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'For Modi, Muslims don't exist'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Juhapura
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Complete coverage: Gujarat elections 2007

BJP in Gujarat: Of Modi, by Modi, for Modi

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December 11, 2007

It has been five years since the Godhra riots. For Muslims in Ahmedabad Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] has become a habit and there is nothing they can do about it. They may hate him, dislike him or hope to see him being sidelined in the scheme of things, but in their hearts they know he is not going anywhere; he is here to stay.

Ask a passerby in the Muslim-dominated area of Juhapura in Ahmedabad what he feels about Modi. "He is going to stay here. We have accepted the fact. We have voted in huge numbers for the Congress party, but we know Modi will not lose as Muslims are in a minority in the state," says Suleiman Khan.

Census figures reveal that Muslims of Gujarat constitute around 10 per cent of the population. In the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra carnage, 1,000 Muslims died and many others were injured.

Khan, who runs a hotel business, says: "We live in constant state of fear under Modi's rule. We do not know when the next riot will take place."

Speaking about his own experience, Khan says, "I had my hotel in a Hindu locality that rioters burnt down in 2002. For a year, I was in debts and my staffers were jobless. And then the people of Gujarat voted Modi to power. What justice can we expect over here? We Muslims hate him, but there is no denying that he is the most popular Gujarati Hindu leader in the state."

Khan refuses to give the name of his hotel or the area where it was located, terrified of the consequences.

Muslims allege that in the last five years Modi and his government have systematically put in policies that are discriminatory in nature. Getting a ration card or even a passport is a nightmare in the state as government employees harass them for no reason, they say.

For Muslims, even getting a job is not easy and most of them are employed by people from their own community or by Hindus if they have some extraordinary skills. But what pinches them the most is the discrimination in education. Muslim children do not get admissions in 'decent' schools.

"I shifted my home from Vadodra to Ahmedabad two years ago and found it impossible to get admission for my children in a decent school," says Aslam Memon, an employee with a private bank.

"Muslims are not given a place to stay in a Hindu area and in Modi's rule their children do not get admission in schools dominated by Hindus. He is ensuring that Muslims remain backward and illiterate," adds Memon.

He further says, "What Aurangzeb did to Hindus under his rule, Modi is doing the same to Muslims except the fact that we do not pay jaziya (tax levied during Aurangzeb's rule on Hindus)."

Munir Patel, a shopkeeper in Shah Alam area, says: "For Modi, Muslims do not exist. He can do without them and the Congress knows that Muslims have no option but to vote for it."

He further says, "If Modi wins this election, India's unity will be in danger. He will become more powerful and probably be the future prime minister of India. The Gujarat elections will decide the fate of the 2009 parliamentary elections and we hope Modi loses this time, but we know it is not possible."

Among all Muslim-dominated areas of Ahmedabad city, the most marginalised people are from Juhapura, a Muslim ghetto with a population of more than two lakh. Most residents of Ahmedabad call it mini-Pakistan and feel that "anti-social elements" reside there.

For the record, there has been no major arms haul in the last five years nor have any dreaded terrorists been caught from the area. Yet, Juhapura retains the tag; everyone has accepted this fact.

Abdul Shaikh, a car mechanic in Juhapura, says: "There is no sign of Gujarat government over here. They hardly provide us with any of the municipal benefits like they do to other parts of the city. They do not want to do anything for us. The only time we see the sign of government is when the police comes and picks up some people claiming they are criminals."

According to statistics, in the last five years, 53 police encounters were carried out in the state, out of which 16 were on non-Muslims. A Muslim journalist, representing a Gujarati regional paper, says on condition of anonymity: "Modi had given a free hand to police officers. They can kill anyone. There was no one who could stop them till the Sohrabuddin encounter happened."

"The Congress is BJP's 'B' team and unfortunately there is not a single Muslim leader in the state who can take on these issues. In the recent Tehelka expose, Babu Bajrangi openly claimed how he slaughtered Muslims in 2002 riots, but no one is talking about this issue," says the journalist.

"The rest of India may cry at the plight of Gujarati Muslims, but for ordinary Gujarati Hindus, Modi is their saviour and messiah. We do not matter to them; they have turned heartless and insensitive to our sorry plight," he concludes.

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