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The Rediff Interview/Ahmedabad Mayor Aneesa Mirza

May 05, 2003

A veteran grass-root Congress leader who started her political career in 1969, Aneesa Mirza became the first Muslim lady to be elected mayor of Ahmedabad in April.

Mirza defeated Bharti Patel from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power in Gujarat.

Known for her "acceptance" irrespective of religion or class, she is a devout Muslim, who is also known for her faith in Camp na Hanuman (a temple of Lord Hanuman, located in the city's cantonment area). 

Though not very visible in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for the last two years, Mirza is an old hand in corporation affairs, where she has represented her area, Raikhad, undefeated since 1987.

As she prepares to herald new initiatives in a city still haunted by last year's communal riots, she spoke to Binita Parikh about her plans in the next two-and-a-half years.

More than a year has passed since the communal riots in the city. Is the effect still visible?

Unfortunately yes. The hysteria that gripped the city has not completely subsided. There is still uneasiness and lack of trust.

Moreover, citizens still fear the police and do not trust them. People, especially the lower strata of society like hawkers and peddlers, are now facing the economic impact of the riots. This is the main reason for the rise in crimes, petty or major ones.

That is a pretty dismal picture. Anything positive?

Of course. Everyone now understands that permanent peace is essential for any kind of progress. Many people who took part in the riots now understand they were used and abused by vested interests.

The majority of Dalits who were swayed by provocative speeches of a few leaders are now realising they did not gain anything from the riots. They are understanding, appreciating and embracing the secular thought.

Ahmedabad is a great city. The people are enterprising and they have started to shed off the effects. The healing process has started. It is just a matter of time before the tensions are completely done away with.

As a mayor, what steps do you propose to take to reduce the tensions?

Religious heads must speak up and propagate the secular thought. Political leaders must go among the masses and popularise this thought.

I have held a series of meetings with various religious leaders, senior citizens and local leaders. I am getting a very positive response. We will make people understand not to get swayed by selfish politicians. We will bring peace to the city.

It should be understood that communal strife is also a result of economic strife. We plan to provide employment opportunities to slum dwellers and hawkers. This will also help.

What are the major tasks on hand?

The social infrastructure of the city had collapsed after the riots. Moreover, there is always scope to improve the civic infrastructure. Getting the social infrastructure along with the civic infrastructure back in place will be my priority.

The BJP is in power at the state level and you head a Congress-backed government at the local level. Do you expect any problems? What do you expect from the state government?

The government is for all the citizens of the state. Period. You should not classify it as a BJP government or otherwise when it comes to the welfare of citizens. Chief Minister Narendra Modi himself has repeatedly said that he represents five crore Gujaratis and not just his voters. He is the CM of the entire state.

The policies of the Congress and BJP may be different but there should be no problem on questions of development. We will seek all possible help from the state government for the city's development.

There is an urgent need to re-orient our police force. It is not oriented for social welfare and does not address civic problems with citizens' concerns in mind. In fact, with the increasing VIP security concerns, the police hardly have any time left to do actual police work. The state government should address this major issue immediately.

Senior BJP leader and state Law Minister Ashok Bhatt is your rakhi-brother [adopted brother]. You are considered close to the BJP. Is that true?

It was Mr Bhatt's mother who took me as a daughter and our relationship goes back more than 25 years. I have been tying a rakhee to Mr Bhatt since then. That is a personal relationship. I am committed to the Congress and he to the BJP.

I have good relationships with many BJP leaders. That does not mean I am close to the BJP ideologically. I am wedded to the Congress philosophy.

You are preparing to attend various national and international conferences. What will be your message to the national and international community?

I have been elected mayor and this in itself should send positive signals. My message will be that Ahmedabad believes in peace and harmony. All the citizens are considered equal in the eyes of the law, irrespective of caste, class or religion and the city is limping back to normalcy after a temporary madness.

Ahmedabad has great cultural and historical significance and should be on every world traveller's destination. We are an enterprising people. Industries and investors will benefit by setting up base in the city.


The Rediff Interviews

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Number of User Comments: 11




Sub: HEALING TOUCH

violence is two-way knife. If persons involved in violence can understand this fact - there will be peace and prosperity in the world.


Posted by AMIN PANIWALA





Sub: Comments On Mrs.Mirzas Views

I agree with Mrs.Aneesa Mirzas views on many aspects she is very bold to carry out the work she thinks right her own way. I ...


Posted by utkarshmehd





Sub: Mayor of Ahmedabad

The new mayor has a difficult task ahead of her. I wish her a good luck. She needs to address the issues of citizens, especially ...


Posted by Zafar Iqbal, PhD





Sub: Re: New Mayor of Ahmedabad

It is very heartening to read this article and the vast talent together with the Secular healing touch this new Mayor will bring about. Surely, ...


Posted by Ashwin k Acharya





Sub: this is truly a breath of fresh air

mayor of ahmedabad is really a breth of fresh air in the murky politics of india her respect for the religion as wellas the parties ...


Posted by siri




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