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Gujarat cities changed into Hindu and Muslim localities

Ahmadabad: As a result of communal riots going on in Gujarat for the past ten weeks or so, many places in some cities, including Ahmadabad, have been changed into Hindu and Muslim ‘mohallas’ . The conditions are so much changed that one’s safety depends upon concealing one’s religious identity. There has become so wide chasm between Hindus and Muslims who lived together for centuries that it may take months to bridge it. Hence people have devised new ways to change or conceal their religious identities. 

When two college students, Shabbir and Yusuf, stepped out of their houses, they had donned their special netted caps but as soon as they cross their locality and reach ‘alien’ territory, their caps go inside the pockets of their pants. When a correspondent asked them about their strange behaviour, one of them said, "Oh, what to do. It is necessary to protect our lives. Similarly, air-conditioning technician, Mohsirul Qadri has got his beard shaved which he had maintained from his youth days and for which he is very sorry too. But he says that most of his customers are Hindus who live in Hindu majority areas of western Ahmadabad. He had, therefore, to take this step.

In the same way Hindu cloth merchants and jewellers living and having their trade in Muslim majority areas of old Ahmadabad like Ratan Pol and Manak Chowk etc are trying various ways of keeping their religious identities a secret. Not only tradesmen and common people but even some newspaper correspondents feel shy of describing their institutions and newspapers. Whereas many or most of the majority community people are angry with journalists and reporters of English and national dailies and TV channels, some journalists of local Gujarati newspapers have to face the ire of minority communities. Religious symbols like ‘786’, ‘Om’, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Matadi etc have also been removed from the vehicles and other places.

Likewise, people are using spoken languages very cautiously and in a rather pre-planned way for their safety. In Muslim majority areas of Ahmadabad, where even Gujarati speaking people avoid speaking in Gujarati and use words like ‘Ustad bhai’ and ‘apan’, Muslims avoid speaking in Hindi and speak in Gujarati in Hindu majority areas. In any case, unless conditions in Gujarat become normal, doing all this rather abnormal things is people’s compulsion because life is dear to everyone. Photo: Mariam Bibi weeps after visiting her house in Ahmadabad to salvage belonging and assess damage under police protection on 15 May 2002.

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