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Juhapura: Hemmed in by prejudices

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Ahmedabad | December 06, 2002 23:56 IST

Every day when Mohan Patel sets out to work, he has a prayer on his lips.

It becomes more fervent as he passes through Juhapura in Ahmedabad, widely known as mini-Pakistan.

Juhapura does not have any pucca roads, just narrow lanes. Power cuts are frequent. Though there are some impressive bungalows, they are very few compared to the small houses and blocks in which nearly one million people are estimated to live.

When asked why Juhapura is called mini-Pakistan, Salim Patel, a resident, countered with, "Go and ask this question to those who coined this name."

"Whenever I cross Pakistan [Juhapura], I fear for my safety," says Mohan Patel.

"The residents there store bombs, swords and all kind of weapons at home. They even have secret alleys to escape. And they start fights for no reason," adds Patel.

Shankarsinh Thakur (65) says, "These Muslims attacked me with swords during the (recent) riots, not caring even for my age."

Showing stitch marks on his body, Shankarsinh Thakur said, "They even killed a Harijan who went to clean the gutters. They are inhuman."

Thakur and Patel reside in the Vejalpur area that is also called as the 'border', as it is right next to Juhapura with a small playground in between.

On one side of the 'border' sits Malik Mohammad Ghanzni Ahmed in Al-Atiq Society.

He has been a worried man. He has to support a family of five but a steady income has eluded him for the past nine months.

"I used to drive an autorickshaw, but Hindu mobs burnt it down during the riots," he says.

"Just look at this. They have burnt it totally," he says pointing to his vehicle. "My livelihood has been snatched. Now I am doing odd jobs to support my family."

He went inside his house and brought an album having pictures of his burnt house. "Samarth, an NGO, gave me the money to rebuilt my house," he says.

Fareeda Bano Usman Gani resides a hundred metres away in Al-Hamza Park. She had spent three months in refugee camps fearing Hindu mobs would attack her house.

To allay some of those fears, the family and others built a 16-foot wall. "We don't want Hindu mobs to enter the locality and destroy our houses," says Fareeda.

Following the riots, both communities are suffering from the complete absence of trust.

An outsider has to first reveal his identity, his antecedents, the purpose of his visit and answer all kinds of questions before people open up to him. Also, for them to talk, you must be of the same religion as theirs.

One common link on both sides of the 'border' is Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The Hindus consider him as god and their saviour whereas the Muslims consider him a devil.

"During every riot, these Muslims kill several Hindus, but the police never bother to touch them even with a barge pole. This time, due to Modiji, the Hindus had an upper hand during the riots," says Tarun Dave, a resident of Vejalpur.

Asked if he did not feel bad about burning down Muslim houses, Dave said, "If we don't attack them, they will attack us. Moreover, these Muslims produce children like cockroaches and even if some die it won't make a difference to them. They are unwanted people."

Arif Hussainbhai Seth rejected accusations that Muslims in Juhapura hoist Pakistani flags. "Look at the flags. They are the green flags of Islam, not that of Pakistan, which has a white stripe on a green background. Moreover, we always hoist the Indian flag in our localities on every Independence and Republic Day."

"The BJP's only aim is to see all Muslims in Juhapura dead. Under the Congress rule, we were safe. But now, Muslims are called as terrorists for no reason," says Arif.

"Allah is seeing all the atrocities. In the recent earthquake, so many Hindus were killed in Ahmedabad, but only five Muslims died. Allah knows everything and he punishes everyone at the appropriate time," is a common refrain here.

Mohammed Allah Rakha termed Modi's Gujarat Gaurav Yatra as a Kutta Yatra (dog's procession). "He has killed innocent people. What is the gaurav (pride) in that? He has reduced Gujarat from the number one position to the bottom of the heap," he says.

Allah Rakha held Modi responsible for the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express, which led to widespread rioting. "The chemical used to burn the Sabarmati Express coach and Naroda Patiya [in Ahmedabad] are the same," he says.

Denying that Hindus in Vejalpur had suffered at the hands of the Muslims in previous riots, Ahmed Memon says, "You ask the Border Security Force personnel, who were stationed here during such times, who used to beat up whom."

"They are all telling lies, big lies. Come and stay here for two months and you will know the reality," counters Dave.

"These people were given this land by (former prime minister) Indira Gandhi 30 years ago. Look how they have multiplied over the years. We Hindus accommodate them in our society. But their mentality is to drive us away from our homes and our motherland, which no self respecting person will allow," insists Dave.

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