

Now, 17 years later, Ansari and Parmar seem to have reconciled, and are showing the way forward by putting those days behind them.

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

City-based activist Kaleem Siddiqui said Mochi had been assisted by Kerala’s CPI-M in setting up the shop. “Mochi didn’t have a proper shop and used to sell shoes on a footpath,” he said.

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 on genocide. The duo had also campaigned for CPI(M) leaders in the recent LS polls. “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 that will help him earn better and have a decent life. I think it will send positive message across the society about communal harmony.” 

Ansari, after cutting the ribbon of the shop, prayed for his friend’s success. “I hope Ashok does well in life. It was difficult for him to work on the footpath. We have seen tough days in the past. I pray for him,” he said.

Ashok, 45, a class 10 drop out, said he got “Rs 1.5 lakh from CPM leaders”. “They had offered me a job in Kerala but language is a barrier, so I could not go there. I feel that this shop will change my fortune,” he said, adding that he paid Rs 6,500 per month as rent for the 12x8 feet shop.

“This is the biggest moment in my life. I don’t have a home but this shop might provide me one in the future. I sleep in a school nearby and leave early morning before it opens for children,” he said.

 

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