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'It's tough to muster courage to go back'
February 02, 2007 03:13 IST
Though five years have passed, many post-Godhra riot victims living in makeshift shelters still dread to step out alone at night fearing reprisal and are facing social ostracism and government apathy.
This was the opinion of many post-Godhra riot victims, who spoke their hearts out at a gathering organised on Thursday at the convention for 'internally displaced people,' organised by a non-profit organisation in Ahmedabad.
Zahedaben Diwan, presently living at a makeshift shelter in a government colony in Kalol town of Panchmahals, said she feared stepping out alone at night, faced social boycott and government apathy that prevents her from earning for her family.
Diwan was among 2,000 odd post-Godhra riot victims who had lost family members and were displaced during the last five years.
The convention for 'internally displaced people' also marked the largest such gathering of riot victims since the communal carnage, that was triggered after 'kar sevaks' were killed onboard the Sabarmati train at Godhra on February 28, 2002.
"My husband was killed by a mob in our village in Kalol and I had to flee with my minor child. We have been living in another colony since then and still it is tough to muster the courage to go back," another riot victim said.
Riot victims came packed in hired buses from different parts of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahals, Sabarkantha, chota Udepur, Anand and Mehsana districts.
The riot-affected people complained of shabby and ill-equipped makeshift shelters they were living in since past five years, lack of educational facilities and documents like ration and Below Poverty Line cards.
"You ask any woman in my area about the riots and they begin to cry. We are suffering emotionally, economically and socially. Yet we are fighting everyday in life and in courts also," Pakizanben Mansuri, a displaced riot victim from Sabarkantha told the gathering.
According to members of the 'antarik visthapith hak rakshak samiti' 23,000 people of approximately 5000 families were displaced after the riots and are still denied their basic citizenship rights.
Noted social activist Shabnam Hashmi, who is working closely with riot victims and NGOs aiding them, said, "The state government and the chief minister refuse to even acknowledge that there are so many displaced riot victims in Gujarat."
"Even after the Minority Commission's report the Gujarat government refused to admit that there were displaced families. Today, they are here to say come and count us," Hashmi said.
The riot victims addressed their problems to a panel comprising Syeda Hameed (Planing Commission member), Dilip Padgaonkar (National Minority Commission member) and P G J Nampoothri (special repporteur of NHRC).
Talking to media persons after listening to several displaced riot victims, Padgaonkar said, "Three months ago, we (the commission members) had visited riot-affected areas.
After what we have heard today, it appears much work is pending. A report will be prepared when I go back."He said after hearing the plight of riot victims it appeared that their condition would worsen when the monsoon arrives. At this rate the Central and state governments have only about two and half months to try and do something before monsoons, he added.