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The face of Gujarat riots is moving to Kolkata
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai |
August 07, 2003 19:52 IST
Last Updated: August 07, 2003 22:22 IST
His was the face flashed across the world as the face of Gujarat riots -- eyes welling with tears, chubby cheeks caked with mud and dried blood, dusty hair and hands folded in a plea for mercy. He was pleading with a bunch of blood-thirsty fanatics -- armed with choppers, crowbars, kerosene cans and torches -- to spare his family's life.
That was March, 2002 and Gujarat was in the throes of one of the worst communal flare-ups ever seen by the state.
Today, seventeen months later, Qutubuddin Ansari believes his face is his worst enemy. "I wish my picture were not splashed across newspapers ..then I would have been free to lead a normal life," he said at a press conference in Mumbai organised by a non-governmental organisation which is helping him start a new life in Kolkata in West Bengal.
He says he can no longer have a life in Ahmedabad, where he was born and brought up. "Wherever I go in Ahmedabad, people surround me and stare at me. Once, I went to a garden with my family and soon a crowd of around 40 people had gathered around us. On another occasion, I went to a theatre with my friends, but there too people recognised me. I feel very uncomfortable in Ahmedabad now and therefore I have decided to shift to Kolkata."
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in West Bengal has offered Ansari financial support to set up a tailoring shop. They will also provide him free accommodation for a year.
"I am grateful to the West Bengal government for helping me out. I am just not feeling comfortable in Ahmedabad. I am also grateful to them for giving admission to two of my children in a Kolkata school," Ansari said.
Asked how law and order situation is in Gujarat now, Ansari said: "Everything is normal all over Gujarat. It is just that I cannot stay with this face in Ahmedabad any longer. I have no complaints against anyone. I am going to Kolkata for a better life for my family. I only hope there is no repeat of this kind of riots ever again anywhere in the country. My state Gujarat was like a beautiful flowerpot...it has been charred. But thank God everything is normal now."
Ansari had earlier tried Malegaon in north-west Maharashtra to regain his anonymity. "I moved quietly to Malegaon in Maharashtra two months after the riots. I got a job in one of the tailoring shops there...life was normal. But then a local Urdu daily published my picture and soon I was the talk of the town. My employer asked me to leave. He said he did not want any trouble."
Asked whether he felt used by politicians, Ansari said: "I hope I won't be used as a political pawn. I want to be as far away from politics as possible."