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Helping people across the communal divide in Gujarat 

In Ahmedabad, near Behrampura police post are Kasai ki Chali, a Muslim locality and Gasiram ki Chali, predominantly a Hindu locality. The properties of Muslims living in the two colonies were looted and houses razed during the anti-Muslim pogrom in the state early this year. Ajay Raina along with a friend, who is a resident of Ahmedabad, collected money and relief material in the name of Ahmedabad-based NGO, Gujarat Education Society/ Prashant, and carried out relief and rehabilitation work in the two chalis. 

In Kasai ki Chali there are 60 Muslim families. The chali is surrounded by the houses of Jain and Hindu communities. Adjoining Kasai ki Chali is Gasiram ki Chali. Forty-six Muslim families reside in this colony. 

In Gasiram ki Chali twenty houses of Muslims were razed to the ground. The Muslims saved their lives by leaving the place. Kasai ki Chali became the target of marauding mobs later. The police had allegedly discovered some bombs and acid bottles in a public toilet there. Mobs set ablaze some houses, razed some to ground and some were partially destroyed following detection of the alleged bombs.

Muslims of the two chalis took shelter in Behrampura Relief Camp or rented houses in safer areas. 

The reconstruction of the destroyed houses was done by a local NGO, Islami Relief Committee.

Ajay and his friend collected relief and rehabilitation material from friends in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. They distributed stoves, pressure cookers, buckets, mugs, plates among the people of the two chalis. Bed sheets, towels, footwear, warm clothes and sewing thread were also distributed among them. School-going children were provided with notebooks, pens, pencils boxes, water bottles, school bags and toys. 

People with special needs were also helped. Riaz Babu Bhai, a 12-year-old boy who is afflicted with heart and nervous system ailments, was given money for the treatment of his illnesses. Chand Bibi, a childless widow whose house was razed, was given money to rebuild her home. Munna Bhai, a resident of Kasai ki Chali, was assisted to the same end.

The society has helped in setting up small businesses for the people of the chalis. Hasan Ali was given money to buy implements to restart his door-to-door plumbing business. Zakir was helped to restart his roadside puncture repairing shop. Shakeel Bhai was provided monetary help to buy a bicycle as his bicycle was burnt in the riots. He works at Naroda, nearly 20 kms away from Kasai ki Chali. Batool Bibi was given money to buy utensils to restart selling fried food. Raisa was given money to buy a wheel chair for her handicapped child. People of both the chalis were given hand-operating sewing machines and handcarts.

Women and children of the two chalis are engaged in kite making. To generate money for relief work, ten thousand kites were made for sale on Independence Day. On making one kite Re 1 was spent. The kites were sold in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Bhopal, to schools, organisations and individuals at Rs 5. One rupee was added as transportation cost to each kite. All the kites were sold. The profit of Rs 30,000 was spent on welfare work. 

The success in the sale of first batch of kites prompted the society to place an order for making 20,000 kites for sale on Gandhi Jayanti. This time round they could not sell many kites.

The society has opened an informal school for the children of the chalis. The school has a single teacher. Jenny Pinto, a woman from Bangalore, organised a paper workshop with the children of the chalis. The children learnt making pulp from paper, paper from the pulp, creating designs on the wet paper. The children also learnt painting on hand-made dried paper. Pinto has suggested that the project could be used as an employment-generating scheme for women of the chalis.

The project is currently being streamlined. The society has approached SEWA and Manav Sadhana which run similar projects. 

Another project for employment generation for women of the two chalis being run is sewing classes. There are 18 girls who attend these classes.

MG News Desk

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