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She lost 22 relatives to riots, but not hope
March 03, 2004 13:47 IST
Naseem Bano lost 22 of her family members in the Gujarat riots. A resident of Panchmahals district, she even saw the rape and murder of her 13-year-old daughter.
But she never lost hope.
Naseem, who is now left with only her son, is today a part of the Aman Movement, which helps riot victims cope with life and organises programmes to foster communal harmony.
"Initially, only five of us were part of the movement, which was initiated in March last year. We went from village to village, holding meetings and urging people to live in peace," she says.
The number of volunteers in the movement has now grown to around 200, and they have been touring villages in the form of 'Shanti Dal', says Naseem, in Ahmedabad for a meeting to mark the second anniversary of the riots.
"We go to villages and apart from holding public meetings, we spend time with the families there, both Muslim and Hindu, helping them do away with their prejudices towards each other," she says.
The 'Shanti Dals', comprising both Hindus and Muslims, also helps villagers pool in money to rebuild the houses destroyed in the riots, so that people can come back to their villages, she says.
The group also ran a relief camp for riot victims in Kalol area of Panchmahals, which was recently wound up, and Naseem claims that the government gave no help and that the camp inmates sustained themselves by helping out each other.
She says she belonged to a poor family, with her husband being a vegetable seller, but she is happy with her life. "Initially, I did feel like everything was over. But I had to live for my son. And I did not want others to go through a similar experience, which was possible only if we learnt to live together in peace again," she says.
Now, Naseem says, her life's purpose is to see "aman" in the state and witness her son, now in the seventh grade, grow up to become a successful man.
The Gujarat Riots: The Complete Coverage